Online Live Chat for Business – Your Ultimate Guide
Online live chat for Business Support: Your Ultimate Guide – Ever wondered what on earth Online-chat or live-chat is for business? And who would want it anyway?
Especially if it’s just another monthly expense to add to your ever-growing list.
I mean, personally, you might find it ANNOYING and if you wanted help, you’d call some-one or find the information yourself.
Well, think again.
Research has proven online chat is one of the fastest growing trends online and improves customer service; increases leads for service based businesses; increases conversions + average basket value for e-commerce sites; and reduces business expenses.
In fact, if you don’t have online chat on your website, you’re not only lagging behind best practice and latest trends, but you’re leaving money on the table.
In this blog, we look at the ultimate guide to online chat for business and options on how to get live chat on your site. You can decide what works best for you!
One thing we can say is, you’ll never look back.
In this article we cover:
- Increased Conversions or leads
- Improved Customer Experience
- Reduced Phone Bills and Increased Productivity
- Increased basket value for E-commerce sites
• What are my options for implementing Online chat (& how good are they?)
• Online Chat Service Providers
• Further information
Online chat – what is it?
Online chat is defined as…
“… any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time transmission of text messages from sender to receiver. Chat messages are generally short in order to enable other participants to respond quickly. Thereby, a feeling similar to a spoken conversation is created…”
In essence, it is a little pop-up box on a website to offer online customer service through live ‘web-chat’ that is like a text conversation between you and your customer.
The chat my be triggered by a number of reasons, for example:
(1) Triggered by the customer clicking on a ‘chat with us now’ link or chat box;(2) Triggered by predefined events of your customers whereby they are pro-actively asked if they need help – for example:
a. How long a customer has been active on a webpage
b. How long a customer has been inactive on a webpage
c. If a customer has performed certain actions like going to a specific page (e.g. FAQ or ‘about us’); or clicking on a particular product / service.
Types of Online Chat
There are 2 main types of online live chat:
(1) Those manned by ‘Robots’ – often called ‘chat-bots’
This is where a computer robot is answering the chats.
Computer’s use Artificial Intelligence to understand how to best answer your customers questions.
(2) Those manned by real people
This is where real people man the chats.
These people can either be your staff, or outsourced staff. Either way, they are trained in customer service, sales and technical support for your business.
What are the benefits of online live chat for business?
There’s a number of obvious benefits of having live chat on your website; and many more that you may not have even realised yet. Here’s our top 4 benefits of online chat:
1. Benefits of Online Chat Agents: Increased Conversions or Leads
Research conducted by Internetretailer.com shows the conversion rate was 3.5 times higher for customers who use live chat versus those who do not.
I don’t know about you – but I’d like to more than triple my conversion rate every day of the week.
In addition, survey by e-statistics showed 31% of online shoppers from both the US and UK say they would be more likely to purchase after a live chat.
There is no doubt that having someone there to answer your customer’s question the instant they think of it, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week is fantastic service and means they are much more likely to buy.
For example, here at 24-7 live chat we regularly receive feedback from customers highlighting how useful the chat was, and how they would have left the site and gone elsewhere without it.
- “Thanks so much for your help. I would have left the site if it wasn’t for the live chat”. Chris, wanting specific booking time and information for Carpet Cleaning Services;
- “I can’t believe how helpful you’ve been. I probably would have given up trying to buy a gift to China if it hadn’t have been for your assistance”, Sally – a client wanting to buy a gift to be sent overseas on an e-commerce gift store;
- “Thanks for your help – you’ve saved me so much time in trying to find what I was looking for”, Malcolm, looking for help and returns policy on a medical product on an ecommerce store.
2. Benefits of Online Live Chat Agents: Improved Customer Experience
Online chat goes beyond traditional ‘Customer Service’.
This is because the online chat is an extension of your brand, and a site that has someone available to answer any customer question at any time of day, is always going to win over a business who ignores their customers online or out of traditional working hours.
A Forrester Research article entitled “Making pro-active chat work” notes that
“44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer”
However you should be aware that not being available online at all times has the exact opposite effect of great customer service and can seriously annoy your customers.
For example, if a customer is on your site at 11pm at night, and clicks on your chat only to find no-one is available to answer their query they are not only likely to leave your site, but they’re likely never to come back and report a bad experience.
3. Benefits of Online Live Chat Agents: Reduced Phone Bills and Increased Staff Productivity
Every business owner resents watching their hard earned dollar being spent on ever-increasing phone bills; as well as watching staff waste time on customer calls that are never going to result in sales.
However many don’t realise by simply adding live chat to their site, phone calls to the business can decrease significantly.
A Forrester Research study estimates a 59% deflection rate as a result from Live Chat.
This means phone calls to the business reduced by 59% because customer queries were instead answered by online chat.
Combine that statistic with the research done by Internetretailer.com that has discovered that an average chat agent can cover the work done by 15 agents focused on email, and gets resolved in 42 seconds; you know you’re onto a winner.
Most businesses who come on board with our 24-7 online chat service notice a reduction in both phone calls and cost within the first month. Many report the reduction in cost more than pays for a manned chat and all the additional sales is a bonus on top of that. “It is just a no-brainer to get chat on your site …” Ethan reports, “… I only wish I’d done it sooner”.
One customer even saw a 90% reduction in calls to her ecommerce business when our live chat service was implemented. Amazing!
4. Benefits of Online Live Chat Agents: Increased Average Basket Value for E-commerce Sites
Research by CrazyEgg.com produced a case study on Sam’s Furniture’s use of live chat.
Its main findings were that the basket value for customers who used the live chat function was 15% higher than those who did not.
As an added bonus, if you have an e-commerce store; you know how hard you work to get customers to your website. And therefore how disappointing it is when they abandon their cart – often for unknown reasons.
Can you believe research shows the availability of live chat assistance has been found to decrease sales cart abandonment by up to 30%? Happy Days!
What are my options for implementing Online Chat on my website?
There are 3 options for getting the basics of live chat on your website.
Each of the 3 options has been scored against 5 categories and given an overall score.
The 5 categories are defined as:
1. Ease of Use: How easy is the software and service to get up and running for the business / business owner?
2. Cost: What’s the relative cost of the service?
3. Level of customer service given: How good is the online live chat option at answering basic customer questions – like has my order been dispatched? Did my payment go through? Do you take AMEX as a form of payment? Can I book in an appointment? For example.
4. Level of Sales or Technical Support given: How good is the online live chat options at answering technical questions about the product / service; or upselling a customer / closing a sale?
5. Level of Effort Required by the site owner: This considers how much time and input is required by the business in order to get the chat up and running; as well as keep it running and maintain it with the most up-to-date information.
Overall effectiveness: The Overall Effectiveness of this software for a small-medium sized business.
Option 1. Install Software and do the Live Chats Yourself
This is a fantastic option if you’re just starting out; aren’t afraid of learning new software; and have capacity with your time or your staff’s time.
There’s plenty of online chat software out there that’s easy to install and get started with straight away… and FREE! (see options for service providers).
The other reason this is a great option is that because it’s your own business, you (or your staff) are going to be extremely well equipped to answer customer queries, and to upsell them to one of your higher margin products or services.
The only catch is you (or your staff) need to be on the other end of the chat.
Yes, you heard it, day and night.
Why? “Can’t I just do it during work hours?” I hear you ask.
You can; however statistically, if you’re not prepared to do the chat 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, on public holidays and weekends, then you are better off having no chat at all.
Customers are proven to leave a site and report a ‘bad customer experience’ when a live chat service is offline; or it seems to be online but no-one answers their questions within 30 seconds.
So depending on how much traffic your site attracts, and when your customers are online, get ready for potential 24-7 ‘knock-knock’ on your phone or pc awaiting an immediate response.
Our assessment of Option 1 -Do it Yourself
a. Ease of Use: After the initial set-up of your software, and training in it, manning your own chat is very easy because of the ability of you and your staff to answer all your customer questions without the need for extensive training.
b. Cost: The cost of this options is extremely low because if you are just using this for one site and a small number of users; there are many free options out there. Because you won’t be paying for someone else to man it, this keeps on-going costs very low.
c. Level of customer service given: 10/10 – Level of service is extremely good because of the existing ability of you and your staff to answer all your customer questions – likely without the need for extensive training.
d. Level of Sales or Technical Support given: 10/10 – As above, because it is your own business, you and your staff probably already know the answer.
e. Level of Effort Required by the site owner: This is very, very high because of the initial 100% responsibility for set-up and integration on your website; as well as the ongoing need to be answering chats at all times; and to maintain the software and technology integration on your site.
Overall effectiveness of Option 1 – Do it Yourself: Medium
This is a low-cost option if you’re just getting started that will give your customers an excellent experience if you’re okay with installing and running this technology.
You also need to consider while costs are low; the amount of effort required by you and your staff is extremely high; and you will have to weigh up if you are able to consistently offer a 24-7 service as your customers will expect.
Option 2. Get a ‘Chat Bot’ (robot) to take the chats for you and escalate to you when needed
“A chatbot (also known as a talkbot, chatterbot, Bot, chatterbox, IM bot, interactive agent, or Artificial Conversational Entity) is a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or textual methods”
In simple terms, a chat-bot is a computer program designed to simulate conversation with human users, especially over the Internet.
However at the moment the ability of these to replicate a real person and achieve all the 4 benefits of live online chat outlined earlier, is limited.
Also there is an extremely high level of input required to get these bots up to speed with your business in order for them to give back meaningful information.
Our assessment of Option 2 – Chat Bots
a. Ease of Use: Chat-bots have been rated 10/10 in terms of ease of use because once they are up and running, there is extremely little input required from you except to follow-up on leads or where escalation is required.
b. Cost: There is a medium amount of cost involved with a chat-bot; as there is a fair bit of set up and then a monthly service fee on top of that.
c. Level of customer service given: 3/10 – Level of service is extremely variable with chat-bots and depends entirely on the effort you’ve put into setting it up; how ‘standard’ the questions your customer asks are; and how sophisticated the Artificial Intelligence (AI) software you are using is.
d. Level of Sales or Technical Support given: 3/10 – As above, the ability of the bot to answer simple questions is quite good; however when more than basic sales or technical support is required, the bot is likely to fall short of your (and your customer’s) expectations.
e. Level of Effort Required by the site owner: Level of effort required for a chat bot is relatively high to set up; and low to maintain.
Overall effectiveness of Option 2- Chat bots: Medium-Low
A reasonable option if you don’t want to do it yourself however be aware you are unlikely to get the results you’re after due to the lack of Artificial Intelligence capability to handle anything more than your most basic customer queries. Therefore you may just see an increase in emails as every ‘chat’ is escalated and needs to be answered this way.
Option 3 – Outsource your Online Chat with Third Party Agents
There are not many companies out there offering manned 24-7 chats, so we’ll us our business – 24-7 chat – as an example.
At first glance this option may seem like it may take a lot of time, effort and expense to get up and running; as well as maintain.
However in reality, we find our business owners start with 2 hours of input (maximum) and then we develop scripts and train our staff from there; therefore the ongoing effort is extremely low.
Once we’re up an running, this is an excellent hands-off option.
Our assessment of Option 3 – Outsource It
a. Ease of Use: This is one of the easiest-to-use options as there is a real, thinking person (that’s not you!) on the other end of the chat, 24-7. They will escalate any queries they cannot answer to you.
In addition, you will have all the software set up on your website extremely easily, therefore you won’t have to worry about any technology compatibility or maintenance issues.
b. Cost: There is a medium amount of cost involved with outsourcing chat, however no set-up fee and a 2 week free trial. Once paid-chats begin, plans start from just $80 per month and go up from there depending on the number of chats in your business.
It is likely you will find that this cost is off-set with savings made in your business on reduction in phone calls; as well as increase in sales due to the benefits of online chat outlined above.
c. Level of customer service given: 10/10 – You can expect a consistently high level of customer service from an outsourced firm – as all the good ones measure this and pride themselves on their ability to hire excellent customer service staff.
d. Level of Sales or Technical Support given: 9/10 – While the outsourced team will never be able to answer extremely technical questions reserved for a professional, their ability to up-sell and answer general technical questions is very good and usually meets or exceeds customer expectations from online chat.
Any need to escalate queries happens immediately so a staff member can call back the customer straight away.
e. Level of Effort Required by the site owner: This is the lowest of all options because there’s minimal set up effort (someone else does it for you); you don’t need staff to man the chat; and the level of queries that can be handled by real people is high.
Overall effectiveness of Option 3 – Outsource it: High
This is an excellent option if you are seriously considering live chat on your website.
There’s often a no-obligation trial period so you can see if this is going to work for you.
Then you can sit back and watch the sales come in while the phone calls decrease to your business and the bills go down.
Testimonials for our 24-7 Live Web Chat Support Service
Online Live Web Chat Service Providers
- Do it yourself
- Outsourced Service
- Here’s some helpful blogs if you go for the ‘Do it yourself’ option for live online chat
- Your turn!
- See the chat section in the bottom of the blog? Click here to ask about getting 24-7 chat support for you on your site.