Inquisitive customers love to see live chat as an option on a website. It’s one of the fastest and most personalized ways to engage with a company, but that fact alone doesn't automatically mean it'll provide an ideal customer experience. When they get in touch with a chat representative, elements of the entire customer experience are still in play: how the customer navigated the site, how they engage with support or sales, and where they might be on the customer journey. When providing customer service, think in terms of customer experience platform, not just support.
Here are some things to consider when providing live chat on your site:
Location of the chat widget
Ask yourself: “Where and when should a chat take place?” The location of a chat widget should align with your business goals: for example, retailers want sales conversions, so the most fruitful chat will likely happen on the checkout page. If customer satisfaction (CSAT) is important, then perhaps the chat widget should be accessible on every page of the site (or for an app, through the Mobile Chat SDK). Similarly, a SaaS company should provide chat support during the in-product trial to guide prospects along.
But bear in mind: offering chat at every potential contact point could be overkill and lead to burned-out agents. Being smart and strategic with where live chat is offered, and monitoring it for optimization, is key.
Accessibility of live chat
If hundreds or thousands of customers come to a site every single day, it's likely unreasonable to offer chat support to everyone. Some, particularly eCommerce, need to be strategic about who can engage with chat support.
One way to accomplish this: require customers to meet some level of specified criteria before they can engage with live chat. The chat widget could be placed behind a gated page so that only VIP customers have access to it. This can encourage customers to become more engaged for that access, but it's a balancing act - it may also prohibit future sales potential. Chat can be a great tool for qualifying leads, closing deals, and helping customers out who have a problem, so finding that balance will likely take a few tries before getting it right.
Timing of when chat is offered
Live chat support should obviously be offered during business hours, but optimizing how it's offered isn't quite as simple. It's important to know when the peak chat periods are, so that reps can be at the ready. Over 50% of chats usually occur between the peak hours of 10:00 AM and 3:00 PM.
It gets trickier when dealing with different time zones. Support hours have to be extended, for which tools like Operating Hours can create multiple schedules for reps. Ideally, live chat can be enabled for 24 hours to help a wide variety of customers, but that's a luxury for many companies. Support teams can still provide effective customer service by offering alternative options.
Initiating chat: the rep or the customer?
Chats can happen in two ways: reactively or proactively. Reactive chat is when a customer engages the chat, while a proactive chat is when a rep initiates the interaction after a customer meets the determined criteria.
Offering proactive assistance is a good look for any company; it comes off as more personal. 44% of US online consumers said they liked getting a chat invitation during research or a purchase. When using Zendesk Chat, admins can set up Triggers that will initiate a chat based on a specified time duration. This can keep a visitor from bouncing, but keep in mind that offering proactive chat can vastly increase a reps workload.
A major thing to keep in mind, particularly with a high volume of chats, is to not set false expectations. Offering live chat is like saying "we're here and we're listening", so it’s critical for reps to be capable of engaging with visitors in a timely manner. If there are long waits in between responses, the customer's issue is dragged out longer and their frustration builds. That ultimately defeats the purpose of live chat and offering fast support in general - always have the customer's experience in mind.