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Live Chat With Your Customers For Improved Customer Service

Live Chat With Your Customers For Improved Customer Service

Posted 24/06/2009 by Gareth Cutter

Sometimes transactions go wrong or visitors have trouble finding what they're looking for. It's in these instances that you need a reliable customer service channel in place, or else risk losing potential sales. Which of the following customer service channels do you offer on your online store?

  • Telephone support
  • Email
  • Live Chat

Our next question would be, which of these channels do you think is the most effective?

Most if not all web sites offer some sort of free phone number for support enquiries, but research from senior Gartner analyst, Tim Smith suggests that live chat could significantly improve the efficiency and resolution rates of incoming support enquiries.

Smith conducted several mystery shopper test on six leading online retailers stores, making one purchase off each site to ensure it was a valid purchasing scenario, but using all three support channels for typical enquiries (special offers, unable to locate an item etc) to bring the sale to a conclusion.

Of the investigation, Smith said: "Each method of communication—telephony, e-mail and live chat tended to gravitate toward the most logical application, which is live chat. For online shopping the logical progression is to view the retailer's products in your browser and stay within the browser to use live chat for immediate contact."

While telephone and email both have their advantages (telephony's real-time human interaction; email's record of correspondence) they also have significant drawbacks. Phone calls can sometimes require browsers to leave the page they are stuck on or even the computer itself, while email, for all its positives, doesn't provide much of an immediate response.

Live chat doesn't win by default however: it is both immediate, has an element of human interaction and enables visitors to stay in front of their computer. To maximise the effectiveness of live chat on your site, make sure you do the following:

  • Place the chat box in a prominent position; too many retailers bury them away at the foot of the page or deep within the site; the checkout is a key area for placement
  • Include a 'chat not available' logo if there is no one manning the chat box; it's very frustrating for a customer to try this channel and get no response
  • Measure the volume of support enquiries you get and allocate staff accordingly, as chat box queues are similarly frustrating

While live chat might be the most suitable channel for resolving technical difficulties and search problem, email and telephony still have a vital part to play in the customer service experience. Look into integrating all three channels within your contact centres so staff can work flexibly and meet demand in whatever direction it comes from.

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