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5 Live Chat Best Practices… For Converting Customers

Turn browsers into buyers with live chat. It’s wildly popular with the NOW Customer and a genius way to have 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 set off on the right foot when you’re making crucial decisions about one of the most powerful eCommerce conversion and customer support tools available.

But let’s start by understanding why NOW Customers need the live chat support channel in their shopping experience.

“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 the contact page link and send an email off into the great void that is customer service. Will they even get a reply? If they want something more instant, they can always call the 1-800 number and wait on hold to get a rep who probably will have no clue why they’re calling. What they really want is real-time help, right now.

This is no way to treat a customer who is more than likely to be extremely close to a purchase and just needs a little help making their decision. And that’s why live chat is the undeniable champion of helping customers get to checkout.

The magic live chat support button

The chat experience is crucial. It may be just a small button in the bottom right hand side of the screen, but the real time live 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 what it can do. For website visitors it’s a lifeline to help them achieve multiple things, such as: 

  • Save money
  • Find exactly what they need
  • Compare products
  • Check for deals 
  • Figure out if it’s the product for themselves or a loved one

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 contact method for website visitors:

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

Source: J.D. Power 

Many online consumers want customer service from a live person while they are shopping online

  • 44% of website visitors 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 Web site can offer (Forrester)
  • 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 (Forbes)
  • 63% of customers were more likely to return to a website that offers live chat (emarketer.com)

Customers actively seek out live chat

It’s clear live chat is something the NOW Customer wants and can be a differentiator between eCommerce brands. Real time help, right now.

But how live chat is operated and whether live chat best practices are followed is what separates the winners from the losers when it comes to conversion and brand loyalty. It’s not enough just to put the live chat button on the page. The power of live chat lies in the conversations and how the brands handle the customer in the delicate phase between consideration and purchase.

These are the Simplr 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. I used the word delicate above and it can’t be understated 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 AI.

The whole point of having live chat is to provide warm, human-assisted help to a 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 questions that 90% of customers can be relied on 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 most customers navigate to where they need to be. But the shopper asking for help has already read the signs and still can’t get an answer. They are looking for a human and a human is what you need to give them.

Leave your customer in no doubt they are talking to a live representative

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 chats should include a high-quality headshot of the sales associate. 

This is not a time to be using low-resolution pictures taken from a dating site or the same image your employees took on their first day for their security badge. Emojis, memes or anything else off-brand gives the instant impression you are not taking this seriously. Also, don’t be tempted to use stock images of beautiful models because you don’t have the time to capture your real team members. Make the effort to get good pictures of your team and show your customers that this is a real employee on the other end of the conversation. 

This is a time for your brand to shine

Who better than a human to help your brand differentiate itself at this most crucial point in the transaction? A knowledgeable sales associate 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 really does the hard work. 

2. Train your people

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

In a perfect world they 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 knowledge of your verticle’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 on the ground. They represent everything you stand for. 

Outsourcing customer service can help scale this ability, but it generally comes with a cost: fixed prices, 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 up to date and on-brand. But that’s only half the story.

Soft skills for a hard sell

I highly recommend you formally train your team around soft-skills. Not everyone is a born salesperson and even the best 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 I have said above, a warm, human approach is what converts to sales in this environment. There are some tricks to this that work exceptionally well and it is probably best to teach and reinforce these behaviors. 

Talk like the customer

After the initial greeting in the chat environment, it’s best to switch gears and moderate how you are speaking to reflect how the customer is addressing you. This is much easier to do in a chat window than anywhere else (remember, they can’t hear you). So, if your customer is talking casually, talk casually to match their tone. If they are being formal, stay polite. Use please and thank you, repeat their name, use sir or madam. 

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

Time is less important

Customer service calls are all about resolving the issue in the shortest possible time. And although live chat responses should be respondoned too as fast as possible (the best brands do this in under 15 seconds), the amount of time spent with the customer in a session is less important. Remember, shoppers are often multi-tasking and may even be at work. The customer should never feel rushed but should always feel they have your attention.

4. Throw everything at it

Chat is a wonderfully rich multimedia platform. Used correctly the chat window can deliver exactly what the customer needs in exactly the way they want it. Think beyond simple text conversations. The best chat experiences are ones that use every feature the technology has to offer.

Use images, screenshots, files, and links

ECommerce websites are optimized for performance and often can’t include every asset related to a particular product. Often there are videos and high-resolution images that the customer doesn’t have access to. These assets can be utilized in the chat window to enhance the shopping experience.

Often there are more longform assets that again, are not suitable for a website containing thousands of products and pages. These are great for giving the customer detailed product information they can explore on their own time. 

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

Emojis

As I said before, an effective tactic is to talk like your customer. This may extend to using emojis to communicate emotion, abbreviations, slang, or anything that makes a more personal, emotional connection to the customer. Whatever works, right?  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

5. Get out as much as you put in

I’ve talked so far about all the amazing things that live chat can offer your customer. But it’s worth remembering that this should be a two way street and you can get a lot out of a customer interaction. Remember, 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

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. Tags are typically used to 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 can realize an enormous amount of valuable information. Companies often overlook the assets they have contained in their chats and don’t put it to good use. Use your chats to find out about your customers, their buying habits and the typical things they need to know. They are an amazing feedback loop that enable you to constantly fine-tune your customer service. 

Use the live chat software to constantly improve

Top retailers thrive on customer data. Modern live chat software can deliver the kinds of insights that can separate you from 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 quarter.

It can also enable you to offer better and better CX. Improve response times and give accurate answers by creating templates and answers to frequent queries. This enables your agents to handle multiple customers at a time and drastically cuts wait times.

Live chat best practices really move the needle

Your website can be a lonely place 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 CX and have artificial intelligence run your customer service support channels. However, shoppers are looking real human connection and insight, not canned responses and answers that don’t accurately solve their problems.

Your sales team is 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 that learning around your whole team. It also enables you to provide a consistent brand experience first time, every time.

Use all the support features that live chat offers. Customers want to communicate in the language that best suits them. This might mean emojis, images, knowledge base content, video, and screen share have entered the chat.

And finally, ensure you 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.

The future is NOW CX

Simplr’s highly-trained and US-based 24/7 customer support experts are on call and ready to answer your customer emails and chats using your exact messaging and preferences. It’s enterprise-level after-hours support designed for premium brands. Simplr can be up and running in your company quicker than most call centers and deliver the highest standard of support…Yours. Make sure to contact us to get started today.

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