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A comprehensive support system is one of the most important components of customer service. While a local shop or a company branch can rely on more personal face-to-face contact, as well as phone calls and emails, to answer customer questions and solve problems, online shops don’t have such luxury. But, in recent years, live chat has established itself as a viable alternative support service. Although it doesn’t quite replace a real, face-to-face conversation, this personal support system can have a similar effect on users looking for help. However, a fully-blown live chat support is known to be very expensive to implement and maintain, so the question is: who can benefit from developing a virtual communication system?
How do support chats work?
In order to add a live chat to your homepage or your online shop, you’ll need to get hold of the corresponding software first. There are a number of suppliers of live chat solutions – you can find an overview of the best programs available today, both free and subscription-based, in our guide to live chat support software. These can be embedded into your web project using a specific code that you can copy into the designated area of your site’s HTML file. There are different forms of live chat support, such as on-site chats for example, which operate on the actual web page of your site and therefore are always visible for the visitor. Off-site chats, on the other hand, work separately and open in an external window.
Depending on the type of live chat software you opt for, there are a variety of functions for communication, including contact approach, request processing, chat box layout, and evaluation of results. Programs like LiveZilla, for example, also offer triggers for automatic chat invitations when your site visitors search for certain things or request for help. Some applications even feature remote access to customers’ computers, meaning that technical support can be offered immediately, precisely as the issue is taking place. Other features include transferring data, autocorrect for spelling and grammar errors, a queue system with waiting times, and the automatic archiving of commonly asked questions.
The advantage of live chats for websites and online shops
Whether you’re operating an online shop or a company homepage, a live chat is a great way to react to the questions and concerns of your customers in real time, much more so than a traditional email support system. Here are some other notable advantages:
- Simple explanation of complex issues: Through the use of a support chat, you can tackle even the most complicated problems yourself. If the help required involves taking a customer through menus or describing a case clearly and specifically, then email and telephone support often proves impractical. The long waiting times involved in email communication and potential misunderstandings, and difficulty explaining situations over the phone can be significant obstacles to solving an issue. In live chats, customers and support staff benefit from a real-time shared communication channel that enables the exchange of links or files, like screenshots for example. If your software supports remote access, you can even inspect and control the customer’s PC remotely, allowing you to diagnose and solve their problem directly.
- Improved service: Live chat won’t change everything: there’s still the possibility that your customer support assistant could be overwhelmed by the issue at hand and unable to solve it single-handedly. Unlike in a telephone conversation, the support staff can seek advice from colleagues or supervisors without having to reveal this to the customer. Most live chat tools also offer good archiving and evaluation functions, providing your supervisory staff with the information they need to train new support staff, check on the quality of the support being offered, and maintain standards in the long term.
- Options for initiative: With a live chat system, support teams have the chance to speak directly to the site or shop visitor and offer help like they would do face-to-face in a store. This gives the support staff the chance to demonstrate their expertise and also to make the customer feel at ease by explaining that their problem or query has a solution.
- Increased efficiency: Depending on the software you choose, it may be possible for a member of staff to operate several chats at the same time. Many also feature queue systems, asking customers to enter certain helpful information and answer some basic queries in order to speed up the process once they’re put through.
- Makes contact easier for customers: Support chats are easy to spot and can be used by customers without the need for additional software. They’re also free to use for your site visitors in most cases, unless you’re offering commercial support. Live chat conversations are also less formal than emails, but less personal than a telephone call. This can make your customers feel at ease and more confident when trying to express an issue, as they are more likely to start a live chat conversation than ring you up directly.
When is a live chat worthwhile?
In principle, it’s recommended to extend your support network through the option of a live chat. The additional options that live chat support enables (compared to the more traditional email and telephone service) can mean a reduced exit rate and/or bounce rate and increased customer satisfaction. Nevertheless, the increased costs and time constraints of running a support chat system in real-time should not be underestimated. If the live chat is online and available, customers will expect their queries to be handled immediately and in full. For this reason, it’s crucial for small businesses and online shop owners to calculate the additional costs and staff working hours needed beforehand, to know whether you have the necessary resources at your disposal to make a live chat service worthwhile. We recommend you consider the following points:
- Complexity of the content or product(s): The more complicated your product or service is, the more questions that visitors could have. The same applies to the breadth of your product range. With a complicated or broad product range, it’s worth getting a live chat service because you may not be able to answer customer queries through an online manual or FAQ section.
- Web presence traffic: Simply put, the more unique visitors your online shop or website homepage receives, the more support queries you’ll get.
- Type of online traffic: Even though mobile traffic is becoming increasingly important and already represents a majority of all internet visits, having a large percentage of website visitors from mobile devices can actually be a reason not to get a live chat software. This is because many live chat programs aren’t currently optimized for mobile devices, decreasing your site’s user friendliness.
- Amount of average revenue per sale: An important measure for online shops and fee-based services is the amount of revenue generated by one transaction. The higher this is on average, the more valuable a live chat service will be.
If you’ve considered all of the above points and decided to opt for a live chat software, your first step should be to create a clear concept for your service. A particular point to pay attention to will be your approach to customers. If the support your customers require is likely to be complex and technical, then you’ll need to hire or train experts to run the live chat service. If your service operates in multiple countries, you’ll need to hire linguists capable of communicating in several languages. Pay attention to the way your staff address your customers too: does the type of service you offer and your target market mean you should take a formal approach when handling complaints and queries (Good afternoon Mrs. Smith, how may I assist you?) or an informal approach (Hi there Jenny, what’s the issue?). If you form a detailed plan, you stand a good chance of running a reliable, competent, and helpful live chat support service that will improve customer satisfaction and help push your web project to the next level.