What is live chat?

Live chat is often cited as one of the essential parts of a customer service support package. It can help drive leads and conversions on your business website, as well as helping users. But what actually is live chat? Simply put, it’s a way for visitors to your website to speak with your customer service team. Unlike other options, however, they won’t have to leave the site, go to a physical location or pick up the phone. 

Let’s take a look at live chat in more detail.

What is live chat customer service?

Live chat, as the name suggests, is a real-time conversation between users of your website and your customer support team. It uses a similar structure to instant messaging or direct messages on social media. The only difference is, it’s located right on your website so customers don’t have to click away to reach you.

Using the live chat function, customers can: 

  • Get advice on which products or services are right for them 
  • Ask for help navigating search or ecommerce pathways on your website
  • Submit traditional queries for things such as refunds, exchanges or complaints

In fact, live chat can help customers with anything a telephone call can. It’s like phoning up the customer helpline, but more convenient. With live chat, the back-and-forth conversation is carried out entirely through text-based chats. Depending on your business needs, live chat can be restricted to operating hours or around-the-clock support. 

Live chat can be accessed directly from your website, so there’s no need to search for a phone number or email address. As such, your customers can get the help they need easily, without having to wait.

And live chat isn’t just for answering customer queries. You can also use it to customise the user experience. This can involve showing customers your latest blog or directing them to a discount.

What is a live chat agent?

A live chat agent is the person on the other side of the conversation, assisting your customers with whatever they need. Like a call handler, they can work as part of an outsourced call centre, or be one of your in-house employees. Either way, they’ll use the resources at their disposal to be one of the first points of contact between your business and customers. 

How does live chat work on a website?

If you’re looking to integrate live chat support on your website, but you don’t know where to start, trying an outsourced live chat service can be helpful. The experts will be able to get everything set up and ready for action. Additionally, outsourced live chat agents will need minimal training before they can hit the ground running on your site. You won’t have to worry about training up new recruits or your existing customer support team. 

Whether you choose in-house or outsourced live chat support, there are a few things you should consider before you get started. 

Firstly, it pays to consider when your customers need live chat support. Do problems often crop up when customers try to check out their purchases? Does feedback suggest your customers need advice when choosing between products or services? You might find that live chat support isn’t needed for your whole website – just at pinch points where customers often need assistance.

Secondly, you should ask yourself if all of your customers need live chat support. If new users of the site often get in touch, you might decide to offer live chat support for new users only. On the other hand, you could make live chat support a ‘bonus feature’ of becoming a VIP customer.

It’s also worth considering the behavioural patterns of your customers. If most interactions on your website occur during business hours, then it makes sense to only offer live chat support at those times. However, live chat can be a good way to offer support to customers during non-working hours. This way, live chat support can be available even when email or telephone support isn’t. 

Finally, you should think about what you want your live chat experience to be like. Live chat agents, whether in-house or outsourced, will need information in order to help your customers. Try to be as thorough as possible when providing this information. Even something as simple as the tone of a message can make a difference when it comes to customer experience. 

Do customers like live chat?

Research suggests that the way customers and businesses view live chat differ. While live chat is popular, many customers end their chats in frustration and disappointment. This is because some businesses value speed over effectiveness. 

Nevertheless, as many as 38% of consumers say they are more likely to buy from a company that offers live chat support. Businesses are of a similar mind – 79% say offering live chat support has had a positive impact on sales. So, whether you’re new to the format or looking to improve your existing set-up, it looks like live chat is here to stay.