Live chat provides a number of benefits.

Many (would-be) customers prefer live chat to phone, for various reasons. Read more here: http://tinyurl.com/oddpc87

With all the new mobile apps and communication channels available to deliver customer service, it’s sometimes easy to overlook “old school” technologies. While there will always be a segment of the population that will flock to whatever new, shiny object catches their fancy, it’s important to not lose sight of what works and what a majority of customers actually prefer. Live chat is a case in point. Just because live chat technologies have been around for 20 years, doesn’t mean it’s the preferred communication channel for Baby Boomers. In fact, live chat is more popular with younger generations, with many preferring it over phone.

Millennials Prefer Live Chat

With all the excitement over new customer service delivery options such as self-service, it’s easy to want to divert time and resources into developing these new applications. True, these are important features to develop, but it shouldn’t be at the expense of tried and true communication channels such as live chat. In fact, in a new report released by help desk technology consultancy Software Advice, they found that of the 350 respondents surveyed, 60% of Millennials prefer to have their questions about online shopping answered via live chat over traditional channels. Additionally, Millennials were 20% more likely to prefer live chat over Baby Boomers with 56% reporting a successful experience with live chat at least once.

Live chat will continue to be the expectation in customer service.

Usage of Live Chat by Age

The popularity of live chat has less to do with “what’s old is new” and more to do with a communication channel that owes its longevity to its convenience and quick response time.

The Business Case for Live Chat

Besides its ease of use and efficiency, other business cases can readily be made for the continued investment of this important communication channel. In the same report referenced above, companies that successfully rely on live chat report that support agents are more efficient with live chat than phone, mostly because it is easier to handle multiple conversations simultaneously. Additionally, live chat is seen as an excellent entrance point for customers, as it is easy for prospective customers to ask questions and get timely answers, without the level of commitment that phone or email requires. When customers have a positive first interaction with a company they are more likely to become paying customers. Numerous studies have shown that customers are less likely to abandon their online shopping carts if live chat is an available option. Before committing to making a purchase, customers may have a question they’d like answered. If their only communication option with a company is via phone or e-mail, they are more likely to abandon the purchase as these modes of communication are less timely and more cumbersome. One case study featured live chat conversations being 90% likely to convert to a sale, another that adding live chat increased conversions by more than 20%.

While call centers will remain an important pillar of customer support, live chat should be seen as its equal.
• Live chat is more efficient as agents often engage in multiple simultaneous conversations.
• Because of quicker response times, live chat agents spend less time per interaction and can service more customers over other communication channels.
• Live chat reduces the amount of calls coming into call centers as many customers will use this feature over phone or email, thus allowing for more technical and specialized calls to be handled through the call center.
• With agents able to handle multiple customers at once, fewer agents are able to handle the work load.

Training Live Chat Agents

As with most aspects of customer care, live chat requires training and monitoring. Although customers prefer live chat for all the aforementioned reasons, they still want personalized and individualized attention. Just as customers are turning away from scripted, canned phone conversations, they expect their live chat conversations to feel natural.

Live chat training is more than simply showing agents how to use your live chat software, training should include appropriate communication techniques; always alerting a customer if an agent needs a few minutes to resolve a problem; asking permission for an agent to access the customer’s browser; and finally how to nudge a customer to complete a sale, without coming across as aggressive.

If your company has yet to implement live chat, now is a good time to explore adding this to your customer service communication options. The numbers speak for themselves: customers prefer live chat over other communication methods; live chat is good for the bottom line; and live chat leads to more satisfied customers. If your organization already uses live chat, it’s a good time to ensure your protocols meet customer expectations regarding natural communication styles. Knowing the demographics of your live chat audience will help you tailor your training to meet your user’s needs. There’s no time like the present to implement or improve upon this powerful customer service tool!