Live Chat for Business: Benefits, Best Practices & Software
Customer expectations are at an all-time high, and as a result, traditional communication channels no longer cut it. Emails and support tickets are too slow. Phone calls don’t work for customers operating in different time zones. Self-service can be impersonal, time-consuming and inadequate at times.
So, what’s the solution?
Live chat apps make it easy to give customers the personalized, on-demand service they crave with real-time communication and quick response times.
Below, we’ll dig into some of the reasons organizations are embracing this communication channel before looking at the benefits of live chat software for businesses and the best practices to know before getting started.
What is live chat?
Live chat is a type of online application that allows website visitors to instantly communicate with a business directly from the browser — either on your website or through an external platform like Facebook or WhatsApp.
Unlike chatbots, live chat services for business are managed by actual people. It allows customers to communicate with sales or service reps in real-time without having to pick up a phone or navigate away from your site.
More Businesses Are Adopting Live Chat
Today’s businesses — no matter their size, sector, or what kinds of products or services they sell — compete on their ability to meet rising customer expectations in a complex digital landscape. These statistics demonstrate the degree to which a business’s online presence can make or break the customer relationship:
72% of customers expect agents to know their contact details, product information, and service history without asking for them.
According to a Kustomer survey, 79% of customers experience frustration when they can’t connect with a brand on their preferred channel or communication method.
Of customers who said they prefer live chat to other types of support, 79% said that was because they get answers to their questions quickly.
Another report found that over 77% of customers won’t buy from a website if it doesn’t offer live chat.
Finally, a global CX study led by Oracle revealed that about 75% of senior executives believe that a great experience is one of the best predictors for whether a customer will become a loyal advocate.
In response to these challenges and the high stakes of falling short, businesses are looking toward technology for relief. An estimated 67% of B2C businesses have installed live chat solutions on their website to streamline the customer service experience and capture critical data they can use to enhance their business strategy from all angles.
Below, we’ll look at some of the more specific benefits that live chat for business software brings to the table.
How Do Businesses Benefit From Live Chat?
Whether you’re using live chat for small business applications or for enterprise-level campaigns, live chat helps you build better relationships with your consumers. You can capture behavioral data tracking how consumers interact with each touchpoint and engage visitors in real-time conversations.
By combining anecdotal data with big-picture trends, organizations can convert more visitors into customers — and bring in more revenue.
In these next few sections, we’ll look at some more specific ways that live chat benefits your business.
Live chat helps businesses understand customer needs
If your business doesn’t place consumers at the center of everything you do, you’re hurting your chances of success.
Live chat allows you to collect better data than you might if you relied exclusively on forms or behavior (think heat maps, click maps, or web analytics reports). Consider it another tool for understanding your customers — and the "why" behind their actions, options, and preferences.
Real-time conversations with leads, prospects, and long-time customers present a huge opportunity for brands to understand their audience, quickly introduce relevant products and resources, and build meaningful relationships in a way that channels like email, landing page forms, and support tickets cannot.
Live chat helps businesses increase sales and conversion rates
Live chat can increase website conversions by up to 45%. That makes sense, given that live chat allows your agents to engage customers and help them with the buying journey.
Let’s say your business sells athletic gear, and a customer asks an associate to recommend some running shoes that are good for trail running. In a physical store, it’s easy to ask someone for help, but when you can’t be there in-person, live chat allows you to recreate the experience of in-person support.
According to Conversion Scientist, roughly 44% of online shoppers say that one of the most important features an ecommerce site can provide is a live person to answer their questions in real time. By adding live chat to product or checkout pages (aka pages with high exit rates), customers can easily engage with knowledgeable sales and service agents who can help them find exactly what they need.
But, not everyone who visits your site is ready to make a purchase during that initial visit. Rather than hoping customers will remember to come back later, installing live chat on key pages (and external channels) helps reps address questions and concerns in-the-moment to keep shoppers on your site.
That, in turn, will prevent people from leaving to explore other options — and it could result in an immediate purchase (more typical of lower-cost consumer products like apparel, personal care items, sporting goods, or food/beverage).
Live chat helps businesses reduce cart abandonment
As mentioned in a previous post — an estimated 70% of customers abandon purchases just before making it official — costing ecommerce brands billions in lost revenue.
Shopping cart abandonment happens for all kinds of reasons — slow page load speeds, wonky credit card icons, hidden costs, and more. Live chat is a great way to build buyer confidence and guide shoppers toward a conversion — be it a purchase or a smaller commitment like a newsletter opt-in or a download — without being invasive.
It is worth noting, however, that someone with high commercial intent is more likely to chat with a service agent than someone who is just browsing. Still, live chat allows brands to start nurturing relationships with shoppers just beginning their journey.
If they don’t take the bait, live chat still enhances the on-site experience — its presence alone helps build trust, even among shoppers with no plans to use the feature.
Presenting live chat as an option has a similar effect to listing your phone number, address, and social profiles on your site — it signals that someone is there, just in case — and gives visitors the sense that you’ve got nothing to hide.
Live chat provides businesses with more upsell and cross-sell opportunities
Live chat also opens up more opportunities to upsell and cross-sell products and services that customers might be interested in.
The conversational nature of live chat allows agents to recommend additional purchases that are either a better fit or add to the value of the primary purchase. For example, if a buyer is shopping for a new iPhone, an agent might recommend protective cases, and accessories like headphones, charging cables, or Bluetooth-enabled speakers.
This tactic helps agents increase the average order total without applying too much pressure on consumers (and potentially scaring them away).
Live chat helps businesses reduce service response times
One of the most obvious benefits of live chat is that it’s fast. Speed is important when customers not only expect real-time answers, but also relevant solutions to their problems.
Providing an immediate response is great, but if you can manage to identify and implement a resolution during the conversation, you’ll impress your customers and increase the chances of a repeat visit.
On the business side, live chat saves agents a lot of time, too. They’re spending less time on phone calls and can instantly access a complete record of past interactions. It’s much easier to juggle multiple chats than multiple phone calls — allowing reps to take on multiple queries simultaneously without undermining the experience.
Live chat for businesses enables 24/7 support
Live chat support can be made available 24/7 — if that would be beneficial to your business — or any other selection of hours you prefer.
If you’re running a smaller operation, you might try routing live chat inquiries to your phone when you’re away from your desk, allowing you to respond to customer questions as easily as a friend’s text message.
By expanding your instant availability to cover the whole day, your customers will have little reason to complain about their questions going unheard.
If you’re unable to provide a round-the-clock live chat service, you might use a business chatbot to pick up the slack during off-hours.
Another option is syncing live chat with your knowledge base content. This allows you to guide visitors through your self-service offerings without the friction that comes from going it alone.
Live chat helps businesses minimize redundancy for customers
Customers know you’re collecting their data — they’re generally okay with it, provided you’re able to use that information to give them something they find valuable.
According to CustomerThink, 72% of customers expect an agent to remember details from past interactions. That includes what products they’ve purchased in the past, who they’ve interacted with, and the reason for those interactions.
Live chat allows organizations to reference historical data before and during customer interactions. This means agents can easily size up the situation before hopping on a chat and pick up right where the customer left off — even if they initially spoke with a different agent.
Live chat helps businesses increase customer satisfaction
Live chat allows you to collect information about customers, identify whether they’re a new or existing customer, and ask questions that help you understand what they’re looking for — and whether they’re even a good fit for your product/service.
Depending on where they’re at in the journey, you might gently guide visitors to specific CTAs — signing up for your newsletter, downloading an industry report, booking a meeting, etc.
Per Forrester data, 69% of online shoppers in the United States shop more with retailers whose customer service is consistent, both online and offline. Live chat helps brands improve consistency across all interactions.
Live chat gives businesses a competitive advantage
When customers are ready to buy, they’re ready to buy now — they don’t want to wait for you to respond to a question. If you can’t respond in real-time with the right information, well, you’ll lose business to faster-moving competitors.
Live chat plays a critical role in improving the experience for customers as they interact with your brand, while simultaneously allowing you to capture data that can be used to drive even more improvements.
The data you collect about your customers and their preferences can help you improve product quality, develop a new product line, create highly relevant ads, or improve certain aspects of your sales or support strategy.
7 Live Chat Business Best Practices
Live chat has the highest customer satisfaction rates compared to other communication channels: 92% of consumers prefer to connect with brands through live chat, and 80% prefer communicating through social media channels. By contrast, just 23% of consumers said they preferred to get in touch with support teams by phone.
That said, live chat for business software is far from a plug-and-play solution. Here are eight best practices that can help you set the stage for success:
1. Go omnichannel
Savvy brands understand that great service is all about meeting customers where they are right now by making themselves available on their preferred channels.
Customers now expect to be able to start a conversation in Facebook Messenger and then pick up where they left off on another channel. With an omnichannel live chat tool, your website’s chat widget, in-app support feature, and different social media platforms are all integrated and easy for an agent to review during a live chat.
Live chat allows customers to seamlessly engage with your business from their preferred channels, including asynchronous options like email or phone, as well as social platforms like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger.
2. Be proactive
One of the best ways to combat cart abandonment, boost satisfaction rates, and generate on-the-spot sales is to adopt a proactive approach to live chat, as opposed to a reactive approach where agents don’t "speak until spoken to."
If you’re using JivoChat, you can set pre-programmed triggers to proactively reach out to customers based on specific behaviors. For example, you might greet first-time visitors upon arrival to show them around.
Or, you might set it up so that a customer who spends more than, say, four minutes on the checkout page receives an automatic message — something like, "Is there anything I can help you with?"
Live chat allows agents to offer personalized product recommendations and insights, by asking qualifying questions to get a better sense of what they’re looking for.
3. Connect your CRM
Sync interactions with your CRM. This ensures that all live chat data links back to a "single source of truth," so that all agents, sales reps, and decision-makers have access to your entire conversation history. This is important for a few key reasons:
It prevents customers from the frustrating experience of repeating themselves over and over every time they speak to someone new.
It allows businesses to learn more about the impact live chat interactions have on the sales cycle.
It highlights issues about your products and services, allowing you to address them ASAP.
It allows organizations to identify new customer needs/evolve along with customers.
It allows you to identify gaps in messaging and weak spots in the sales process that you can improve.
The list goes on. But the point is, conversational insights from your live chat logs offer a wealth of information that can help you improve the customer experience from all angles.
4. Reduce response times with canned messages
Long wait times are a major problem for brands — they can kill conversion rates, prompt users to leave a negative review, and eventually, wreak havoc on a brand’s reputation.
Canned responses are a smart (yet simple) way to improve your response time and deliver a better overall experience. They allow busy agents to spend less time answering common questions and make it easier to achieve consistent brand messaging across multiple channels and touchpoints.
5. Train agents to upsell, cross-sell, and focus on value first
While live chat is known for providing instantaneous answers, you’ll need to make sure your agents understand how to effectively communicate with customers and guide them to solutions that align with their needs.
Customers generally expect agents to respond to requests within a minute or two but once the conversation is underway, it’s important to acknowledge that it is indeed a real-time conversation.
According to Kayako, while the speed of resolution matters, it’s not always the most important factor — 95% of consumers say a longer/slower chat time would be acceptable, in exchange for quality service. Meaning, a chat should last as long as it takes to solve a problem or answer questions.
For companies with longer sales cycles, live chat can help secure "mini-conversions" throughout the buyer’s journey — trial signups, demos, etc. Organizations need to make sure reps can identify opportunities to upsell or cross-sell based on the data that’s available.
For example, in JivoChat, agents can see which pages users are viewing in real-time, along with data like referring to the domain, location, and how long they’ve been on the site. Reps can then use those contextual clues to present relevant solutions.
6. Collect feedback
Live chat makes it easy for organizations to collect data that may contain valuable insights into customer pain points at various stages in the sales process, discover new needs, or identify opportunities to improve existing solutions.
7. Monitor metrics
Ideally, your live chat software should allow you to analyze chat records to measure the impact of your efforts.
You might opt to track more traditional metrics like customer satisfaction (CSAT) or net promoters scores (NPS), average-time-to-resolution, and so on. But, it’s also worth mentioning that live chat captures insights you won’t find elsewhere.
For instance, in the example below, you can see the number of conversations that started with proactive invitations, as well as opportunities for improvement (in red).
Key Features That Businesses Should Look for in Live Chat Software
You’ll want to do some research before committing to a live chat solution — comparing features, benefits, price, and of course, see what other users have to say.
Depending on your industry and business type, you may want to look for a solution designed around niche use cases: support features that help customers select an insurance plan, find the right lawyer, or protect sensitive data like medical records or financial information.
That said, here’s a look at some of the key features you should look for no matter what kind of business you’re in.
Make sure you look for software that allows you to customize your chat widgets so that they match your brand.
Many of the options available today allow you to add images, animations, custom colors, fonts, and text to ensure that your live chat experience matches the look and feel of your website, socials, and content.
Beyond that, you might also look for a platform that allows your customers to customize their experience, too. That might mean changing the color, font size, button location, triggers, language or messaging frequency.
Live chat works as both a reactive tool — where shoppers initiate the interaction — and a reactive tool where the brand initiates the conversation.
Done right, proactive support can boost engagement, drive conversions, and help customers avoid the frustrations that can cause them to leave your site for good.
Your best bet is making sure that you nail down your messaging in advance and track its performance, as there’s a real risk of annoying your customers with too many notifications or alienating visitors with the wrong messaging.
With that in mind, you’ll want to look for a live chat platform with rules-based triggers, that allow you to segment messaging based on various data points such as actions/inaction, specific attributes, what page they’re on, and how they interact with the content.
One of the live chat features that’s an important part of a seamless customer experience is the ability to transfer chats. With this feature, a chatbot can transfer a chat to a live agent, and live agents can also transfer chats to each other.
If you don’t have the ability to transfer customers, you lose many of the benefits of live chat — immediacy, reduced wait time, resolution of customer issues. You never want to be in the position of making a customer wait too long for someone else to pick up the conversation.
Knowledge base integration
Look for a solution that integrates directly with your knowledge base, so you can guide customers toward self-service support documentation, downloads, and blog content that can help them find the answers they need when you’re not there to help.
Set it up so that your chat window presents users with a few questions (Are you looking for solution X or solution Y? Are you a marketer or a small business owner?) that point them in the right direction.
Integrating your live chat software with your CRM helps to sync support data from all connected data sources in a centralized dashboard. You can then automatically log interaction data alongside customer records, contact details, personal preferences, purchase history, etc., so that agents can easily understand the context of each interaction without performing extensive research.
With an omnichannel business messenger like JivoChat, you can engage your customers on a variety of digital channels from one centralized dashboard that syncs to your CRM.
With mobile now the platform of choice for many online shoppers, your live chat software should work seamlessly across devices — mobile, web, iPad, you name it.
JivoChat’s mobile widget allows you to connect with those customers who don’t favor browser-based live chat and prefer to communicate from their smartphone instead.
Customers can request one-click calls to continue the conversation after leaving your website or message you from WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger while they’re on the move.
You can’t improve your live chat strategy if you can’t measure its impact against critical KPIs like revenue, customer satisfaction, engagement, and retention rates.
Analyzing customer interactions and how they influence these "hard metrics" can help you gain a better understanding of your customers and how your team is meeting their needs.
You’ll want to look for solutions that help you discover new opportunities and weak points in your strategy, and allow you to instantly understand whether your communication tactics are working, without any irrelevant metrics getting in the way of critical insights.
Start Offering Live Chat Today
In the end, live chat for business is critical for creating the on-demand, personalized experiences your customers want.
Learn more about how JivoChat can help you provide better (and faster) service. Get in touch with our sales team or sign up for a free trial today.
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