Everyone loves a chat

Live chat can drive higher rates of satisfaction than any other form of customer support1. However, it pays to remember that while customers will excuse a mistake, frustrate them when they have a problem and you’ve lost them forever. We lead you through some golden rules for implementing live chat software on your website.

It was a relatively mundane problem – a book order gone astray. But the customer support live chat that ensued was anything but ordinary.

Customer: Tracking shows delivered, but shipment not received.
Amazon customer support: Warmest greetings. My name is Thor.
Customer: Greetings, Thor. Can I be Odin?
Amazon: Odin, Father, how art thy doing on this here fine day?
Customer: Thor, my son. Agony raises upon my life. I am afraid the book I ordered to defeat our enemies has been misplaced. How can we keep Valhalla intact without our sacred book?
Amazon: This is blasphemy! Wherever this book has been taken to, I shall make it my duty to get it back to you. I shall have your fortune returned to you and thereafter we can begin to create a new quest in order to get the book to you.
Customer: OK, so roleplay aside, I have my money back and I reorder the book?
Amazon: Haha, yes. I have refunded you and you need to reorder the book.2

This bizarre Norse-themed chat illustrates two of the key strengths of live chat support:

  • It puts customers in touch with the human face of your business (even better, a human face with a sense of humour).
  • It solves problems in real time allowing customers to feel they’ve jumped the queue of email or phone enquiries.

Conversely – nothing frustrates customers more than automated, or outsourced, cut and paste responses, which waste their time. So here are a few golden rules of chat.

Keep it real: If you have, or are thinking about implementing, live chat software, don’t be tempted
to water down its key benefits by automating responses or overloading staff, which will blowout response times.

Customers expect a response to chat enquiries within minutes, as opposed to hours for email or web form queries.

“The implementation of live chat should be motivated (by a desire) to add value to your customers’ experience in dealing with you, nothing more,” advised BAM Creative digital strategist Jessica Kaitse. In her experience Ms Kaitse said chat options were most useful when used to provide post-purchase support.

Kaitse warned businesses against attempting live chat without sufficient resources. “The reality is that there may be a significant amount of spam coming through the chat, which is an added strain on the live chat resource. It may be that you’re able to deliver much better customer service through email or even phone.”

But if you have the resources, customers love a good chat, with a Zendesk benchmark report finding customer satisfaction for live chat outstripped all other methods of customer support, scoring 92 per cent satisfaction, ahead of email, phone and social media support.

It’s about help, not sales: Businesses should also avoid using live chat to upsell. Customers were wary of sites using chat to encourage them to buy more, rather than offering genuine help and advice.

Some home-building companies have introduced live chat for online sales, but the focus seems
to be upselling. “I personally don’t think they’re using it correctly – pushing deals rather than offering customer service for people who are trying to decide between house plans,” she said.

Timing is everything: Live chat can be initiated by customers, but businesses should consider automating chat invitations when it appears users have hit a snag. “It helps to think of it like dating,” Ms Kaitse said. “You need to wait for the right signals before making a move.

“I recommend not on the first visit and not on the homepage. You don’t want to seem too eager
and scare them away,” she said. But certain customer actions – such as adding items to a shopping cart but failing to progress to checkout – are useful triggers.

“If it’s ecommerce, there is a crucial moment when a customer is in their cart for a long period of time. It may be that they’re weighing up their options and the cost. This is a nice time to jump in and offer
a discount coupon to encourage them to go through with the sale, or ask them if they need any assistance.”

Don’t rely on it for leads: “I wouldn’t consider it as a primary lead-generation tool, so throw that one out the window,” Ms Kaitse said.

“It’s certainly suited to retail for post-purchase support, but it is also a worthwhile tool when a customer is considering an item and may need more details, such as measurements – something more detailed that isn’t in the product listing.”

Generally, live chat provides the best return on investment for high-margin products and services.

It’s not as expensive as you think: Live chat software had become increasingly accessible for SMEs. “There are some free options out there for businesses and a lot of other live chat platforms offer different tiers and services,” Ms Kaitse said. “I particularly like Tawk.to because it’s free, with plenty of standard options, so it’s a good tool if you’re getting your toes wet and don’t want to plonk down a bunch of cash.”

Having said that, time is money. “You do have to weigh up the actual cost to the business in terms
of time and resources,” she said.

Think creatively: Some companies have introduced SMS text-to-chat options, while others have added chat functions to their Facebook page. Linking an automated chat invitation to any 404 errors could also help customers looking for specific information. Include useful features, such as allowing users to bump text size, or request a transcript.


1 Zendesk Benchmark: Live Chat Drives Highest Customer Satisfaction, Zendesk, 20 May, 2015,https://www.zendesk.com/company/press/zendesk-benchmark-live-chat-drives-highest-customer-satisfaction/
2 Szoldra, P, Amazon customer service has a guy named Thor and he’s on a hilarious `quest’ to help you, Business Insider, 23 May 2016, http://www.businessinsider.com/amazon-customer-service-thor-2016-5/?r=AU&IR=T

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