Live chat: Are you ready for it? [LONG FORM]

Live chat is quick way to engage with your customers and build relationships of trust. It has many advantages, but how do you know you’re ready for it?

Live chat has become very popular, but many South African companies aren’t really jumping on this trend just yet. Here's how to know you're ready for live chat, and how to run it without needing an "always on" team.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes, 41 seconds.

At INBOUND 18, one of the recurring themes throughout the conference was a shift towards your entire business becoming more customer-centric. So why wouldn't you offer consumers an easy way to communicate with you? This is where live chat comes into play! Live chat enables website visitors to ask a quick question, and get a quick response. It makes it very easy for people on your website to find information without leaving your website or having to wait (minutes, hours or days) for a response. 

Intercom, a customer platform helping businesses accelerate growth, highlights that live chat reflects human conversations: “Our job on the Sales Team is to establish meaningful sales relationships, and in an era where nearly every business is an internet business, building those relationships is all about messaging on live chat tools. That’s a reflection of communication habits, with everyone messaging all day long. Just as people prefer to message their friends than call them, customers just don’t want to get on the phone anymore.”

How to know you’re ready for live chat

1. Why is there an increase in demand for live chat? 

2. Is your business ready to implement live chat?

3. Tips to manage your live chat 

4. 5 Steps to setup live chat on your website 

5. How to choose a chat tool that is right for your business

1. Why is there an increase in demand for live chat?

Live chat isn't a new concept. Some websites have offered a chat option on their websites for years, but a couple of factors have made it more in demand and seamless to execute:

 Customer needs or expectations have changed: Buyers want to connect on their terms and instead of comparing you to your competitor, consumers will now compare you to their very best online experience - a trend that has led to the activation of a live chat facility and the addition of more consumer-centric options on websites. The Age Of The Customer has made the need for real-time answers a necessity.

  • Data privacy: The need for consumers to protect their data and particularly their contact details has become a real factor. Most live chat tools allow you to engage with a company, ask a question and then leave the website without having to share your personal details like your email address. The information overload, numerous data leaks (think Cambridge Analytica) and even the unfortunate abuse from some spammers has made even digital natives a little bit nervous to give away their personal info.

  • Artificial Intelligence (AI) and technology: The developments in technology , and especially AI, have made it easier to use live chat. While it may include the use of bots, don’t forget it also includes the use of tools that can send leads to the correct person to respond (assignment based on availability) or simply an application to chat to consumers while you are on the go making it easier to respond anywhere at any given time.

 2. Is your business ready to implement live chat? 

It’s quite simple - you need need live chat if your customers are asking quick questions on your contact forms or if people ask questions on Facebook Messenger.

Once you identify the need, you will need to find some human resources, or some people on your team who are available for some slots in the day to assist with the chat. I suggest running a trial, like we did, and see how it works before investing a lot of money.

We recently ran a live chat trial on one of our client’s websites for a month and found a willing staff member who was able to manually manage the chat via a free chat tool for a month. This enabled us to determine the type of queries people have and how many chats per month we would be receiving. Our contacts had three common types of questions and we were able to plan the answers we should be using. Using a free tool to test the waters also allows you to evaluate the functionality needed and the scope of work before purchasing a paid tool right away.

I’m happy to say we will soon be launching live chat on their site again and this time we have extended the number of staff members who can respond to questions. We’ll be adding bots that answer those “FAQs” so that it limits the number of questions that need to be escalated to the team. If it works, we’ll keep it activated on the website. If we find it needs further refinement, we’ll pause the chat and go back to the strategy and planning phase to improve the chat functionality and bot responses. Because we know our customers want to chat, we’re willing to use and refine it and keep chatting.

Nobody is born ready for live chat - you can't just switch it on and hold thumbs. Live chat requires some setup - and well run live chat needs a bit more effort to set up.

3. Tips to manage your live chat 

Here are some tips on how you can run live chat - whether you do this yourself, outsource it or whether you have an “always on” team or a “we’ll get back to you” message.

Build a team of people who have some, limited availability, who can manage the amount of chats coming through internally

According to Forrester Research, “44% of online customers 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.”

It’s a great idea for a team of people to manage the amount of chats submitted, but these conversations should be managed well so somebody is always available to answer consumer questions. Consider bringing people in from various departments as well. If you have a call center, this is a quick win for the business as they are already trained to answer the questions people are likely to ask.

Outsource your live chat

The rise of live chat means that “call-centers” are becoming more common as you can train and teach these employees to respond to relevant questions about the business. Some of these chat companies charge per chat so the financial implication is low. This could be a great alternative if you do not have an internal team available.

Technology is your friend

Be clear - bots will never replace human interaction in live chat, but they can be programmed to understand simple or common queries, or hand qualified leads or advanced queries over to the people who can move the conversation further. The ability to only hand real conversations over to a person will limit the number of chats a person needs to manage, but it will also ensure that the person who is managing it manages their time, rather than wasting time repeating simple answers that a bot could manage

Only add live chat to key pages

Adding chat to every page on your website could be a huge time waster for a busy team as not all pages require live chat, especially if you’re trialling it, or have limited resources available. Consider adding live chat pages where people may need help or where a quick intervention would add to the customer experience. For example, adding chat to your team page could result in a huge amount of chats requesting recruitment information, so it’s better adding a recruitment form to your website where people can submit their details. Ask yourself what questions you get asked that require an answer in real-time. Actionable Tip Spitfire

Remember: you can employ a variety of the above suggestions in conjunction with each other - and see what works. What I really love about digital is that it can change quite quickly - try the chat tool and if it doesn't work for your business, you can simply remove it or change the pages where the chat has been added.

Live chat is a great way for a business to identify gaps on their website and in the market. If consumers keep asking for pricing on the live chat, that's a fantastic indicator that you should be adding a pricing page to your website, for example. If consumers ask for information that you already offer - consider the user experience and that it might be difficult to find that information. Use this insights you obtain to optimise for your customer experience.

Read our blog,  Delight: The importance of extending the buyer journey for more Insights.

are you ready for live chat

 Image credit: Mitel

4. 5 steps to set up live chat on your website 

 Start with the goal and understand why you want live chat and what you want to achieve. Do you want to create another avenue for people to talk to you? Do you want to spark conversations? Would you like to book meetings using chat?

  1. Start with the goal and understand why you want live chat and what you want to achieve. Do you want to create another avenue for people to talk to you? Do you want to spark conversations? Would you like to book meetings using chat?

  2. Determine a plan or strategy for which pages you want to chat on and have messaging planned for each page. Now that you have a goal and plan, map out the conversation starters and chat “script” for the pages - does it require human intervention or can you use a bot for this?

  3. Determine the technology solution you will need - sometimes it's easy to choose. HubSpot Marketing Professional users may already know they want to use the Conversations tool and the bots available in HubSpot , but for there are many technology solutions out there that you could choose from (see our table below to make the decision easier).

  4. Set up and test.

  5. Go live.

5. How to choose a chat tool that is right for your business

The below table is a great indication of the live chat tools your business can implement. Choose a tool that’s right for your business based on the factors listed below:

  Hubspot Conversations Free Hubspot Conversations Pro Intercom Drift Live Chat PureChat
Price (per month) Free $400/$800 up From $202 From $50 $59 Free
Seats available at the price Unlimited - no routing Unlimited 2 seats 2 seats 1 seat 3 seats
Integration to Hubspot (key for us at Spitfire) Direct to CRM Direct to CRM Standard integration available Native into Hubspot CRM at $500 (Zapier at $50 Standard integration available Integration available
Customisation Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Canned responses Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Number of tracked contacts Unlimited - tracks for 7 days Based on HS subscription yes 1000 1000 Unlimited
Analytics and reporting 10 contacts reports Yes Charged for separately - up to 2000 active contacts + $ 45/mo Yes Yes $79/month
Scheduled hours Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Mobile app Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Bot Yes Yes No Yes Yes Yes
Unique aspects Integrates into your HubSpot Instance - so all HubSpot features like video or landing pages can be used on the chats Offers A/B testing on the standard plan New R&D happening all the time - always improving Offers a really cool message sneak-peek to allow the chat agent to view what customers are typing as they go ( not just waiting for them to hit send... Free tool as a great trial as you can do unlimited chats and keep responses

Live chat is a great way to communicate with your customers, be helpful and engage with both customers and prospects in any stage in their buyer’s journey. All companies could benefit from implementing live chat as all customers, in every industry, want the very best customer experience - and we as consumers want to connect on our terms.

Live chat is not for you, it's for the customer!

The team from LiveChat said it best: “There’s nothing that says ‘we love our customers’ more than a quick, personalised response on live chat. Transfer the personal experience from a real shop online and start creating amazing customer service experiences.

Want to use live chat to delight your customers even further? Contact us to improve your customer experience:

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