4 Ways to Enhance Live Chat on E-Commerce Websites

Using ecommerce live chat in and of itself will not improve customer retention – read on to learn how to do it well, to better capture repeat business.

Using ecommerce live chat in and of itself will not improve customer retention – read on to learn how to do it well, to better capture repeat business.
Using ecommerce live chat in and of itself will not improve customer retention – read on to learn how to do it well, to better capture repeat business.

How customer service is delivered has been upended with the rise of technology.

It used to be that the only time customers and brands interacted was face-to-face. When phone systems became more advanced, customer help/support was able to be directed to call centers. Nowadays customer service is delivered through many channels and all are equally important. As more customers live their lives on-line and feel crunched for time, many more transactions take place via the internet from mobile devices. What once seemed ridiculous to purchase on-line has now become common place, i.e. automobiles and bathing suits.

Having a coordinated and seamless omni-channel presence is becoming ever important for organizations, especially as younger consumers make up a larger portion of the market place. Studies have shown that more consumers prefer live chat to other communication channels for its ease of use, real-time connection, and convenience. Live chat features have evolved over the past few years, as have consumer’s expectations regarding this service. So what should your company consider when implementing or enhancing its live help features on your e-commerce site?

  1. Average Response Time (ART)—customers prefer live chat for its real-time availability. No longer are consumers limited to when or where they can make purchases, and they expect help whenever they decide to inquire about a product. If a customer initiates a conversation via live help, they expect a quick answer. Since live chat agents are often handling multiple conversations simultaneously, if they can’t answer a question immediately, minimally they need to communicate with the customer how long the wait will be. You never want to leave your customers guessing if their request has been received or if someone is available to help them. Successful companies aim for a 30 second average response time. This number seems to be the sweet spot for higher customer satisfaction scores (CSAT).
  2. Personalization—Customers have little patience for canned responses and conversations that are too heavily scripted. Live chat agent training should include ways to personalize chat communication so that the customer’s name is used and any past history on their purchases or prior behaviors can be woven into a conversation. When messages are personalized and presented organically, customers are less likely to worry about companies being too invasive and seeming like “big brother.”
  3. Striking a Balance—Even though customers prefer live chat to all other communication channels, companies need to be mindful about not being too aggressive with live chat pop-up windows. Give customers control as to whether or not they want to accept a pop-up chat invitation. Typically customers prefer to initiate live chat conversations on their own terms, so making the live help screen obvious and easy for the customer to find on your web page will be appreciated by your customer.
  4. Proper Grammar and Spelling—If live chat conversations are riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors, your customers will question the professionalism of your company. All grammatical rules apply to chat conversations, and agents shouldn’t forgo correct spelling, punctuation and sentence structure for the sake of brevity. There is an art to effective chat conversations and agents should be trained to put the most important information up front and learn how to succinctly communicate using the fewest words possible.

Live chat is too important for companies to ignore or treat as a second thought. Companies that have robust live chat enjoy higher CSAT scores and higher sales conversion rates. Successful live chat conversations don’t just happen. Live chat training should be comprehensive and include writing for brevity and clarity, proper use of grammar and spelling, and personalization techniques. Paying attention to live chat best practices will yield good results for your company.

Online Customer Service as Marketing

Quality online customer service is increasingly the best tactic in the marketing playbook.

Though proactive online customer service may sound like science fiction, the fact is the bar for online customer service (and offline customer service) just keeps rising.

Quality online customer service is increasingly the best tactic in the marketing playbook.
Quality online customer service is increasingly the best tactic in the marketing playbook.

Customer service organizations are increasingly the most relevant competitive differentiator within companies—and the competition is getting steep. “Satisfactory” service is not enough, in some cases even “Excellent” is no longer enough (read more about that in the above link).

There are many innovative strategies being put forward as solutions to the online customer service problem, such as proactive customer service and omni-channel customer service – but these are unfeasible for many organizations. Live chat, self-service/automated service, and feedback surveys can be as effective as (and are certainly easier than) these new strategies at acquiring and retaining customers.

“Customer Experience” and Online Customer Service

As a result of the fierce competition in the customer service arena, many organizations are transitioning into a “customer experience” model, which shifts the strategic focus from the activities they as an organization undertake (inputs and outputs) to what the customer actually experiences and how the customer perceives that experience.

This is where proactive customer service comes into play, as well as omni-channel customer service. Briefly: omni-channel customer service operates from the premise that customers want every interaction they have with your business to be accessible to customer service agents in their present interaction (that means if they emailed you before but are calling you now, they want your call center agent to be able to access that previous email, or live chat, or tweet, etc).

In both instances, the goal is to improve the customer experience by reducing the amount of effort required on the customer end.

But both proactive customer service and omni-channel customer service are difficult to conceptualize, let alone implement effectively. Fortunately, there are more accessible, affordable means of using online customer service to competitively differentiate your business. For now, I’ll focus on live chat, but self-service/automation options and feedback surveys are also excellent ways to convey to your customers that 1) you appreciate their business and 2) they are best served by continuing to do business with you rather than a competitor.

How Live Chat Transforms Online Customer Service

Live chat allows you to provide online customer service agents with premade messages (which can be A/B tested), with the ability to engage up to four customers simultaneously, and with pre-chat surveys and advanced routing that both direct the customer appropriately and prepare your chat agent for the inquiry they’re about to assist with.

From a customer service perspective, this allows you to provide a faster response and a response more likely to result in a first contact resolution. From a customer experience perspective, this makes the process of engaging your customer service organization effortless and impactful, pushing your customers over the bar from satisfied to evangelizing.

What to Expect from Enterprise Live Chat Software

Enterprise live chat software represents a different class of customer service than standard live chat software.

With any SaaS company, you can expect there to be a significant difference in available features and in price between the non-enterprise and enterprise offerings—but what does this look like for enterprise live chat software specifically?

Beyond universal enterprise features (unlimited accounts, more robust security features with tiered permissions, the ability to create more sophisticated workflows, greater accountability and support from the provider, etc.), enterprise live chat should also include three types of enhancements: cross-channel enhancements, reporting enhancements, and data exchange/integration enhancements.

Cross-Channel Enhancements for Enterprise Live Chat Software

Cross-channel enhancements for enterprise live chat are primarily going to be enhancements that help bridge the gap between typed chat and voice chat.

This would include “click to call” functionality on your website which, as its name suggests, allows visitors to call your contact center directly with a single click. Cross-channel enhancements would also include integrations with telephony and VoIP service providers in a manner which allows for advanced routing – this prevents reps who are already engaged in a call from receiving a chat and vice-versa. This does not impact the ability of reps engaged in one or more chats to continue to receive additional chats, up to whatever predetermined limit you’ve set for them (incidentally, we recommend a max of four chats for fully-trained, experienced reps). Rather, this routing is designed to prevent reps from having to manage their own active engagement with customers across two different communication channels simultaneously.

Reporting Enhancements for Enterprise Live Chat Software

Reporting enhancements for enterprise live chat should go beyond merely adding the additional “enterprise” tier in the reporting hierarchy.

At the enterprise level, your organization is generating enough data from routine use of your live chat software that you should be able to run trend analyses on at least a weekly basis—and your live chat solution cannot truly be described as an enterprise-level solution if it does not make this process easier. Whether it is agent-level, visitor-level or organization-level live chat reporting, you are not getting the maximum possible ROI from your live chat software if you are not using it to improve practice.

Data Exchange/Integration Enhancements for Enterprise Live Chat Software

Enterprise live chat needs data exchange/integration enhancements due to the scale at which it must operate. Manual manipulation of data, a sloppy and time-consuming ordeal, while sometimes unavoidable at the bootstrapping startup level, is beyond inadvisable at the enterprise business level.

Automated data exchange with external applications and the ability to build custom integrations via API represent time-saving improvements to a live chat product designed to serve enterprise-level customers.

Unlike the cross-channel enhancements above, which represent live chat integrations with specific phone/VoIP solutions (e.g. Vonage, Avaya, etc.), these data exchange/integration enhancements represent improvements to the overall ability of the software to integrate easily with any other solutions.

Other Enhancements for Enterprise Live Chat Software

There are surely other enhancements besides those listed above and this categorization is not the only way to organize enterprise-level enhancements for live chat software (you might break enhancements down by the industry they are most impactful for or by the stage in the customer journey to which they are most applicable, for example).

If you’d like to learn more about what you can expect from enterprise level live chat software, please contact us with your questions – we’d love to hear from you!