Live chat support combines real-time conversation with the ability to share links, collect information, and save a full transcript for later reference, and it is the ideal online service tool for a customer who needs immediate help.
Getting started with live chat support is simple, but making live chat a sustainable, effective part of your customer service strategy takes careful thought and effort. Read on to learn why live chat support matters, how to add it to your support mix, and what it takes to deliver a great live chat support experience.
Live chat support allows customers to have text-based conversations with support teams via the web. Using live chat software embedded on the company’s website, customers can send their questions to a person (or sometimes an AI bot) who can quickly reply to them in the same small window.
The “live” part of live chat support is a reference to real-time, back-and-forth conversation, as opposed to email support where there may be no expectation of an immediate reply. Some tools, like Help Scout’s Beacon, combine true real-time live chat with a hybrid messaging option, allowing both synchronous and asynchronous conversations to happen in the same chat tool.
Live chat software is also used for purposes beyond support — for example, to enable sales conversations. However, live chat software, which is built for delivering great support, may include additional support-focused features such as deep integration with knowledge base and help desk tools.
Why should you offer live chat support to your customers? Because customers love it! Studies show that live chat is the preferred choice of many customers, and it has the highest customer satisfaction level of any support channel.
Considering the key benefits of live chat support can help you decide whether it is the right choice for your business.
Live chat software can be integrated right into your customer’s workflow through a consistently available button or link on your website or in your app. Your customer doesn’t need to hunt down a special contact page or dig up an email address; they know exactly where to go when they need help.
That accessibility reduces customer effort, an important factor in building customer loyalty.
Embedding live chat right into the customer’s process gives them the best chance of explaining exactly where they are stuck and what they need.
Good live chat software will let the agent know where the customer is in the process and what they were doing before asking for help. That gives both parties a head start in understanding the problem and determining the solution.
A customer who receives an excellent response to their email enquiry in an hour or two may be satisfied with your service, but a customer who receives the exact same answer in real-time via a live chat will often be much happier because they can continue on with their task immediately.
If your customer is considering making a purchase, renewing their account, or asking for a refund, a solid answer provided quickly can make a real financial difference to your company.
Many people are more comfortable expressing themselves through chat conversation than through more formal writing. Effective email support puts demands on the customer to explain their issue clearly and provide all the relevant details, tasks at which customers are not always experts.
Live chat support breaks those interactions into smaller chunks and allows the support agent to lead a customer through the process by asking the right questions in the right order. What could be a days-long, back-and-forth conversation through email might instead be a 10-minute chat.
Of course, you can’t just switch on live chat and expect to see the benefits instantly flowing in. Rolling out live chat support requires some careful planning and intentional design.
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Adding a brand new support channel to your service offering isn’t a step to take lightly. Often you will be taking your existing resources (your team, their working hours, and their set of skills) and giving help across more locations. That can be a stretch.
Before you leap into offering live chat support everywhere at once, consider these questions:
As you integrate your new live chat support channel, begin collecting data about what is working, how customers are reacting, and where your team might need additional help to deliver the best possible support experience.
Delivering consistently great customer service through live chat is not easy, but it doesn’t have to be complicated. We’ve spoken to customer service folks about their experiences and collected the following best practices.
If you’re responsible for setting up and managing the live chat support channel, there are some moves you can make to improve the experience for your staff and for your customers.
Here are the six best practices any live chat support agent will need to follow in order to deliver consistently good service.
Like being on the phone with that one aunt, chats can spin out of control. Being able to bring a chat back to the purpose of the conversation is helpful. Pro tips:
In live chat, responsiveness counts for a lot. It’s better to share the first part of your answer and build your customer’s confidence than to wait until your whole answer is ready. Pro tips to speed up your chat support:
Live chat is not the place for long exposition. Conciseness is a skill you can learn! Start with these tips:
If you’re an email support pro, you might have learned to include all the relevant information at once to avoid long back-and-forth chains. Live chat is conversation, so back-and-forth discussion is a benefit! A couple of key points:
Don’t restrict yourself to only answering the specific question your customer asked. Look for opportunities to understand what they are trying to do and why, and share your knowledge. For example, share an alternative answer that might suit them better or some setup tips specific to their particular needs.
Don’t ghost on your customers! Make sure that you bring each chat to a helpful, clear closing point. A good live chat ending should:
High-quality service goes beyond simply providing the correct information into understanding what a customer is trying to achieve and helping them get it done.
Live chat support can speed up that process by allowing for a more natural conversational style, where a skilled support agent can ask the right questions at the right time and quickly direct a customer to where they need to be.
The right live chat support software will allow you to combine real-time chat support with self-service options and an email contact point, allowing for many different support experiences according to the preferences of the customer and the capabilities of the support team.
If you’re looking to offer live chat support, consider Beacon — we built it to enable exactly the flexible, manageable support experiences that this article covers.
For even more details on how to plan, roll out, and deliver quality live chat support, see our live chat playlist below!
If you're finding that live chat is your most challenging support channel, consider adopting these best practices (and avoiding these common mistakes).
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