Inbound Marketing Specialist at Sales & Orders. All I need in life is my girlfriend, my dogs, my camera and a campfire. Water's cool too, I guess.
In today’s era of instant gratification, waiting on hold for or pressing buttons on your phone for customer service is something that is outdated, and quite frankly, extremely frustrating.
From a personal stand point, there are few things less appealing that having to go through that process.
With these results following a year-by-year downfall trend, a more modern and efficient means of customer support has emerged as the clear pack leader: live chat.
With over 90% of surveyed consumers reporting positive experiences with live chat, this tool is one that is not to be missed now and into the future.
Benefits of Live Chat
Your Customers Can Multitask
The ability to perform multiple tasks at once is vital to the every day life of the average person.
This is a concept that surely should be integrated into your customer support strategy as an e-commerce retailer.
According to findings published by Econsultancy, 51% of customers prefer live chat because, you guessed it, it allows them to multitask. Additionally, 21% of consumers like live chat because it helps them to shop while they work.
To consumers, this may be the largest benefit of doing business with a company that has live chat as a means of customer service.
You have the freedom to perform any number of other tasks, including continuing to browse and shop, while simultaneously receiving support.
As a retailer, there are benefits to this new-found freedom as well.
How many stories have you heard about people growing extremely frustrated with call/e-mail wait times for customer support, and either abandoning a purchase or never returning for another purchase?
With live chat, wait time are essentially made negligible. Since you customer has the freedom to multitask, there won’t be so much inconvenience associated with slight wait times.
As technology makes things more and more convenient, what is convenient has become a large part of what drives us, as consumers and as people.
“This is important to understand contextually, considering our society now bounces between dozens of different stimuli at any given moment” writes Nicolas Cole of Inc.com.
Logically, from a business point of view, it makes sense to cater to that type of lifestyle than to ignore it.
Live Chat is Preferred by Millenials
It’s estimated that there are 79.8 million Millenials in the United States currently, making them the largest living generation in the country.
Why is this such an important statistic for e-commerce retailers? Well, there’s one glaring reason:
This group of consumers spend over $600 billion each year, and that number is still on the rise.
It’s expected, according to a study conducted by Accenture, that by 2020, they will spend over $1.4 trillion. Yes, that’s trillion with a “T.”
All in all, Millenials will contribute nearly 30% of all annual retail sales, making them a group of people who simply cannot be ignored.
Having grown up in the age of computers, they are much more inclined the utilize live chat than most other people.
In fact, a recent survey published by Lemonstand, revealed that over 60% of Millenials prefer live chat over phone.
Use Chat Logs to Track Customer Feedback
Live chat on your website opens the door to customers to not only quickly get information. It provides them an avenue to report their grievances and their delights with regards to your e-commerce store.
Whether unsatisfied with shipping or frustrated with your sites performance, they can report issues directly to you and your customer service team.
On the other hand, if they’re highly satisfied with an experience or a function, they may report this to you as well.
Using this perspective to improve your storefront and tailor your product offerings to meet the demands of your active customers just may lead to an uptick in purchases.
This can also paint a clear picture of who your customers are, and help you properly target your marketing efforts in the future.
Combing through dozens of chat exchanges in search of a few actionable improvements can be a daunting task, however Shopify offers up some suggestions for focusing your search in a recent blog article of theirs:
- Terminology: Look at the way customers describe certain products/services on your website. This can reveal specifically what they’re searching for when looking on your site or searching for products/services in general. Adjust your copy based on commonly repeated words and phrases used in chats.
- Layout and navigation: Do visitors to your site seem confused by the layout/functionality of your website? Take these requests to heart, and experiment with different formats for your storefront based on common complaints. You could also hire a professional designer to maximize the functionality of your site and help improve overall user experience.
- Product FAQs: If you continually receive inquiries about a particular product or service listed on your website, consider adjusting your copy to include further information for clarity. This will not only help your customers along their purchasing journey, but it will also free up your customer support staff for other inquiries.
- Requests and suggestions: While it may be unreasonable to respond and act on each request or suggestion offered up by visitors to your site, it’s certainly worth while to take note of repeat ones. If there are several people asking for the same thing, you may be able to take that information, update your site, and end up drawing in more customers in the future. Try building a sheet in Microsoft Excel to track requests over time and prioritize website updates based on them.
Live Chat Increases Sales
One of the best results of implementing live chat is that it helps to increase your sales.
In fact, a study conducted by Forrester Research reveals that around 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.
Additionally, recent findings published on LinkedIn revealed that 77% of customers won’t make a purchase if there’s no live chat support available.
The findings are conclusive, bringing to light the fact that today’s consumer wants live chat if they’re going to buy from you. But what does this look like applied to an actual company?
Marketing Sherpa performed a case study on Total Gym Fitness and their implementation of live chat.
According to their study, Total Gym Fitness developed a 5-step system to utilize chat to increase their conversions:
- Implement live chat
- Train agents to speak with customers
- Understand common scenarios of users in live chat
- Analyze transcripts for optimizing live chat conversations
- Optimize live chat for mobile traffic
The results since the kickoff of this plan have been staggering. In total, live chat and online engagement yielded 39% of Total Gym’s sales across all device platforms.
This process also found 92% of live chat engagement occurs prior to the user reaching the cart, meaning this tool helps to move buyers through the conversion funnel.
And according to ZenDesk, this situation is ideal for salespeople because it lets them nudge customers towards certain products or services without having to resort to the “hard sell.”
People who visit your site in the first place already display a vague interest in your offerings, and initiating contact during the decision making stage will certainly increase the chances of that visitor becoming a paying customer.
Live Chat Gives You an Edge on Your Competition
Every business wants to capitalize on their competitions weakness to further their own success.
An easy way to gain that competitive edge is to implement live chat onto your website as a means of customer support.
Recent findings published on the Kissmetrics blog revealed that many top retail businesses are not offering chat.
This is rather eye opening considering the correlation between customer satisfaction with an online shopping experience and the store having live chat available.
Even more eye opening are the statistics reported by E-Marketer which found that 25% of chatters made 51% to 75% of their purchases online.
So not only are people more likely to choose an e-commerce store to buy from based on availability of live chat, but many of them are going to spend a significant amount of money there.
Live Chat Best Practices
Live chat has the potential to increase your sales and revenue, but it still must be executed properly within a broader plan of customer service for that potential to be fully realized.
Done well, it can be the tool that keeps on giving. Done incorrectly, it can be the tool that drives away paying customers for good.
Keep in mind that, according to Forrester, 55% of US online adults are likely to abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer to their question.
Here are some tips to ensure that your business makes the most out of your live chat efforts:
Align Chat with Your Business Goals
To properly communicate with your customers via live chat, you must first establish what business objective you’re trying to accomplish by implementing it.
Once you’ve determined how live chat aligns with the broader goals of your business, you’ll be able to better serve your customers.
As suggested by ZenDesk, some of these goals may include:
- Meeting service level agreements for things like wait time, first replay time, etc.
- Proactively solving customer issues before they arise
- Reducing shopping cart abandonment
Ensuring you set and consistently accomplish these goals will go a long way towards not only bringing in customers but building long term relationships.
Train Your Team on Live Chat
While this may seem like an obvious to-do, its importance can’t go overlooked.
Live chat is different than other channels of customer support. There is a “nuanced etiquette” to it, says Laura Shear of ZenDesk.
Representatives must be extremely knowledgeable about subjects such as inventory, shipping, website navigation, and more, as well as be experts in general customer service and, in some instances, sales.
If you provide proper training, along with cheat sheets and FAQs, their performance will improve as will their ability to quickly answer customer questions.
These tools can be especially helpful if you’re program entails proactively live chatting with site visitors while they’re in the decision-making point of the sales funnel.
Quick, accurate answers can be the difference between a paying customer and an abandoned cart.
Be Prepared for Busy Shopping Hours
Depending on what you’re selling and in what industry, your busy shopping hours can and most likely will be different than others. Being prepared for these busy times is vital.
Don’t assume that the typical 9-5 hours will be most effective.
You can find a detailed view of your sites traffic patterns with tools such as Google Analytics. Many e-commerce platforms, including BigCommerce and Shopify, also come with built-in analytics tools that provide you with this information.
Once you gather your information, staff your live chat team appropriately to ensure you’re ready for the rush of customers coming into your site.
Additionally, consider coordinating heavier staff on live chat with your companies marketing efforts. For example, if you’re sending out a newsletter or an e-coupon that you expect to increase your site traffic, make sure you have the appropriate staff ready nearly immediately after sending.
Set Expectations with Offline Hours
Even with a large staff and automated chat bots, 24/7 chat service would be a monumental undertaking. If you’re a SMB or even an owner/operator, this is out of the question.
The best way to avoid trouble is to set an away schedule and messages through your live chat service provider.
This ensure that your customers know you’re unable to answer questions at this moment, and it also provides them with a form, so they can send in their inquiries with an e-mail address, and you can respond at your first opportunity.
Of course, it’d be ideal to always be available to answer questions, but at least with an offline message people will still know that you’ll receive and respond to them.
Encourage Live Chat Representatives to Be Themselves
The entire purpose of live chat is to avoid robotic phone calls and searching around for answers for extended periods of time.
People are looking for warm, human help during their shopping experience.
When a customer engages you in a live chat, don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through. Don’t hesitate to crack a joke or use emojis to get your point across when the occasion calls for it.
This will not only make the customers experience more pleasant, but it will help to build trust in you and your company for potential future purchases.
Live Chat Success Stories
As a leader in the performance outdoor clothing and equipment industry, The North Face is just as interested in providing its customers with outstanding support as they are in producing cutting edge products and technologies.
Part of accomplishing their goal of superb customer service involved the implementation of a substantial live chat strategy that not only focused on answering inquiries, but also on proactive chat.
With the help of Bold 360, they set objectives for what they wanted live chat to accomplish for them, and also laid out a plan for how to move forward with their new strategy.
They aimed to expand their outreach abilities and manage completely in house, a monumental task for any size company.
The core of their chat team was built around 11 individuals chosen for their customer service and sales skills as well as for their product knowledge.
Following implementation of this advanced strategy, The North Face saw drastic improvements in their e-commerce business.
Their Net Promoter Score increased by 21%, their average chat customer satisfaction has risen by 94% and their conversion rate increased by 33%.
A big reason why their overall customer satisfaction rose is because their dedicated chat team is able to handle nearly 50% more inquires over a period of time compared to the phone reps.
From a single warehouse in Brisbane, Australia to a nationwide network distributing industrial and business supplies, Signet has seen their company grow immensely over the last few years.
With this growth came an expanding need for customer support, and more effective strategies to help scale their already award-winning customer service.
Over the course of their expansion, not only did their business change but the way their customers shopped changed as well.
To keep in touch with their customers and attract new ones through the changing communications landscape, they decided to improve upon their live chat customer service environment, so they could better serve potential buyers.
They decided to implement Bold 360’s system, which allowed them to integrate with their CRM system, enabling support staff access to valuable, real-time customer data that would help guide their decision making.
As a result of employing a more sophisticated live chat strategy, their conversion rate rose from 31% to 46%, the amount of online orders they receive grew 43%, and they doubled the number of new customers signing up for their service.
The landscape of e-commerce is ever changing, as are the needs and behaviors of consumers shopping online.
Now more than ever, people are looking for instant or near-instant gratification when they have questions or concerns. If you aren’t there to answer, they’re as good as gone.
Live chat helps to solve that problem, making you instantly available to potential customers the moment they need assistance.
This not only can increase the odds of them making a purchase, but it will ensure the entire buying process is pleasant and reassuring.
And ultimately, the more you’re there for your customers, the more they will come back to you for further business.