Should you install a live chat feature on your small business website? What are some live chat pros and cons? And what about best practices that you should be aware of before diving in? We’ve rounded up responses from real business owners who were willing to share their experiences.
Say Hello to Instant Customer Gratification
One of the biggest reasons companies install a live chat feature is so that site visitors receive instant responses to their questions. No need to get lost in back-and-forth emails. No need to even pick up the phone. With a few clicks, customers can get the answers they’re looking for.
Mike Doyle is the CEO of Rent Like a Champion, a company that allows college football fans to rent homes near campuses nationwide during game weekends.
His company has been using Zopim, a popular live chat feature, for almost three years. Doyle says, “The response from our customers has been outstanding. We’ve found that our peak traffic time is during work hours, meaning people are likely surfing our site while they should be working. Being at work, it’s not always easy for people to pick up the phone and dial our toll-free number. The live chat feature is a great way for us to have a personal, high-touch interaction with a customer when it may not be convenient for them to call us.”
Steve Belk is the owner of Cut Cable Today. He recently added a live chat feature. Belk explains, “I decided to add Live Chat to my website when I noticed just how many email questions I was getting every single day from my visitors. I knew if that many visitors were emailing me with questions, many others had to be leaving the site without asking important questions that were keeping them from converting.”
Bring Personalization to a New Level
In addition to eliminating the need for endless email threads or a phone ringing off the hook with the same old questions, live chat also allows your business to add a more personal, human touch. This is especially important for companies that only have a virtual storefront.
Belk says, “I believe it creates a more valuable connection with the customer. When you’re talking to them live, there’s a human connection there that you might not get with email support necessarily.”
William Lau of CanvasPaintings.com echoes Belk’s sentiments. “In my opinion, live chat is essential. It is affordable and really easy to implement. If you find yourself with customers that have many questions, live chat is a great way to improve sales. One thing to note, if you are a small business owner and do not have someone monitoring it 24/7, the live chat modules usually have a Leave a Message option, which offers another way to get in touch with a customer and a customer to you. Also, many of these live chat platforms have iOS/Android apps, where you can get in touch with them on the go. You do not always have to be in front of a computer!”
Lau’s company has been using live chat for the last four years. “We originally started using Live Chat Inc, but after transitioning away from our original CMS, we started using Screets on WordPress.”
Enjoy Increased Conversions (Maybe).
When a small business owner needs to make a decision, the question that always bubbles to the top is this: how will this decision affect the bottom line? In other words, if a live chat application only makes customers happy, but doesn’t increase sales, would it be the best decision for your business?
Only you can decide that, of course. That said, most of the business owners we heard from were able to point to increased conversions, thanks to live chat features.
Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com, says about 30% of her company’s live chat customers convert to a sale. She adds, “It’s hard to assess how many of those we would have lost as opposed to whether they would have called in or just proceeded to place the order without help. However, that’s a pretty strong correlation between people who reach out via live chat and convert.”
Laurie Olsen is the owner of A Stars and Stripes Flag Corporation. Her company installed Live Chat over six months ago to give customers another way to reach her. About 2% of the visitors to her site engage in Live Chat.
As for ROI? Olsen says, “I have received a few orders from customers requiring rush services for custom products via Live Chat. The customers felt that having an instant response on the website was more than likely going to mean that we would be able to provide the quick turnaround they required. The ROI since I have installed Live Chat has been approximately 14%.”
Belk says, “I have seen Live Chat provide a little bump with my sales, although it’s hard to quantify exactly how much at this point. The visitors I chat with tend to be ready to get rid of their cable and take immediate action, and the chat helps push them toward conversion.”
Manage the Pros & Cons
Live chat can have its downsides, and it’s not right for every business. Jeff Kear is the founder of an online startup called Planning Pod, which provides web-based event management software to event professionals.
Kear acknowledges that live chat can be the right tool for many businesses, but it wasn’t for his.
Over a year and a half ago, his company tried a live chat application. Kear says, “When we first launched it, we did get quite a few site visitors who engaged with the product, but we noticed that our free trial signups and our paid subscriptions actually went down upon launching the live chat tool.”
After digging deeper, Kear and his team discovered something interesting. “We found that many people who we chatted with got answers to specific questions about our software that made them think our tools weren’t right for them. However, once people were in the free trial, they realized all the other things our software did, which made it more likely for them to become a paying customer. So the chat tool actually deflected people who would have instead signed up for a free trial and had a more immersive experience with our software.”
Kear ended up discontinuing live chat and instead opted for a toll-free number. He says that he and his team have had much better success in converting people over the phone than they did via live chat.
Sweeney says that her business also sees higher conversion rates when people phone in, but she still uses a live chat feature because it’s better to have some instant online help available than none at all. Sweeney says, “Now, more than ever, customers are looking for online-only experiences—they don’t want to pick up the phone, so this is a great solution for that.”
In addition to not being the right fit, live chat features can also be a time sink, if you let it. And since time is money, well—you can do the math.
Belk offers this smart advice on how to analyze live chat’s efficiency and ROI: “If the average chat ends up taking 20 minutes to close a $10 sale and you’re paying an employee by the hour to provide live support, is Live Chat really making you money or is it actually costing you money?”
He also recommends creating answers to FAQs ahead of time and having them at the ready so that you and your live chat staff can easily refer to them.
Finding the right live chat application for your business is also important. Lau recommends shopping around. He cautions that you’re going to encounter some sophisticated platforms that have many bells and whistles. Be aware that you might not need all of those extras.
Lau adds, “If you do not have someone technical, stick with a subscription-based or well supported platform that provides technical support. A lot of the live chat programs are easy to install but can be a headache if something goes wrong, because you would want someone there to help you.”
Do you use a live chat application on your business website? What’s your experience been like? Share in the comments below.