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Due to the pandemic, the top new digital channel used by small- and medium-size businesses is live chat, according to a new survey by Twilio. Covid-19 saw many brick and mortar companies introduce ecommerce for the first time to try to make up for some of their lost in-person revenue.

With online product or service sales comes online customer service responsibilities, and more consumers are getting used to chatting with either a human or a robot to solve problems and answer questions. Is your business utilizing live chat or a chatbot? 

You may be thinking that implementing chat is either too time-consuming or costly or both. However, there are a variety of options for chat on your website or social media channels.

Benefits of live chat for businesses

Using a call center for customer service is actually 17-30% costlier than live chat, according to Forrester research. Live chat professionals have the ability to work with multiple customers at the same time. 

  • Having instant access to customer support via chat (as opposed to long on-hold times) increases  the opportunity for more sales and conversions. 
  • A live chat option boosts consumer trust that you are there to solve their challenges, according to a survey from Oracle.
  • By analyzing the chats, you can see what common challenges or pain points customers have, and address them quickly. 
  • Regular improvements in Artificial Intelligence (AI) means machines have the ability to learn more about your products and services and learn how to communicate those to consumers via chat (but top-notch AI functionality isn’t cheap).

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Chatbot battle

Savoir Faire team members recently had two varying experiences with chatbots when seeking customer service support. Ben was able to seamlessly process a product replacement via a chatbot that started the conversation with a lot of information already. This was with an online ecommerce giant.

Meanwhile, Janna’s chatbots took her in frustrating circles as she attempted to solve an Internet issue, forcing a demand to speak to a live person. This is a giant in the media industry.

Both of these companies are often called “monopolies” by customers, which means they have the resources for good customer service, online or live, but one doesn’t see that as much of a priority, at least based on their abysmal online customer service reviews.

One horrible review can sink a business, especially if they’ve only gotten a handful of reviews. So, if you’re going to consider a chat function for your business, please perform due diligence. There are many options for live chat programs and chatbot programs with varying costs. Going cheap on AI likely isn’t going to pay off; remember, “garbage in, garbage out.”

Best practices for ecommerce live chat

If you’re selling products or services online, many of your savvy customers expect a live chat function to get their questions answered instantly. 

We suggest starting small. The first thing to do is determine if a high enough percentage of your customers will utilize a chat function versus the cost of purchasing, implementation and potential training. 

Several companies offer trials of chat programs that include a single operator, giving you an opportunity to see whether or how chat takes off. Assume that if you sell directly to a consumer as opposed to B2B, ecommerce chat is going to be more active.

If you plan to operate live chat for ecommerce in-house, make sure you have a dedicated person monitoring and communicating. The worst thing you can do is abandon the chat. Imagine how fed up you’d be if you initiated a chat and no one was there to answer your question?

If you choose live chat and no chatbots, post the hours that someone is available to answer questions, and have that information pop up in the chat window when someone initiates a chat session.

When chat works well for you and becomes important to your users, invest the time to make it successful in the long term. Have dedicated representatives to answer questions or solve problems. If you’re using AI, build out as much information for canned messages and automations as possible.

Reasons to consider implementing live chat 

  • You offer complicated products/services that lead to a variety of consumer questions.
  • You offer a very high-cost service or product, and people need to get answers to their questions before making a purchase.
  • Chatbots don’t sleep and can answer customer questions 24 hours per day.

Another thing to consider is using built-in functionality on your social media channels. Facebook has a chat function for business pages, and it lets customers know how long it typically takes you to answer their questions – so if you decide to use that, monitor it.

We’ve also seen speedier social media responses from companies whose audience skew younger. For example, we recently reached out to a company’s customer service email with a query and posted the same query on Twitter, tagging the company. We got our answer on Twitter faster.

That makes sense, because other customers might have the same question, and it’s already answered and in the company’s social media feed.

As AI improves, chatbot programs will get less expensive, and will grow in popularity. Think of the old story about the elves and the shoemaker. They did all the cobbling while he slept, just like chatbots solve all your customers’ pain points while you take care of other business. (If you’re not familiar with that fairy tale, surely some chatbot is reading it aloud right now.)

This blog post answers the questions:

  • What is a chatbot?
  • What are chatbots used for?
  • What is online live chat?
  • What is customer service online chat?

What is a chatbot?

A chatbot is used as a customer service tool for companies, and they can be helpful because they are online all of the time. Using a chatbot successfully means uploading a lot of pertinent information about your products and services, so customers get good answers to their questions.

What are chatbots used for?

Chatbots use AI learning to help answer customers' questions when there isn't a "live" person available for online chat, or if a company chooses just to use a chatbot in place of humans for customer service. There are many options for chatbot programs with varying costs.

What is online live chat?

Online live chat is a way for people to have conversations with others around the world. It has been a popular part of the Internet since its infancy.

What is customer service online chat?

Customer service online chat is a customer service tool, where consumers can ask questions about a businesses' products or services from their computer or smart device, and get answers instantly.

Discover how businesses and customers interact with each other and how you can make it better.

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