Live chat services for business: what do you think?

chat-window

More and more people are comfortable with ‘live chat’ services on websites, and they’re a highly appropriate form of interaction in technical business marketing. Many prospects visiting your site will be reluctant to phone you, for a range of reasons, but email is not instant enough for them either. Live chat is the perfect compromise. One of our clients added it to their site last year, and I know they’re very impressed.

However, I’m not going to pretend I’m any sort of expert on this, so it’s time for a little community feedback. What are your views on live chat windows? Are you running such a system? Does it work for you? I’m sure there are a lot of your contemporaries who would be very grateful to hear your thoughts and experiences. Let us know in comments below.

Discussion

  1. Dave Melia

    We have been using Zopim chat for two years now and although it is very difficult to define we are sure that it is worth the minimal investment. There are two benefits of using “live chat”, the obvious first one being that we can pick up those customers who would not normally pick up the phone and ask a question, I have seen sales directly off the back of such a chat. The second benefit is a little harder to define, but it feels like a site with a “live chat” function has a certain amount more trust associated with it than one which does not. As a very small specialist power supply company we run an e-commerce site which is small but effective, however, the one thing which customers seem to want is to be able to trust that the order they are placing and paying for will actually turn up.

    It will be interesting to hear from others about this subject which is something I have chatted to many other people about before

  2. Al

    Live chat is fine as a consumer if
    a) You are answered in seconds, not minutes
    b) Once you are connected then you are dealt with on a one-to-one basis and not having one agent dealing with 5 other customers at the same time as it feels like with larger companies
    At least when you are on hold on a telephone you can put it on speaker phone and carry on working. With live chat you have to sit and stare at your screen to see if anyone has responded to your question.

  3. Paul Sacker

    As a very small business I cannot guarantee that there will be someone to “chat” with during working hours – if you offer capability and then don’t answer what does that do to your reputation for service / support – we can divert landlines to mobile phones, and even answer while travelling, but it’s much harder to do this with a chat function. I don’t want to risk creating an expectation and not delivering on it.

  4. Claire Childs

    I’m in exactly the same situation as Paul Sacker. We’ve avoided going for a live chat facility because we couldn’t guarantee an instant response. As a customer, I find them useful on some occasions, but I have experienced some sites where the Live Chat window bobs up every time you move to a new page, and you have to click “No Thanks” each time. I find that very irritating.

  5. David Turner

    I often use live chat, generally for resolving customer service issues though I have also used it when researching a purchase. It’s perhaps best used by mobile phone vendors who appear when you’ve loitered too long on a particular product page. I’d like to see us doing it on the site but it’s a commitment too far for our technical team and might need specialist product knowledge if done for sales unless it was a bolt-on service offered by our telemarketing partner.

  6. Rachel

    We use software called BoldChat for our live chat facilities, and average about 5 live chat enquiries a day. These can range from queries that we can’t help with, e.g. consumer purchase where we only sell to businesses, to conversations with existing customers who just want to check up on something, to enquiries that turn into very good sales opportunities. We like offering ways for people of all social abilities/preferences to contact us. As a small business, we only have about 5 people in the company who could possibly answer online chat enquiries, but on the off-chance that no one is available to answer enquiries (and therefore no one is logged into the system), the button on our website simply states that we’re offline at the moment. This avoids the problem of people starting a chat and there being no one to respond to them.
    Given that our customer base is composed of very technically oriented people, who often prefer non-verbal communication and/or the ability to see things in writing, live chat is very useful to us.

  7. Sam

    We are using a free software script using PHP/MySQL, called Live Helper Chat, which works just the same as many of those paid suites. LHC runs in the web browser and using Firefox or Google Chrome, you can enable browser notifications to prompt an incoming chat. We have been using this script for about two years and have recently updated to the latest version. You can have an unlimited number of operators and likewise when offline, the chat box allows users to send an email instead. Some of my colleagues were very sceptical of Live Chat but since we have been operating it, their opinions have changed! I would recommend it, particularly for the similar reason Rachel says, whereby you have the ability to see things in written form, whereas in phone calls some information can easily become lost in translation! Also from the user point of view, Live Chat allows us to point the user straight to a specific product page or datasheet by sending them a direct link, rather than trying to navigate them with step-by-step instructions!

  8. Daniel Robins

    We use Zopim here, and it’s fantastic. Having live chat on our website not only provides yet another contact option, but it also provides a really useful and easy to use set of browsing statistics. We definitely have seen tangible benefit by using it – many people don’t like to use the telephone these days!

    Also – as a regular user of the web, live chat is what I mostly look for if I want to contact someone. It is quick, efficient and quite personal (if they show their name).

    It is really important to be quick at responding – we have a member of staff dedicated to it, and she can cope with multiple consecutive chat sessions at once.

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