B&B or the Ritz – what live chat would you choose?
The truth is, not all Live Chat is created equal.
We are all familiar with grades of quality when we choose a hotel room. In fact, for years their ‘star ratings’ have been very public, and an unavoidable driver of competitive ambition.
Apparently not so with chat services provided on websites. There is little in the way of accountability or scoring, and certainly not visible at the point of entry. Wouldn’t it be fascinating to see live chat showing a ‘star rating’ at the point you first click on it, just like hotels have always done at their doorway, and now must do on their websites?
Just like hotels, I believe there are 5 levels of live chat (or what businesses would have you believe is live chat). Let me run them past you, from the lowly ‘1 star’ to the supreme ‘5 star’:
The 1 Star Not actually live chat.
The hostel with no reception of any kind!
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 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. They have effectively served the business, rather than the other way around.
You’ll see this a lot: “Thank you we’ll get back to you”…….(when we can be bothered!)
The 2 Star Chat, but no-one’s there.
Shabby reception, endlessly pressing the bell for attention.
Ironically might be worse than 1 star, because it sets a real expectation of a person ready to respond, but that expectation is soon dashed. The customer is able to ask their question, but unfortunately are then made to wait endlessly for a response.
“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.
All too often the business will fall into the worse trap of requesting contact details, whilst the customer still believes they will get an instant response. The mis-match between expectation and delivery here is catastrophic for a business.
The 3 Star This is LIVE CHAT……at last!
A room for the night, but that’s all, little sleep!
You’ve made contact, someone’s there, they’ve said “Trevor will be with you soon”, and “Who am I talking to?” But that’s it. Nothing for two minutes. You ask if anyone’s there…..nothing. A few minutes later you get a response, ask a question and bingo, you’re back in the queue waiting for your turn to be talked to.
It’s better 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.
So often live chat is seen as a cost, not an investment with a measureable 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”?
The 4 Star A proper LIVE CHAT experience
Perfectly acceptable room with facilities, but not exceptional
Now you are in the 24/7 Live Chat zone. This is good, someone’s there, more or less when you need them. There was a modest delay from asking your question to getting a response because this is the world of overflow handling and message taking.
This level of service attempts the balance between satisfaction and fulfilment. The business has invested in a good service attempting to satisfy a customer to an acceptable point. A point which might reasonably be expected but not exceeded.
Being available 24/7, answering simple queries in a passive or reactive manner will satisfy some customers, with the promise of a follow back from the business at a more convenient time. The customer is relatively happy, but not completely fulfilled and is clearly left waiting for the next step (possibly unsure of the certainty of delivery).
The business has chosen to invest one step short of truly optimising their potential return. This live chat service is limited to message taking and managing expectations. It falls short of proactive lead nurturing and conversion.
The 5 Star The world of 24/7 Fully Managed Live Chat
Luxury hotel room with service that makes you feel special
The ultimate level of live chat, where the 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.
Which is where we depart from the analogy of hotel rooms. Unlike hotel rooms, live chat can be financially assessed for the direct return it delivers. To achieve a return, the investment must be at our 4 or 5 star level, but only 5 star will ensure a return that delivers business growth.
Tim Breden is COO at Yomdel. Get in touch any time to chat about 5 Star Live Chat, if you're serious about growing your business.
In fact, we do a 20 minute online demo discussion, if you'd like to book one with us.