Live Chat Benefits and Challenges for Online Brands

It’s the age of conversational commerce, and the numbers are in: live chat holds unprecedented sales and customer service potential for companies and customers alike. But like any new technology, live chat benefits come with challenges.

Live Chat for Online Brands

Live chat benefits online brands because it's more efficient than traditional call centers or email support. Thanks to the built-in chat routing features of live chat companies such as Zendesk Chat, Olark, LiveChat, Inc., and Intercom, agents can partake in multiple conversations at once as determined by their experience and availability. The 2017 Comm100 Live Chat benchmark report shows that the amount of chats per agent per month increased 44% last year alone, while the average wait time increased by just three seconds on average per customer.

live chat benefitsAnother way live chat benefits online brands is through significant cost savings related to customer support and sales operations by enlisting bots to help live chat agents with simple, repetitive tasks. But Julie Ask, Vice President and Principal Analyst at Forrester points out that, “The enabling technology isn’t fully adopted. Consumers don’t want to chat with machines that ask them dumb questions. Only one in four enterprises surveyed by Forrester even use location data to make mobile services more relevant — let alone insights built on the immense context available.” Bots can speed up conversation times by automating tasks such as concern classification and checkout. But for successful automation and cost savings, it’s crucial for companies to keep humans-in-the-loop.

Finally, live chat increases conversion rates among website visitors. Boldchat’s 2015 Performance Benchmark Report shows that customers who chat on high traffic websites are 4.6x more likely to convert than visitors who don’t chat. The numbers are even higher for mobile chatters, who are 6.1x more likely to convert. Rather than consumers navigating a website alone, locating and assessing products, live chat eases the decision making process through a series of questions and answers. Person-to-person conversation far predates online shopping, so a little dialogue goes a long way in to make the experience of buying online familiar. Live chat is best implemented as a triple threat sales tool that optimizes consumer experience through predictive, prescriptive, and personalized recommendations.

For Customers

Live chat benefits customers because it’s asynchronous - it doesn’t require immediate responses. Econsultancy reports that 51% customers prefer live chat for multitasking purposes, with another 21% preferring live chat so they can shop while they work. Furthermore, live chat is a fairly ubiquitous method of communication for digital natives. Millennials prefer live chat thanks to its speed and convenience: 71% of those aged 16-24 and 65% of those aged 25-34 report that quick response time was the most important benchmark in customer communication. Live chat is a relatively new technology, and adopters of the channel will likely see huge gains upon implementation. The American Marketing Associations reports that live chat increases conversions by 20%, and that customers who chat are 3X more likely to buy. But adopters of live chat need to be aware of the challenges that their companies, live chat coaches, and individual agents may face.

For Companies

Omnichannel sales and customer support make it tough to deliver a cohesive customer experience. Rather than a single point of contact with the customer, such as a website or app, brands and customers are connecting around the clock, around the world, by way of many different devices. Companies need to find a way to preserve their brand voice across these channels, and to optimize the way they communicate with customers to increase conversions, sales, and customer satisfaction— because it’s not just what a live chat agent says, but how they say it that matters.

For Coaches

As if the complexity of omnichannel sales wasn’t enough, chat coaches are tasked with performing QA for dozens or even hundreds of chat reps. An average business handles 2,596 chats per month. Given the high volume of chat conversations and agents the chat coach must monitor, quality management is often swept under the rug until a coach receives a poor customer feedback survey or finds the time to review a few chat transcripts. Chat coaches need to focus on behaviors, not scores. MaestroQA provides an example of a company’s managers randomly selecting 40 chat tickets per month, and providing feedback based on the sample. It can be difficult to establish a process for measuring quality that coaches can then translate to chat teams. After all, a good quality management strategy can make or break a company’s live chat implementation.

For Agents

Live chat agents may have the hardest job of all. They often must engage in several conversations at once, toggle between multiple screens, and respond to customers with never-ending friendliness and emotional intelligence while being robbed of the nonverbal cues that are present during voice or face-to-face interactions. The potential gains that language optimization platforms and properly trained sales and marketing teams can deliver a brand are lucrative. So how can companies, coaches, and live chat agents face the challenges of chat head on to take full advantage of its opportunities?

For Companies

Companies can take advantage of exciting new advances in data science and natural language processing to understand whether their chats reflect brand voice and drive their desired outcome.  This has worked well for Persado, a company that analyzes the emotional tone of outbound emails. Innovative CMO’s can leverage their cloud marketing solution across channels to more effectively engage users.

For Coaches

Coaches can use analytic tools to monitor the full range of customer interactions rather than a small sample. Unfortunately, the availability of analytics tools for bots (DashBot, BotAnalytics) is much more robust than the analytics tools for live human agents, although that is rapidly changing as companies like Zopim begin to fill that superficial need, albeit without offering deeper insight around personality, language, and interaction.

For Agents

Live chat agents can utilize a full range of tools available to make their jobs easier.  Tools like DigitalGenius create shortcuts so that agents can pull up past conversations based on concern classification. Bot Company allows agents to automate frequent interactions. Takt helps agents segment customers, and RapportBoost.AI lets agents understand customer personalities and nonverbal cues so agents can engage most effectively.

Driven by all the recent excitement in conversational commerce and bots, chat provides some huge opportunities for companies to engage their customers more effectively, speak their language, and drive higher sales.  But it’s also a medium that poses challenges that are distinct from voice or in-person customer interactions.  Companies that find ways to deploy embedded intelligence and analytics applications in order to understand chat at a deeper level will inevitably be better positioned for the future of conversational commerce.  The most valuable live chat benefits are unlocked by enterprises that take a sophisticated approach to optimizing customer acquisition across all channels.

Contact us today to learn about our live chat agent training solutions, and why the best solution is human plus machine.

Dr. Michael Housman

About Dr. Michael Housman

Michael has spent his entire career applying state-of-the-art statistical methodologies and econometric techniques to large data-sets in order to drive organizational decision-making and helping companies operate more effectively. Prior to founding RapportBoost.AI, he was the Chief Analytics Officer at Evolv (acquired by Cornerstone OnDemand for $42M in 2015) where he helped architect a machine learning platform capable of mining databases consisting of hundreds of millions of employee records. He was named a 2014 game changer by Workforce magazine for his work. Michael is currently an equity advisor for a half-dozen technology companies based out of the San Francisco bay area: hiQ Labs, Bakround, Interviewed, Performiture, Tenacity, Homebase, and States Title. He was on Tony’s advisory board at Boopsie from 2012 onward. Michael is a noted public speaker and has published his work in a variety of peer-reviewed journals and has had his research profiled by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, The Economist, and The Atlantic. Dr. Housman received his A.M. and Ph.D. in Applied Economics and Managerial Science from The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and his A.B. from Harvard University.

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