Everyone hates waiting.
Growing up in my family of eight, waiting was a pretty common occurrence. Whenever we tried to go anywhere, seven of us would end up waiting impatiently in the car while one person found her shoes, put down his book, or finished fixing her makeup. This usually led to annoyance, arguing, and all-around unpleasantness.
Turns out, this isn’t just a problem in my family. The average consumer hates waiting too. In fact, 52% of customers will abandon online purchases if they can’t find quick answers to their questions. Recently, many online businesses have turned to live chat as a solution to provide their customers with quick and helpful customer service.
According to Gartner, by 2018, over 80% of companies will offer some form of live chat on their website or on mobile devices. Customers, especially text-message-loving Millennials, love this feature, and 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer.
Not only does live support increase customer satisfaction, it can also improve sales. Reaching out to customers through live chat encourages them to make a purchase, and 94% of customers who were proactively invited to chat were somewhat or very satisfied with the experience.
To help you take advantage of this trend, I’ve rounded up five best practices for implementing live support.
1. Decide whether you have enough web traffic and resources for implementing live support.
Having live support can be extremely beneficial for your business, but only if you have the web traffic to make it worthwhile, and the resources to make it successful.
Before installing live support, look at your web traffic and decide whether you’ll have enough visitors using your support service to justify the cost.
How many do you need? That depends on what you are selling. Companies with lower margins such as online retailers need a lot of traffic to sustain the cost of live support. On the other hand, law firms and real estate agencies that make a lot of profit from one customer may need only 10 or 20 visitors per day to cover the cost
Next, make sure you have enough staff to run your support successfully. Live chat moves at a much faster pace than email or phone support. In fact, 60% of customers hate waiting more than a minute for support when online. It’s easier to multitask live chat than phone support, but make sure you’re fully staffed, or even consider creating a dedicated live chat team. According to Netop, most large call centers start by dedicating 5-20% of their operators to live support, while small and medium businesses start with about 5-10 operators. If you don’t have enough employees to respond to customers quickly and efficiently, you’ll actually end up hurting your business instead of helping it.
2. Consider outsourcing.
If you don’t have the right resources, but still want the benefits of offering live support, consider outsourcing it to a third-party provider. Professional live chat operators have the skills needed to manage successful live chats, leaving your employees free to do other work. Companies like Live Chat Pro offer many operators and guarantee a response time of 30 seconds or less to their clients.
However, keep in mind that outsourcing chat will give your provider access to all of your leads. Even if you sign an NDA with the company, you’ll have no way to control the way that they use your database. Moreover, there will be a time lag between the actual chat and when you get its transcript, which can lead to delays in follow up. Deciding whether to outsource live chat is key to running successful support. When doing this, make sure to consider the needs of your business, and the types of questions that operators will have to answer.
3. Choose software with the right features at the right price.
If you decide to implement live support, you’ll need the right software for your company. Because of the rise in popularity of live chat, a huge number of options are now available. When choosing your software, think about the size of your company. Very small companies and freelancers can choose from free live chat software like Olark and SnapEngage which connect your chat service to existing IM accounts. If your business is larger, you’ll want to choose a service with more advanced options.
Pricing for paid live chat software can range from $15 to several hundred dollars a month. Many providers offer a free trial period so you can try their service and see if it works for you. In order to get the most for your money, make sure to choose software with a clear pricing plan.
When choosing live chat software, there are several important features that you should consider. These are crucial for giving your customers a satisfying support experience.
1. User-friendliness of the chat interface
If your operators and customers struggle to use your interface, it will affect the quality of the experience for both. Choose software that has advanced features, but is also user-friendly.
2. Canned messages
The ability to insert pre-written messages such as “Hello, how can I help you today?” increases the speed of your service. However, make sure not to overuse them or your operators might sound robotic.
3. Tracking and analytics
When you use analytics you can view information about your customers, such as where they are from and what page they are on. This knowledge is essential if you want to take advantage of sales opportunities and message customers who look promising.
4. Chat protocols
The ability to save a copy of each chat enables you to monitor their quality and assess the skill of each chat operator.
5. Proactive chats
Some software can start chats on the behalf of free agents. This allows you to reach more customers and provides more opportunity for sales.
6. Integration with CRM
Keeping these features and options in mind will help you choose the chat software that best fits your business. To make it even easier, Capterra has a list of the Best Live Chat Software, with reviews and features to help you make up your mind.
4. Set up your chat service.
Once you’ve chosen your software, installing online chat simply involves pasting a piece of code on your website. After you’ve done that, make your chat service look professional by ensuring it matches the color and design of your website, and by using the real names and pictures of your support staff. Make sure your chat box is prominent and easy for customers to find. But avoid chats that open in the middle of the screen and interrupt what the customer is doing.
If your business deals with sensitive customer information, ensure that your data and chat transcripts are encrypted. Create rules and scripts about which data can be shared via chat to keep data secure.
5. Train your employees well.
Even the most advanced and well-designed chat software is useless without highly trained operators. Before launching your live support, train your staff, and verify that they are comfortable and familiar with your chat software. Make sure your representatives know your inventory and website extremely well, and provide them with cheat sheets of common questions to help them answer questions quickly and accurately.
“Realise it’s an opportunity,” says Robert Brandl, founder of the Tooltester Network. “Every time a customer starts a chat with you it’s a great opportunity to learn more about their needs and how they use the product. Make sure your operators can manage this well.”
If using live chat for sales is important to you, consider hiring representatives with specific sales experience. They will be more likely to reach out to customers and upsell, instead of just answering questions.
My siblings and I still constantly make each other wait, but you don’t have to do that to your customers. Use these best practices to embrace the future of customer service and implement live support into your business.
Do you have any other live support tips and practices? Share your thoughts in the comments below.