The following is a guest post by JT Ripton, a business consultant and freelance business and marketing writer out of Tempe, AZ. You can follow him on Twitter @JTRipton.
Although today’s enterprises use various ways to market products, the utilization of active communications applications provide particular advantages to small businesses. Among these technologies, live chat software systems allow enterprises to engage customers directly while at the same time being highly cost-efficient and simple to use.
If you’re not using live chat for your business today, here are six reasons you should consider it.
Reason #1: Immediate Response
In the past, if a customer needed to resolve a product support problem quickly, there were really only two ways to do it: call the company and wade through auto-attendant hell, or send an email and wait days for a response.
However, today’s live chat systems avoid all of this by utilizing a simple digital interface that allows a customer to be directed to a live operator who, in turn, answers questions in real-time. This value is readily apparent, as analyzed in the Forrester report, Making Proactive Chat Work.
According to the report, 44 percent of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer.
Reason #2: Customer Confidence
When phone or email support capabilities were the only ways for customers to ask questions, mistakes often were the rule. This, of course, dented confidence. These kinds of errors ranged from language problems related to offshore call center operations to confusing instructions when delivering remedial processes by email.
Most live chat systems avoid these problems by offering direct transcriptions of each support call. This means that that both customer service reps and customers themselves operate on the same (literal) page. According to an ATG Global Consumer report, 62 percent reported being more likely to purchase from the site again after using live chat. A further 38 percent of respondents said they had made a purchase due to the chat session itself.
Reason #3: Customer Support 24/7
Given today’s global market, customers need support at varying hours of the day. In the era of phone support, this capability was not readily possible since most small company call centers usually operated on weekday schedules only, or perhaps operated half-time staffs on Saturday. But what if the company is in the US while the customer is in Australia, many time zones ahead?
Live chat makes it easier for companies to support around-the-clock customer service by enabling a single offshore or late-night workers to handle several support questions at the same time.
Reason #4: Lower Support Costs
There is no doubt that the overall cost of customer support is significant for any enterprise. At the small-business level, however, every dollar not only counts, it could be critical to the company’s wellbeing.
Unfortunately, legacy phone support infrastructures has been shown to be complex to employ, costly to maintain, and typically difficult to manage operationally. Add additional channels such as email and social media, and things get even more complex and costly.
Live chat can be a much more cost-effective way to handle support than the above.
For instance, new help desk software can consolidate ticketing, phone calls, social media, and customer support portals in addition to offering real-time chat functionality. Support agents can handle all channels from the same interface, cutting down on systems costs and personnel needs.
Solutions such as LiveAgent also makes support staff more efficient with features such as Max Utilization, which lets companies assign new chat to the agent with highest number of running chats to keep his utilization on maximum. Once the agent has no free chat slots, new chats will be routed to next available agent.
Reason #5: More Detailed Metrics
While a focus on customer response and quality of service issues tend to subsume most support discussions at the small-business level, the internal identification of customer behaviors can also help any enterprise do a better job of making customers happy.
Live chat applications provide a host of auditable metric channels that can help ensure that support operators are doing their level best based on finite statistics, rather than conjecture.
Some of the metrics that live chat can offer:
Link referral: How did the customer find the company? This capability allows the support enterprise to identify what engaged the customer in the first place, in addition to what might he/she might be interested in next.
Passive or active: This process allows the enterprise to track passive or active customer usage across its support hub.
Site time: This capability allows the enterprise support hub to tally the total time-on-site for each customer or visitor. This allows the company to understand whether a particular engagement is just browsing or represents a serious investigation for information.
Reason #6: Live Chat Offers Competitive Advantage
Believe it or not, many companies still don’t employ live chat, either at the support or the sales level. This is counter-intuitive when compared with the host of customer trend metrics that are emerging on a regular basis.
Consequently, this simple to use technology offers a clear competitive advantage, particularly when it comes to the highly dynamic small-business market. E-Marketer found that almost two in 10 live chat respondents did more than 75 percent of their holiday shopping online, compared with 14 percent of those who did not chat. A further 25 percent of chatters made 51 percent to 75 percent of their purchases on the web versus just 10 percent of those who did not participate in the chat service.
So if you are not already using live chat for customer support, now is the time to consider it.
Jay T. Ripton is a freelance technology, business and lifestyle writer out of Scottsdale. He loves to write to inform, educate and provoke minds. Follow him on twitter @JTRipton. Peter Kowalke is a journalist and editor who has been covering business, technology and lifestyle trends for more than 20 years. When not writing, he runs Kowalke Relationship Coaching. You can contact him at PeterKowalke.com.