There are many ways an online business can interact with their customers, but if you ask the buyers which channel they prefer the most, the answer would most probably be Live Chat.
Research found that live chat generates a satisfaction rate of 73%, compared to 61% with email and 44% with phone.1 A good live chat session can satisfy the desire for instant gratification that is deeply embedded in the minds of today’s online shoppers. Happy consumers are loyal customers, and they are bound to bring more sales and profit to your business.
As the economy progressively shifts online, more and more businesses are integrating live chat support to their online touchpoints. It will most likely remain as one of the most effective customer engagement channels for e-commerce, until the next technology comes along or communication habits change. But before that day arrives, you should try to focus on improving your live chat services and make sure your customers are getting exactly what they want, NOW.
In this article, we will go over 21 live chat tips, covering design & setup, pre-chat, in-chat and post-chat that can help you improve your live chat and engage with customers more effectively.
Design & setup tips
Tip 1: Customise your live chat widget
Your website/online shop is your single most important customer touchpoint, and instead of relying on social media or messaging apps that are limiting your live chat capabilities, it is always a good idea to have your own customisable live chat system present.
People are visual creatures so make your widget visually impressive. Design your widget icon and chat box in a way that matches your brand image, as it also serves as a gateway to your services. Use appropriate font and colour and make sure everything scales correctly on any device, as people nowadays also use smart phones and tablets to access live chat.
Remember, there is no point in giving your customers a hard time when using live chat. Make your widget easy and intuitive to use, and place the widget at the bottom right where visitors expect them to be. Make sure all the buttons are clearly visible and easy to access. Live chat is not rocket science so there is no reason to make everything over-complicated.
Tip 2: Develop a system and be prepared
Running a customer contact centre can be hectic at times (whether you are a one-person-band or 300 strong). You should design a clear workflow and schedule to ensure your agents can handle all the cases even during peak traffic hours. Work out how many enquiries you expect to receive a day? How long does it take to resolve an issue? How many cases can an agent handle simultaneously? Then decide on what kind of a setup you need. Establishing a good system is the best way to ensure a smooth live chat experience for your customers.
Tip 3: Train your agents
Agent training can make a world of difference. And we are not just talking about communication skills. Your agents may have to deal with a whole range of different issues so it is also equally important to educate your agents on product knowledge and put them in the right mindset.
Your online Customer Service is not just there to babysit troubled customers. They are your front-line brand representatives who can help you promote your brand and products, as well as retarget your existing customers. Be sure they are ready to answer any enquiry, and are ready to upsell or cross-sell to your customers when the opportunity comes along.
Tip 4: Localise your live chat
Don’t expect your customers can all speak English. According to a research in 2020, only 25.9% of internet users actually use English.2 Seeing their language spoken in chat makes your customer feel right at home, and they are more willing to stay in the chat and read through what you have to say. It would be sensible to offer at least English and one other local language in your live chat.
Also you can enable Smart Routing on your widget to automatically assign visitors to the most suitable agent based on device language or geographical location. This can save precious time on both sides and avoid a lot of misunderstanding or confusion.
Tip 5: Use smart features to your advantage
Live chat platforms have become more powerful over the years and they often come with a number of useful features that can help you save time and improve service quality.
Some Omnichannel platforms let you manage messages from multiple channels in one dashboard, and have CRM tools integrated to the system, giving your agents a much easier time when dealing with customers from multiple sources.
Chatbot is another common feature that can ease your workload. It is cheap and easy to implement, but it should be noted that a recent survey found 86% of consumers prefer a human agent instead of a chatbot.3 In case you cannot afford a human agent to answer enquiries, you may consider using a chatbot as an alternative.
Sticky Routing is another great feature that can bring returning customers back to the same agent that has serves them before. This feature helps you build a much closer customer relationship and ensure a consistent service quality. A must have if you are dealing with a premium market.
There are many live chat software readily available, but not all of them offer the same functionality. Some are rather basic while others can offer more advanced features that can have enormous benefits to your productivity and service quality. It is always recommended to try out different solutions before making your final decision – make use of free trials to test features and quality.
Tip 6: Hack the motivation trap
People often need a trigger to motivate them to do certain things. But it is important to understand that motivation does not always precede action, and it can be the other way around. Once a person starts doing an activity it will increase their motivation and makes it easier to keep on doing it. The same applies to live chat. Some visitors may be hesitant to use your widget, but once the interaction started, it is much easier to keep it going.
There are a few ways to encourage your customers to start a live chat session. Most widgets have auto-start or pop-up features that let you initiate the chat with a relevant message. Think of a good scenario to engage visitors on your website and set the rules accordingly. For example when a visitor stays on a product page for more than 60 seconds, you may launch a chat window to ask them if they need help and offer a promo code. Small gestures like these can be the deciding factor of a purchase.
You can also try to invite customers for a chat. Send out chat invitation links or buttons through social media, SMS, email or other channels to proactively approach and engage your customers. Reach out to all potential customers and don’t miss any opportunity!
Tip 7: Seek your audience’s attention
Sometimes your live chat may just slip through their minds, and it is not a bad idea to occasionally remind them of your presence. Promote your live chat service on your website and social media channels and make sure your customers and site visitors know exactly where to look for help. Pop-ups, buzzing sounds, or a bouncing widget can also help visitors notice what’s available on your website. However, keep in mind not to overdo it or you risk deterring your customers.
Having more live chat users also means you have more chance to build a positive relationship with potential and returning customers, leading to more sales leads and customer data for analysis.
Tip 8: Entertain customers outside your business hours
Many companies have their contact centres distributed around the globe to offer 24/7 service, but if this is not available to you, be sure to let your visitors know when will your agents be online. Also you should consider adding offline support outside your business hours.
Some live chat tools have integrated enquiry forms and recorded messages. Even when visitors cannot reach an agent at the moment, they can still leave some basic info for you to follow up, and your customers won’t feel completely neglected even when your agents are busy or offline.
Tip 9: Use a pre-chat form
Pre-chat forms are one of those handy helpers that aren’t necessary, but good to have around. It can help you collect basic info so your agents don’t have to tediously ask them in chat. Live chat systems can also use that information to route users to the most relevant agent (based on language, location, enquiry type etc.). This is a great way to improve efficiency and service quality across the board. Just don’t forget to add a skip button so visitors can get the instant support anytime they want.
Tip 10: Instant response
79% of customers say they prefer live chat purely because of the immediacy it offers.4 It would be pointless if your agents cannot respond quickly. Research indicates that the average waiting time for live chat support requests is around 2 minutes and 40 seconds,5 so you should be aiming at a response time faster than that.
In case your agent needs a minute to check the records, make sure the customer is well-informed and understands what’s going on at the moment. Being transparent during a live chat session also helps keep your customers patient and they are less likely to leave while waiting for a response.
Tip 11: Establish a good rapport with your customer
Live chat can be so much more than just small talk. You can build a close and harmonious relationship with your customer by understanding their feelings with empathy. Customers having a good rapport with your agents or brand representatives are more likely to trust you, accept your ideas, and share more information with you, leading to more sales leads and opportunities.
Tip 12: Use names instead of generic titles
Every customer likes to be treated as a unique person. Using names to address your customers makes them feel relevant and important. Try to ask for their name in the beginning of a chat session, or use a pre-chat form to attain it. Also make sure you properly store all the customer info so next time when a customer returns, you can easily recall their name.
Tip 13: Get to the point
Most people going into a live chat session don’t expect long and winding answers. They probably won’t have time for any elegant writing so just get to the point before their patience runs out. Use short and concise sentences that are polite but not too formal. Make sure words are easy to read and understand, you are not writing literature after all.
Tip 14: Grammar is important
We are not trying to be Grammar Police here, but using grammatically correct sentences is still important. Bad grammar gives an unprofessional and unreliable image to your customers, and in some cases it may even affect the understanding of your words. The last thing you want is your customers thinking that you are trolling them. So don’t be lazy, and make sure your language is nice and proper.
Tip 15: Use canned responses if necessary
There is no shame in using canned responses. Your agents may have to deal with multiple cases at a time, and answers can be long and complicated. Having a few common responses and FAQ ready at hand is always a good idea, and your customers won’t mind them as long as they get that instant answer they are looking for.
Tip 16: Use emoji, pictures, GIF, animation, video to keep customers interested
Answering a customer’s question using just words can be difficult. Make sure your live chat software supports multimedia transfer so you can spice up your chat session with a picture or two and better communicate with your customers.
Many corporate minds still think using emoji is unprofessional and inappropriate in a business setting. But the fact is emoji has already become an integral part of live chat and social media. It makes your conversation more light-hearted and relaxed, and can express emotions that words cannot portray. Use these elements in the right setting and you should see even better results with your conversations.
Tip 17: Switch to voice or video chat for high-value targets
Live chat is an efficient way to deal with a large amount of enquiries, but you can always switch to more engaging communication channels. You can build a much stronger connection with someone you actually hear and see, so don’t hesitate to switch to Voice or Video call when you see the need to do so. Most live chat software also supports Voice and Video call but additional costs may be incurred. Check with your service provider and make sure you are not overpaying for these functions.
Tip 18: Avoid jokes and sarcasm
Humour is nice, but try not to make jokes or use sarcasm as you risk offending your customers. Cultural taboos are complicated and you never know what your customers are going through. So play safe and stay professional. Think about the implications before sending your messages out.
Tip 19: Be sincere and appreciative
When a customer comes to you, whether it is for a product issue or complaint, they are using their own time to communicate with you. Show them that you really care about their voice, and a sincere “thank you” is never too much. Let them know that you appreciate their time and input, and slowly you can turn them into your loyal customers.
Tip 20: Store your customer profiles in a unified data base
Consumers nowadays use a variety of communication channels during their purchase journey, and you can really impress them if you can remember their details on every platform and deliver a consistent customer experience. Some live chat solutions (such as maaiiconnect) have integrated Visitor Profile functions that can help you manage customer data. These data are also very useful when it comes to customer behavior analysis, so make sure you are not missing out on that as well.
Tip 21: Add a post-chat survey
Post-chat surveys are useful for a number of reasons. The biggest reason is obviously to collect user feedback, thus to improve your live chat system and other aspects of your online Customer Service. It also shows that your brand cares about what the customer thinks, and serves as a place for them to leave undesired comments, which would otherwise appear on social media or forums…ouch!
Live chat is a powerful customer engagement tool that can take on a lot of different tasks. It has already overtaken email and phone as the dominant communication channel and it will only grow in importance in the future. Take the initiative now and get your live chat done right. If you are looking for a versatile all-in-one live chat solution, be sure check out maaiiconnect.
maaiiconnect is a highly customisable all-in-one customer engagement platform, bringing you a full range of powerful features such as voice & video, multimedia & screen sharing, Smart Routing, Smart Messaging and more. Try out the Essential Plan for free now!