What 2017 Taught Us About the Live Chat Customer Experience

Live Chat

This is a guest post from Jamie Edwards, the co-founder and COO of Kayako.

It’s no secret that live chat is becoming more and more important in customer service. What used to be a relatively uncommon tool is now increasingly a part of the customer support agent’s arsenal. Consider the research:

  • According to Twilio and the market research firm Vanson Bourne, live chat is the preferred channel for customer service in South Korea, the U.S., Singapore, and India. Millennials—who love services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger—especially want to message with customer support agents.
  • In 2010, Market research company Forrester found that 44% of consumers said having a live person available to answer questions while they were making an online purchase was one of the most important service a company could have.

So Kayako, a unified customer support software, decided to survey more than 1,000 customers in the U.S., along with 100 small- and medium-sized businesses, to get insight into how live chat is working today.

What Kayako found, overall, is that customers love live chat and want to use it more. But they are often frustrated—whether it’s because they didn’t get the answer they were looking for or because the chat wasn’t turned “on” when they needed it.

These are the top consumer live chat statistics and trends every company and customer service department needs to know about now.

Live chat is a boon for business

Kayako’s research found that 38% of consumers were more likely to buy from a company if they offer live chat support, and 41% said they favored live chat over emailing, calling, and posting on social media when they had a problem.

For a while now, businesses could get away without offering customers live chat, because it wasn’t very common. But as these two figures demonstrate, live chat is becoming a deal breaker for consumers. And they’re figures that will surely rise, too.

What’s more, Kayako found that 51% of consumers said they were more likely to make a second and third purchase from a company if they offered live chat support, and 63% of consumers who spend $250-500 per month online reported that they felt loyal to companies that had live messaging.

In other words, live chat creates loyal, happy customers who want to spend more.

Let’s start with how it can drive sales. The support channels a company offers can impact customer conversion rates—even if they don’t use it. According to Kayako’s research, businesses that offer live chat are seen as more accessible and customer-centric.

Live chat also communicates to customers that a company is there for them. Just knowing that they can hit a button to talk to an agent 24 hours a day can make a customer feel more loyal. As the old saying goes, “First impressions are everything.”

If you can create a positive live chat experience for customers, you’ll create loyal brand advocates who will buy from you regularly. But that requires nailing the user experience.

Unfortunately, live chat UX has a long way to go

We found in our survey that 38% of customers and 43% of businesses said the user experience on live chat was not good enough.

Let’s face it: There are a lot of problems with live chat, and the businesses surveyed acknowledge this.

There are the tech malfunctions, of course. Sometimes users try to chat with an agent, only to find that no one is online, even though the website says agents are live. Users can get disconnected mid-chat, whether because of their Internet connection or some other glitch.

Live chat is often also plagued by long wait times. Customers don’t want to wait more than five minutes to talk to an agent. Companies often keep customers in the dark about where they are in the queue, because they don’t want to be transparent that today, for example, they’re understaffed. Because most live chat platforms don’t have the ability to trace the customer’s entire journey, agents get slowed down trying to catch up on the customer’s problem and what actions he or she took before hitting the “send” button on chat.

And many of us have certainly been on live chat and found ourselves repeating what we’ve just said. We fill out pre-chat forms with our names and details of the problem, only to have the agent on live chat say, “Can you give me your first and last name?” (Amazon had one particularly memorable case of this.)

And these are just the technical problems with live chat. One of the biggest reasons customers feel less satisfied by their chat experience is because companies are still using impersonal, scripted responses to reduce their average handle times. 29% of the customers Kayako surveyed said this was the most frustrating part about getting help on chat.

You have a half chance of having a good live chat interaction

Kayako’s survey found that 47% of customers said in the past month they haven’t had a positive interaction on live chat. For businesses, the way to read this is that your company has about the same chance of getting chat right as you do getting it wrong.

What’s more, 29% of customers told friends about a negative chat with an agent. As we all know by now, word of mouth goes both ways. Positive word of mouth marketing can bring you new customers. Negative word of mouth marketing—just one person saying they had a bad chat on your company’s website—will turn off prospective customers.

How can you ensure that you create more positive customer experiences on live chat?

For one thing, remember that customers want to get their issue resolved, even if it takes a little longer. Like on other customer support tools—phone calls, emails, FAQs—you want your agents to be able to create a personal, quality service experience.

This requires businesses to look beyond AHTs and turn your focus on customer satisfaction metrics. Regularly ask customers if they were happy with their experience on live chat and if they would recommend your company to friends, then take their feedback seriously.

What support solution suits your business?

If you’re ready to invest in live chat for your business, you also need to pick a service that will grow with your business and help you create the experience your customers deserve.

A chatbot that promises to free up your agents’ time is great—and deflecting common queries will help in the interim. But remember that a chatbot cannot replicate an agent’s personal touch. Customers want to speak with real people.

Find a live chat platform that is as frictionless as possible. Look for a tool that where the channels aren’t isolated. When they are, your agents will spend more time trying to track down answers and insight into the customer’s problem. Integration with your existing support software is crucial.

Live chat isn’t going away. The sooner your business can find the right chat platform and train agents to be personal and attentive on it, the sooner you’ll reap a return on investment.


This is a guest post from Jamie Edwards, the co-founder and COO of Kayako.
About Jamie
Jamie EdwardsJamie Edwards is the co-founder and COO at Kayako, the effortless customer service software that helps teams be more productive and build customer loyalty. You can find him helping Kayako customers deliver customer service so good it becomes their competitive advantage.


Thanks to Pixabay for the image.

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