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5 Live Chat Best Practices… For Converting Customers

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Turn browsers into buyers with live chat. It’s wildly popular with the NOW Customer and a genius method for having one-on-one conversations with your customers.

We’re going to lay out our top five live chat best practices for making real-time chat support your ecommerce conversion engine. These tips are designed to make sure you start off on the right foot when you’re making crucial decisions about one of the most powerful ecommerce conversion and customer support tools available.

Let’s start by understanding what live chat is and why NOW Customers need this type of support channel in their shopping experience.

What is live chat?

Live chat is a software tool that provides real-time customer service online. It allows your website users to get immediate support and information from customer care agents. Unlike chatbots, live chats are managed by living and breathing humans, so you’re getting the real deal.

What are the benefits of live chat?

The chat experience is crucial. It may be just a small button in the bottom right-hand side of your homepage, but the real-time online chat support option could be the most powerful selling asset on your ecommerce site, if you follow simple live chat best practices.

Just think about all of the capabilities and results that online chat can deliver. For website users, it is a lifeline to help them achieve multiple things that can improve customer satisfaction, such as: 

  • Saving money
  • Meeting their needs
  • Comparing products
  • Checking for deals 
  • Resolving issues or queries

For retailers, it’s the golden ticket: a once-in-lifetime chance to have a conversation with every single customer. The numbers don’t lie.

Live chat has become the leading digital communication channel for website visitors:

  • 42% of customers prefer live chat support
  • 23% of customers prefer email
  • 16% of customers prefer social media or digital forums

Source: J.D. Power 

Many online consumers want customer service from a human while they are shopping online:

  • 44% of website users say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important services a website can offer
  • 50% of consumers say that having a live person answer questions in the middle of a purchasing decision is one of the most important features a brand can offer
  • 63% of customers were more likely to return to a website that offers online chat

“Can I just get some help?”

We’ve all had this happen. We’re shopping in a brick-and-mortar retailer, and we need some customer service. We look around and there’s no one there. So we start walking. And walking. If we’re lucky, we might get a fleeting glimpse of a sales associate in a far-off aisle. We chase them down, but they’re gone. Were they even there? 

This is exactly how website visitors on ecommerce sites feel if there is no live chat support button. Sure they can find your contact information on the FAQ webpage and send an email into the great void that is customer service. Will they even get a reply? If they have an urgent question, they can always pick up their smartphone, call the 1-800 number, and wait on hold to get a customer service agent who may or may not positively influence the buyer decision process. What consumers really want is real-time help, right now.

This is no way to treat a customer who is extremely close to making a purchase, but just needs a little help making it to next stage of the buyer’s journey. And that’s why live chat is the undeniable champion of successfully getting customers to checkout.

5 Live Chat Best Practices

It’s clear live chat can set ecommerce companies apart – especially when the target market is the NOW Customer. But how live chat is handled and whether live chat best practices are followed, are two factors that separate winners from losers when it comes to customer conversion and retention success.

Live chat accessibility is not enough; just putting a chat button on your website’s homepage or mobile app interface isn’t going to cut it. The power of this tool lies in the quality of the conversations and how the brands handle customers who are in the delicate phase between consideration and purchase.

Read on to learn Simplr’s live chat best practices for converting customers:

1. Pre-sale is no place for robots

Sorry. If you imagine you can set loose an army of chatbots to boost your pre-sale conversions, think again. We intentionally used the word “delicate” above, and it can’t be overemphasized how precarious the sale is when a customer is asking for help. It’s definitely win or lose time and no place to use canned answers or untrained artificial intelligence.

The whole point of having live chat is to provide warm, human-assisted help to improve the customer’s shopping experience.

When a customer wants to start a chat, having robotic greetings or responses can kill the effectiveness of live chat. Customers can instantly see through an automated interaction.

Think about it. You have no idea what the customer is thinking at that moment. Sales is not like customer support. There are no predictive queries that 90% of customers can be expected to ask. 

If we go back to the analogy of the deserted brick-and-mortar retailer, robotic live chat answers are like the in-store signage. They can help guide most customers to where they need to be. But the shopper asking for help has already read the signs and still doesn’t have an answer. They are looking for a human to address their question or concern, and a human is what you need to give them.

2. Make it clear to customers that they’re talking to a human

It seems obvious, but this is where a lot of retailers make a glaring live chat error. Even if you provide a real-time, warm human interaction, a busy shopper needs to see who they are talking to. Your chat popups should include a high-quality headshot of the sales agent. 

This is not a time to use low-resolution pictures taken from a dating site or the same photo used on the employee’s security badge. Also, don’t be tempted to use generic stock images of models instead of actual team members. Make the effort to get good pictures of your team and show your customers that they are meeting a real, trusted employee on the other end of the conversation instead of a robot.

This is a time for your brand to shine

Who better than a human to help your brand set itself apart during this most crucial point in the transaction? A knowledgeable sales agent helping at exactly the right time is something that will leave a positive brand association for a long time to come. This is where your brand engagement can do some of the heavy lifting.

3. Train your people

It goes without saying your live chat agents should be knowledgeable about your inventory and website navigation. This includes incoming stock if you are in a fast-moving, high-turnover business. 

In a perfect world, online chat reps are subject matter experts in your line of business, too. They should understand why your customers need what you sell and they should have a good understanding of your vertical’s market outside the confines of your store. If you are a specialist retailer, they should be a specialist sales assistant. Remember, they are your brand’s boots on the ground. They represent everything you stand for and are an integral component of CX success. 

Outsourcing customer service can help scale this ability, but it generally comes with a cost: fixed pricing, inflexibility, and a decades-old contact center model that doesn’t fully understand the demands of the NOW Customer and the unpredictability of online commerce. A NOW CX solution like Simplr offers an on-demand, high-quality alternative to call center training headaches.

Regular training will help keep your sales staff operating at their best (and on-brand). Be sure that training focuses on the following areas:

Soft skills for a hard sell

Investing in formally training your team around soft-skills is imperative. Not everyone is born a marketing salesperson, and even the best salespeople can fall into bad habits. This is especially important when it comes to training the unique skills required to sell in a live chat environment.

As we said above, a warm, human approach is a requirement for converting to sales in this environment. There are some tricks to this type of approach that work exceptionally well, which we will cover in greater detail below.

Talk like the customer

After the initial greeting in the chat environment, it’s best to switch gears and tailor your speaking to reflect how the customer is addressing you. So, if your customer is talking casually on the computer, be sure to match their tone. If they are being formal, stay polite. Use please and thank you, repeat their name often, and use sir or madam. 

Every customer is unique, and a good live chat operator can turn on a dime and switch between vastly divergent conversations without skipping a beat.

Speedy service times

Customer service calls are all about resolving the issue as quickly as possible. And although live chat responses should be as quick as possible (the best brands do this in under 15 seconds!), the amount of time spent with the customer in a session may be longer due to lag times between the typing of messages. It’s all about finding the perfect balance; the customer should never feel rushed, but should always feel they have your undivided attention.

4. Leverage its full multimedia potential

Chat is a wonderfully rich multimedia platform that is ripe for personalization. When used correctly, this communication channel can deliver exactly what the customer needs in exactly the way they want it. Remember to think beyond simple text conversations. The best chat experiences are ones that use every feature the technology has to offer.

Use images, infographics, files, URLs, and more

Ecommerce websites are optimized for performance and often can’t include every asset related to a particular product. Often there are additional videos, high-resolution photos, and other files that the customer doesn’t see when browsing a WordPress website. These assets can be shared in the chat window to enhance the shopping experience.

Often, there are longform assets that aren’t suitable for the average consumer. But when a consumer is feeling indecisive about what’s currently sitting in their online shopping cart, they may want to go deep into research mode. Longform content is the perfect vehicle for providing customers with detailed product information that they can explore on their own time and schedule.

Live chat can also be used to guide customers to other platforms where you have a presence. Social media may have more up-to-date information about timely releases than your product landing pages. This is a great business opportunity to get your customer more engaged on their own time with everything your brand is up to.

Even throw in a a few emojis

One effective tactic is to talk like your customer. This may extend to using emojis to communicate emotion, abbreviations, slang, or anything that can help you build a more personal, emotional connection to the customer. Emojis can be especially appropriate on informal channels such as Facebook Messenger or mobile app messaging.

Whatever works, right?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

5. Get out as much as you put in

We’ve talked so far about all the amazing benefits that online chat can offer your customers. But it’s worth remembering that this communication channel should be a two-way street. As customers willingly communicate with your company, it’s important take this customer information, analyze it, and leverage it to further improve the overall customer experience. Keep delighting your customers! Live chat is one of the few times you get to have a real, one-on-one conversation with the people who keep your lights on. Don’t squander this opportunity to make the most of this customer data.

Tag early, tag often

Tags are one of the most underused features in live chat software. Tags are labels that you assign to conversations after the end or during the chat sessions. In terms of usability, tags oftentimes categorize and organize all customer communication. You can use tags to add category and topic labels to your chats, such as feature-request or follow up. 

Your customer chats are a treasure trove of valuable information. Nonetheless, companies often overlook the assets they have sitting in their chat history and fail to put it to good use. Analyze your chats to discover your customers’ needs, habits, queries, concerns, patterns, and more. They are an amazing feedback loop that allow you to constantly fine-tune and improve your customer service ratings.  

Use the live chat software to constantly improve

Top retailers thrive on customer data. Modern live chat software can deliver the kinds of analytics that can help you rise above the competition. Take the time to learn how you can get the most out of what your solution offers. It can automate many tasks and generate sales reports that can be the difference between a winning and a losing fiscal year.

It can also enable you to improve the overall customer experience, response times, and accuracy of answers by creating templates and macros to answer frequent queries. As a result, your agents will be empowered to handle multiple customers at a time while drastically cutting wait times.

Together, these best practices really move the needle

Your website can be a lonely location for a visitor who needs help. By implementing live chat on your website, you enhance the customer experience, decrease phone support use and response time, and have a direct line to your to customer expectations.

It’s tempting to throw technology at your customer experience strategy and have artificial intelligence run your customer service support channels. However, shoppers are looking real human connection and insight, not robots that can’t accurately or empathetically solve their issues.

Your sales team has the knowledge base and the motivation to best serve your customers. Think about live chat support differently than your regular support channels. When a customer wants to get in touch, they are actively looking to buy, and this interaction requires the soft skills of a trained sales professional.

Live chat gives your sales team a platform to put their skills to the test. Good monitoring will enable you to quickly find out what works and spread these learnings around your whole team. It also enables you to provide a consistent brand experience from the very first time a customer interfaces with your brand, every time.

We suggest leveraging all the support features that live chat offers in order to deliver an exceptional user experience. Customers want to communicate in the language that best suits them. This might mean emojis, images, screenshots, videos, links, and window screen shares should become a part of the chat.

Finally, be sure to use all the data that this channel generates. It’s a truly valuable resource that many companies overlook. Live chat gives you unique access to the mind of your customer, so make sure data analysis is part of your business plan.

Ready to harness the power of live chat?

Simplr’s highly-trained and US-based 24/7 customer support experts are on call and ready to respond to your customers’ live chats, social media instant messages, emails, and more. We combine people, tech, and data analytics to transform customer experience from a cost center into a revenue-driving advantage. We not only use machine learning to ensure and scale the service success of our entire network, but also to provide our partners with the insights and metrics needed to proactively identify and fill any experience gaps that are causing friction for your customers. Entrust your CX to the very best and start driving your company’s economic growth today!