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Is ‘Live Chat’ turning out to be a good thing?

A couple of people have recently asked me what I think of ‘Live Chat’ on a website. Of course, I can only answer that I really like using it, but that’s just me. What they really want to know is if companies I know who use it are getting positive results. I asked a few, and the answer is a resounding yes.

I’m not surprised, for a couple of reasons. First, different prospects will like different ways of communication, and it’s our job to meet their needs, not to dictate how they should talk to us. The western world has been obsessed with text messaging for years now, and although few businesses have ever encouraged customers to use this, ‘Live Chat’ is not only a close alternative, it’s even more efficient.

Second, while many people find it daunting to make telephone calls to a sales organisation, I’ve always got the feeling the problem is even more acute with engineers and scientists (although I’ve never seen any data on this). If your main enquiry mechanism is “Call us now”, that’s going to put some people off. If the other option is an email address, there’s no guarantee the sender will get a reply as quickly as required.

Live Chat, on the other hand, allows people to get in touch and receive a response instantly, without having to make a phone call: the best of both worlds for a section of the potential customer base. Sure, not everyone is allergic to the phone, and not everyone needs the instant response that email rarely provides. But I think enough people will appreciate the opportunity to make it worthwhile. What’s more, if your offering is ’email us now’, by the time the prospect gets your reply, they may already have had an informative ‘Live Chat’ with your competitor.

As for the best software to use, I won’t claim to be an expert, but if any company you know is using such a system, why not ask them? This is the sort of area where DIY research can be very appropriate, because you can also talk to them about what resources (including staffing) are required, a critically important aspect of running such a system.