Live Chat is live chat, right? It's all the same surely? No, the truth is, not all Live Chat is created equal.
And making the right choice of Live Chat service that you offer to your web visitors and customers is critical to the future of your business. It will impact upon your reputation, what visitors say about you, whether they actually buy, and whether they ever come back.
We are all familiar with online reviews for holidays, restaurants, customer service, deliveries, etc, etc - the list is endless. In fact, for many of us reviews or ‘star ratings’ are becoming an enormous factor in our decision making when ordering, booking or buying products and services. These ratings are now very public, and an unavoidable driver of competitive positioning.
Yet it would appear this is apparently not the case, when it comes to chat services provided on websites. Or so it seems given the behaviour many businesses. There is little in the way of accountability or scoring, and certainly no visibility at the point of entry.
Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see a Live Chat ‘star rating’ published at the point you first click on it, just like hotels have at their doorway, and now must also do on their websites?
Let’s take a quick look at what you get with different types of Live Chat, and how they impact on the experience of your web visitors. This may help you decide which type to use on your website:
1. THE FORM FILLER
It’s looks like chat. Initially it reacts like chat, ie. It pops up!
However, in the end it’s all about your data going in, and nothing in return. Essentially a data-capture form on a website, with an implied possibility of response at best. This service often purports to be live chat, but is unashamedly an exercise in getting customer data, without providing the customer with any service at all.
Rarely is there an opportunity for the customer to ask their own question – just fields for name and email or phone number. The customer has no sense of whether their question can be answered or when that may happen.
“Thank you we’ll get back to you". You’ll see this a lot.
2. NOT SO LIVE CHAT
This is technically Live Chat, but 'LIVE' does rather depend upon someone being there. Immediately.
Rather like getting through to a business on the telephone. You get that euphoric moment at first answer, and then you wait …. and wait …. and then enter a world of selecting options, which often leads you back to the start or the dialling tone!
The point of Live Chat is that it is meant to be instant, and LIVE. But the same can happen when a service is under resourced: “You’re number 12 in the queue, we’re sorry we’ll be with you as soon as we can”.
What this really says is we know you want to chat but we’re not going to put enough resource into this to make it a rewarding experience.
Worse still is “Click here to Chat with us now” only to be greeted with “I’m sorry we’re not available now please fill in this form” This happens often when a business attempts to staff live chat themselves, with a team who are not dedicated to it, and have multiple responsibilities.
It’s something, but it’s not a good digital customer experience. It’s not what any customer would wish for. Alarmingly it is putting the business first and hoping that a proportion of customers will hang in there. Or use another channel of enquiry.
3. fully managed LIVE CHAT
Live Chat with real people answering actual questions, and more importantly actively nurturing visitors along the sales pipeline. Perhaps the ultimate level of live chat, but in reality the only acceptable level of Live Chat in your customer's view, where you do not gamble with their tolerance to compromise.
Live Chat operators are fully focused on your website, ready to assist visitors instantly. 24/7 365 meeting, greeting and engaging with your web visitors. They have pre-planned lead qualification criteria to work to, full training on the questions they will be asked and the responses they should give, with freedom to type freely giving that truly warm personable feel that a customer wants.
This live chat service is fully focused on building trust and empathy with the customer, so answers their question first, only capturing data when the customer is ready for that stage. And the operators are skilled at proactively nurturing the customer with their own qualifying questions in response, to the point where the customer actively wishes to provide contact details to lock in the next step of their purchase journey.
The experience leaves the web visitor feeling positive that they are in the sales pipeline, their visit was valued, and their expectations fully met or exceeded. The business has committed fully to maximising return on its investment in live chat – a return that can be measured in full on a real time basis.
Live chat can be financially assessed for the direct return it delivers. Like most things in life to achieve a return, the investment must be in something good, something that’s designed to add value and something that the people you offer it to see the value within. Really good Live Chat will ensure a return that delivers business growth.
So often live chat is seen as a cost, not an investment with a measurable return. It is operated with the leanest of resources, at the lowest cost possible. In such cases it is arguable that given the negative impact on customer experience it would be better avoided entirely. How often do customers take a look through a shop doorway, see a lengthy queue, and say “no chance, I’ll go elsewhere”?