by Robert Victor Robert Victor
Reading Time: 6 minutes

Customer service is an integral part of doing business in most industries, including B2B businesses, where the “customer” is another business or professional. With the consistent growth of the digital marketplace over the last two decades, customer service has changed in significant ways to support both software services as well as retail and other business practices that now take place online. 

In the past, customer service outside of in-person interactions took place primarily over the phone, with massive call centers on down to a handful of individuals who were responsible for answering the phone to handle customer complaints or answer their questions. However, phone-based customer support has received plenty of flack. Customers hate waiting on hold for long periods of time, and even if wait times are just a few minutes, today’s customer expects more of an instant response. 

Email has offered a different avenue that works in some cases, if the customer is willing to wait 24 to 48 hours for a reply, but it doesn’t satisfy the customer’s needs or desires for many business transactions. For retail and other consumer-facing industries, a lack of instant service almost always results in a loss of the sale. 

Luckily, the growing spread of online services and tools has changed the game in everyone’s favor, if businesses will only take advantage of them. Live chat tools have radically transformed the opportunities for improved customer service in a variety of ways. 

Business Benefits of Live Chat for Customer Service

Several popular live chat tools are available for businesses to manage or augment their customer service offerings. While it may be beneficial for these businesses to continue to offer customer service via phone and email, live chat creates several opportunities that benefit both the business and their customers.

1. Minimize or Reduce Expenses

Call centers are extremely expensive to maintain, from both a real estate and a labor perspective. By reducing your call center workforce or optimizing your workforce for live chat customer service instead, you can save 17 to 30 percent according to Forrester research. This is because live chat agents can multitask and help several customers at once, while phone agents can only work with one customer at a time. 

Phone and email support also require much more time and resources, both in setup and ongoing management. In contrast, live chat tools can often be implemented very quickly and cost much less. Additionally, businesses can take advantage of cost-saving benefits provided by the additional tools and analytical information offered by many live chat tools. 

2. Increase Sales and/or Expand Market Reach

Numerous studies have shown that live chat actually helps drive more conversions, with up to 6000% ROI because live chat tools are much less costly to maintain. After implementing live chat on their website, one company reported a 23% increase in their conversion rate

In fact, customers are more likely — as much as three times — to make a purchase if they use a company’s live chat support because they can get their questions answered more quickly and with less hassle. This is crucial information because as many as 83% of consumers have said that they require some form of help when making a purchase online.

Live chat can also expand your business’s market reach, even to international customers. 

[Related: Infographic: How to Create the Best Buying Experience for the Customer]

3. Drive Customer Loyalty With Improved Service

Customer service deeply affects customer loyalty. If an experience is less than satisfactory, most customers will not return or may not even complete the transaction they initially needed help with. On the contrary, if a customer has a great experience with support, they are more likely to convert and also return. 

Live chat tools have been found to receive much higher customer satisfaction levels compared with traditional phone support or email support. One survey from eDigital reviewed 2,000 consumers, who gave live chat a customer satisfaction level of 73 percent, while email support received 61 percent and phone support only received 44 customer satisfaction. Another study found that 90 percent of customers felt more confident shopping if they saw a “Live Chat” button offering support if needed.

4. Faster Problem-Solving and Pain Point Identification

One of the reasons why live chat tools provide better customer service and improve customer satisfaction is because they enable much quicker resolution of their problems. While call center agents have to verbally walk a customer through a resolution over the phone, live chat agents can quickly and easily send a link with how-to documents and other helpful guides (or forms) in the chat window, so that the customer can more quickly find their solution. 

This is markedly sped up if live chat agents are provided with a comprehensive repertoire of training documents and guides, as well as common forms that customers need. Another way to speed up problem-solving is to use the screen sharing feature that many live chat tools offer so that customers can share their screen with the support agent (and vice versa) to solve more complicated technical issues. 

Retailers across the U.S. are finding significantly faster response and problem resolution with live chat tools, compared with email, phone, and even social media. 

These problem-solving capabilities also make live chat tools more capable of identifying your customer’s pain points. Live chat administrators can use the expansive data and analytics supplied with live chat in order to sort, search, and filter live chat conversations to find common denominators or recurring customer complaints or issues. 

[Related: How Outsourcing Your Supply Chain Can Save Your Online Retail Business]

5. Improved Customer Convenience and Experience

Unlike phone support, which requires the customer’s full attention while being ‘tied’ to the phone, or email support, which may or may not return the solution the customer needs in the timeframe they need it, live chat is far more convenient:

  • Instant (or near instant) connection with a real person, instead of waiting on hold or getting lost in a dial-by-number system only to find themselves in the wrong end of the call center. Live chat also helps customers get the answers to their questions far more quickly than email, which may require a lengthy back-and-forth. They can also get any purchase-related questions answered more quickly, which is important since 44 percent of consumers think that one of the best features an e-commerce site can offer is the ability to talk to an agent while shopping online.
  • Opportunity to multitask. According to one report, 51 percent of customers prefer using live chat because it allows them to multitask, and another 21 percent prefer it because they can shop while they work. 
  • Reference for both the customer and the company. Since live chat conversations can be saved and reviewed again later, the customer can go back and review their conversation if they need to reference it again. Agents can also use past customer interactions for context, in order to help them with more relevance — even if the agent working with them is different. 

6. Comprehensive Internal Reporting and Analytical Data

Email support offers a paper trail, but customers are more likely to use traditional phone support if live chat isn’t provided, and email conversations are difficult to analyze for beneficial information and data. Live chat has an ongoing, comprehensive record of all messages and conversations, tying all inquiries to each customer for more useful data. Not only can you monitor visitors and the number of times they contact you, but a wide range of visitor metrics are available through live chat to help you improve your marketing strategies, the customer experience, and even staff performance. 

Live chat can also be used for proactive outreach to site visitors to engage them in conversations that may help answer questions before they even ask, benefitting your customers and also potentially increasing conversions. These chat requests can be sent manually by agents as they’re notified of a new visitor or even sent automatically based on customer and/or visitor behavior from predefined rules.

[Related: 10 Best E-Commerce Platforms for Businesses]

7. The Competitive Advantage

Despite all of these benefits for both the company and the consumer, live chat isn’t used very widely for customer service. One study reviewed 1,000 websites and found that only 9 percent use live chat tools to provide real-time customer service, despite the fact that the number of online shoppers who use live chat has increased in the last five years from 38 to 58 percent.

This offers an incredible competitive advantage for online retailers and other websites. By adding live chat tools to your website, you make it far easier for your customers to do business with you. As these other benefits have shown, this will probably lead to a better customer experience, higher conversions and sales, and potentially better reviews of your business, which may in turn result in additional business.

Featured image via Pixabay

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