Live chat support

Live Chat Support: Definition, Benefits, and Best Practices

Supporting customers over live chat doesn’t automatically mean sacrificing the human touch and connection you get with other support channels. Quite the contrary, in fact. Below I’m breaking down what live chat support is, and I show you how to make your live chat support a success.

At first sight, live chat support may seem… lifeless

How could your agent connect with a customer? They don’t even hear each other’s voices, after all. And how could customers communicate their problems clearly if they cannot talk your support agents through them?

I admit; these are all valid concerns. But as you’ll see shortly, there is more to live chat support than a simple conversation through a small widget on a site. 

Here’s what we’ll cover:

It’s a lot to cover, so let’s get to it. 

What is live chat support?

Live chat support allows customers and support agents to interact with each other through a live chat widget placed on a website. 

Supporting customers over live chat works pretty much the same way as having any other form of real-time support communication. Using the support live chat widget, customers can send their questions to a support agent, who, in turn, can respond and address those concerns in the same widget window. 

Live chat support example.

What makes live chat support different is that it also allows agents to: 

  • Share links and point customers to relevant knowledge base articles, 
  • Use a shared inbox or integrate the chat with another communication tool (i.e., Slack) to bring in other experts to help the customer out,
  • Collect information from customers and even 
  • Use data from the company’s CRM to understand the customer’s problem better. 

But does live chat support work? Do customers engage with companies and seek their help through live chat? 

They absolutely do. Just consider this data showing the customers’ sentiment towards live chat support:

Why live chat support is so important.

These live chat support statistics confirm it – Live chat is a must-have support channel for any brand. But why?

Why is live chat support so important to have?

Let’s start by answering why it works so well and what makes customers prefer receiving support over live chat.

First of all…

Live chat support aligns with how we prefer to communicate. 

If you’ve watched Murders in the Building, then you probably remember a scene in which Steve Martin’s character considers calling Mabel More. He hesitates for a second, looks at his co-star, Martin Shortt, and decides to text Mabel instead. What’s important about this scene is Martin Shortt’s character’s response. He nods and states, “yeah, these days, they prefer to text.”

He’s right. That is what we do. We often choose to text and message to call. 

  • We discuss projects on Slack. 
  • Many of us collaborate with colleagues and share ideas on Teams or other similar platforms.
  • We WhatsApp with friends, and so on. 

We are connected more than ever. Our smartphones are no longer for calling. We can do almost anything a computer can do with them, including new communication methods. 

  • We can chat with friends while commuting, and no one around us can hear the conversation. 
  • We can manage many administrative tasks, update bank details, and more. And again, no one around us would even know about it. 

Why? Because it would all happen over chat. 

It’s no surprise then that so many of us prefer to receive support this way too. We could easily chat with a support agent and solve an issue with a recent purchase while sitting at our desk in the office. Or do it from the comfort of our home while streaming Netflix or so. 

In short, live chat support aligns with the flexibility that we’re so used to these days. 

Live chat is also easy to implement across all customer touchpoints

You can easily add a live chat widget to your website or the app and have customers reach you directly from there. 

Moreover, the widget can pop up on every page, so customers never have to look for ways to reach you. They no longer have to scour your website’s navigation to find the link to the support page. Instead, they just need to click on the widget, and they’re connected to your support team at once. 

Proactive chat example.

Live chat facilitates real conversations

A common objection against live chat support is that it doesn’t seem as personal as a phone conversation.

Nothing is further from the truth.

Sure, the customer and agent can’t hear each other’s voices. They can’t see each other either (which is also the case with phone conversations, by the way.) 

Yet they still converse in real-time, just as they would on the phone. But unlike a phone call, live chat conversations are often more focused. This form of communication leaves little room for meaningless chats or beating around the bush, and that’s what customers appreciate about it. 

In fact, 79% of customers prefer live chat exactly for its ability to deliver instant responses to their questions.

Plus, with the rise of using emojis in live chat, we can now communicate emotions and emulate body language this way too. 

Using emoji to add fun to MS Teams messages.

Live chat provides more context

I find this one of the biggest benefits of live chat support. By design, this form of customer support aligns perfectly with customers’ product usage and their user journey. As a result, customers often reach out to agents as they experience the problem. Agents, in turn, can see what the person is doing and can guide them to a resolution more effectively.

Live chat support is instant.

We used to consider receiving a reply to an email within an hour or two as good and fast support. But live chat has turned this on its head. Today, we want instant replies, and the channel can deliver them. 

With live chat support, we receive replies in real time. And unlike with phone support, we don’t have to wait in line for the next available operator. In most cases, our live chat request gets picked up instantly. 

This brings me to another benefit of live chat support. 

This support channel is highly-scalable.

A call center operator can conduct only one conversation at a time. This means that every other customer has to stay in the queue, awaiting their turn. 

Live agents, on the other hand, can conduct several conversations simultaneously. They can answer much quicker with canned responses, too. As a result, they can get through the queue much faster than call center agents ever could. 

4 questions to help you implement live chat support

So far, I’ve been sharing only exciting aspects of supporting customers with live chat. But there is one downside to it, too – You can launch it by just adding a chat widget to your site or app. Sorry. 

I mean, you can do that. But more often than not, just launching live chat support isn’t enough to make it a success. 

I have some good news for you, too – Below, I’ve listed four questions that will help you formulate a plan to implement and add live chat to your customer support. 

  • Do you need to launch live chat support for all customers? The logical answer is yes. But think about it. You’re launching a new support channel. You will need time to create relevant processes, and find your way, so to speak. So, you might also consider taking things slow and offering live chat support to selected customer segments only. For example, you could start by supporting only the best customers this way. Over time, as you gain experience and confidence in the channel, you can expand it to include all customers.
  • What are your expectations for this support channel? Understanding your goals will help you focus on the right actions from the start. For instance, if you want to provide more instant customer support, pay close attention to your live chat response rates, and work towards improving those. 
  • Can you provide live chat support throughout the entire day? Since you’re only considering launching this channel, I assume that you don’t have a dedicated team to manage live chats. So, consider your existing resources. Can you have those people manage live chat and other support channels simultaneously? Do you have enough manpower to do that? If not, consider offering live support during set times only. 
  • What is your current communications workflow? In other words, how do your teams communicate and collaborate? Are they using any specific tools, like Microsoft Teams or Zoom? Could you integrate live chat with those platforms to have your teams answer customer tickets without switching between apps? Your teams wouldn’t have to learn new tools, greatly reducing the amount of time required to get them up and running.

Best Practices for Live Chat Support

We’ve covered all that you need to know to start supporting customers with live chat. Before I go, I want to also offer you some advice to elevate your live chat support.

All the advice below comes from my personal experience of supporting customers with live chat, but also, from stories customers using our Slack live chat software tell me. 

So, without any further ado, here is how to make the most of your live chat and support customers through this channel better. 

#1. Make the Live Chat Option Easy to Find on Your Website

Don’t make it hard for your customers to find out the live chat option on your website. 

The longer it takes for customers to find the live chat option, the higher the chances of them abandoning your site.

Make finding live chat as intuitive as possible. Place the chat widget on every page, and use proactive triggers to display a welcome message to every new visitor. 

#2. Set Up Away Messages

You can’t be online 24/7 to respond to all messages and that’s fine.

You can still add your working hours to your live chat service, though, so that your customers know when they’ll hear back from you.

For example, you may not be as responsive on the weekend compared to a weekday. If you’re saying that you’re offline on Sundays then your customers will expect a reply first thing on Monday.

Make sure that you do respond to them early on Monday so that they are not unhappy with your customer service.

You can even add automated responses to your chat to provide responses to common questions. Remember, the more you keep your customers up-to-date, the easier it becomes to maintain a good customer experience.

#3. Build a Library of Canned Responses to Make Responding Faster 

Canned responses can also help you stay on top of your customer support. Let’s say that you have 2-3 questions that you tend to hear more often than any others.

How about drafting canned responses to the questions to keep them handy? Be careful, canned responses will not replace human interaction but they can help you save time when you communicate with a customer.

#4. Benchmark Your Response Rate to See How You Can Improve it

I always recommend clients that the first thing to measure is their average response time. 

Even if, at first, the rate isn’t impressive, it’s important that you 1.) know what it is, and 2.) keep track of it. 

As you’re getting better with making the most out of live chat, compare your performance with your initial response time.

Chances are, you will be happy with the progress that you’ve made. 

Or you will find that it is still an area that needs attention and improvement.

#5. Integrate Live Chat with the Tools That You’re Using Already

A smart way to supercharge your live chat support is to integrate it with your existing tools.

You don’t need to keep your teams in silos using different tools. For example, did you know that you can integrate your live chat with Slack (or other messaging apps) so that you receive the messages faster?

It’s a quick method to keep your team up-to-date while helping your agents respond to all queries faster the way they would already talk to the rest of your colleagues.

#6. Ask Customers for Feedback to Measure Success

No one can tell how well (or not) your support team is doing better than customers. 

These people have experienced your live chat support first hand, after all. Are they happy with it? Or has the experience left them lacking and dissatisfied? 

Don’t worry, it’s easy to find out.

Add a quick follow-up poll or survey at the end of each chat to receive feedback from your customers.

You can simply ask them to rate their customer experience or you can ask multiple questions if you want to find out more about their thoughts. 

The more you’re learning about their needs through customer satisfaction surveys, the easier it will become to provide a consistently good customer support.

Closing Thoughts

More and more customers expect a live chat support option when contacting a brand.

And because of that one thing alone, you have no option but to start supporting customers through live chat. 

On the whole, however, live chat can help support your business in so many ways. 

It can cut your response time, and connect you with customers faster. 

Live chat will also make your team more productive, and deliver meaningful insights about your customers’ needs, and more.Want to know more? Check out our guide to using live chat for customer service.

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