Offering live chat services on your site for pre-sales inquiries and customer support is a great idea
that has certainly increased sales and retention for many online businesses, but beware of the pitfalls.
Live chat response times
The biggest problem I found, aside from initial "on hold" time was the duration between responses. The last conversation I had dragged on for 15 minutes and it really should have been a 5 minute conversation maximum. I don't believe this had anything to do with the competency of the operator, bandwidth issues or server response time, but more a case of the live chat operator handling multiple chats at once.
Multi-tasking is a great skill to possess, but if I'm having a conversation with a salesperson, I expect them to focus on me. It avoids miscommunications and well, it's just good manners - it makes me feel valued and I'm sure many other online shoppers feel the same way. When you're at a supermarket checkout and the checkout operator is chatting away to friends; how do you feel?
The use of canned text
Another issue that needs addressing in many live chat implementations is canned text. Canned text is basically pre-programmed responses meant to save typing time; but often
these snippets are used incorrectly and it's quite easy for the client to tell that the operator is just regurgitating information. I know of some companies who don't allow their live chat operators to use any "original" responses - it's all copy and paste canned text.
Non-English speaking operators
This is an increasing problem in all forms of support these days - the utilization of staff who have English as a second language. These people are often outsourced overseas due to the major difference in labor rates. Bear in mind that cheap does not equate to good and if the person you hire isn't familiar with the many odd nuances of the English language and dealing with semi-illiterate inquirers, it can wind up costing you more money in lost sales and clients.
Browser compatibility/buggy software
An especially annoying issue I've struck a few times are live chat implementations that crash browsers or suck up such a great deal of my system resources that it slows my computer down to a crawl. The other pet peeve is broken image links and other improperly configured aspects of implementations. Your live chat installation is one of your front lines for sales, so be sure everything is working as it should and test regularly.
Lack of transcript
I finished a live chat session with a company a few weeks back and at the end of it, I wasn't offered an email transcript and the message thread in the chat window couldn't even be copied. I have no idea why this was the case, but I'm guessing the company has concerns with accountability and liability. If a customer has had an in-depth conversation with your live chat operators, chances are they'll want and *need* a chat transcript for future reference - this should be a standard feature.
Live chat is a powerful marketing and support tool; it's a great compromise between email and telephone. The early days of live chat software were met with suspicion, but for some online shoppers, it's now the communication medium of choice when making pre-sales inquiries. Simply offering live chat services on your site is only the first step in using this tool to boost sales - the success of the service is all in the execution.
Dealing with aggressive clients in the online world
In the interests of transparency and disclosure, please note that the owner of Taming the Beast.net often receives goods and services mentioned in reviews for free, or may receive payments or affiliate commissions for advertising or referring others to merchants of products and services reviewed.
Copyright information.... This article is free for reproduction but must be reproduced in its entirety, including live links & this copyright statement must be included. Visit http://www.tamingthebeast.net for free Internet marketing and web development articles, tutorials and tools! Subscribe to our popular ecommerce/web design ezine!
paid cash taking online surveys - free to join online
In Loving Memory - Mignon Ann Bloch
copyright (c) 1999-2011 Taming the Beast Adelaide - South Australia