Customer service is one of those elusive things that businesses want to improve but aren’t always sure how to. Live chat is just one tool in your customer service arsenal that allows customers and potential customers to contact you on the fly and get answers to their questions or solutions to their problems.

In a recent study, 95 percent of consumers said they value high-quality support over speed, but 47 percent of them hadn’t had a positive live chat experience in the past 30 days. More than half of customers are more likely to buy from a company after using their live chat. However, you have to make sure your live chat drives conversions rather than driving customers away. Here are eight ways to make sure.

1. Staff Your Chat 24/7

If you offer live chat only a portion of the time, you could be missing out on valuable revenue. Around 51 percent of people say that a business should be available 24/7. Although it’s not ideal if you aren’t yet at a point that you can afford to staff your chat around the clock, at least look into a service or chatbot that can answer common questions.

2. Get Mobile-Friendly

More and more people are using smartphones for everyday activities. One feature you can add to your live chat capabilities is an SMS to Live Chat feature. With this tool in place, the user can send a text message to a number, and your support agents can reply via SMS. SMS live chat capability allows people to contact your company on the go.

REMC is an electric company in the Ohio River Valley. They offer an SMS automated support feature for their customers to report outages in the area. The customer texts the word “Out” to the number. Your phone number ties to your account, so the company knows immediately who the text is from. They then update the customer that they recorded the outage, when line workers arrive on site and when the power restores.

3. Speed up Response Time

Taking too long to respond to questions decreases conversions. One study of 433 sales teams showed that waiting a mere five minutes resulted in 10 times fewer leads. If your wait times are longer than a minute, either hire more staff or invest in chatbots to start the conversation and collect information while the user waits on an available agent.

4. Create a Positive Experience

Think about the overall experience your customers have when they interact with you. From the first moment the chat screen pops up, the customer should feel cared about and respected. Avoid wasting the customers time, prepare agents to answer questions knowledgeably and offer a friendly tone.

New City Moving does a good job with their live chat. Notice how the minute it pops up, an agent greets the customer with a friendly message and offering to assist them. A photo of the live chat agent appears at the top of the page along with their first name, which personalizes the experience and puts a face to the name.

5. Offer Options

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Even if you use a chatbot, there may be times when the live chat goes down or someone isn’t available. Offer a backup option, such as the ability to phone a toll-free number or email you for a response. While email isn’t ideal when a customer wants an instant answer, it at least offers an alternative.

6. Get Specific

One of the issues with live chat is that there are so many different areas to know that the live chat agent is a bit lost about how to answer questions. Uninformed agents result in delays or unspecific answers that frustrate consumers. If your company offers multiple products or services, it might be best to divide your chat options into those areas and train agents inside and out on their specific topic.

Template Monster divides up the type of customer support, funneling leads to the correct area. If you have a question about products, you can choose to speak to a consultant, but if you’re already a client, you can get support. There’s also a category for help with billing.

7. Improve Cross-Platform Communication

Imagine that you’re a new customer. You have a question about the product you just purchased, so you jump on live chat to get an answer. You explain the issue in depth, typing two or three paragraphs of detail. Suddenly, your internet goes out and you lose contact with the live agent. No problem, you’ll just call the company. Three agents later, you’ve now explained your problem four times and still don’t have a solution.

The best way to combat this issue is with a strong database that all agents can quickly access. The first time the customer explains their issue should be the last time they explain it. If another agent picks up the call or live chat, then they should have that information in front of them and tell the customer “I understand you’re contacting us about ABC today.”

About 38 percent of customers feel their live chat conversations are poor. Figure out how to improve this situation — better internal communication is the first step.

8. Add a Typing Indicator

There are numerous reasons for there to be slight delays when someone is live chatting with a customer. Use a typing indicator to show the customer that the agent is in the process of responding to their comment. If the agent needs a minute or two of research, the agent should tell the customer it will be a minute or two while they look up the order or details of the case.

Never leave your customers hanging. You’re likely to lose them if you do.

Improve Your Live Chat

The eight points above will help you improve your live chat today. You should also conduct regular surveys to see how satisfied customers are with your live chat services and what areas need improvement. Live chat should help you gain new leads and retain current customers, so make sure yours provides the best experience possible to your target audience.

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