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Live chat gaining favor

Posted by Michael Bloch in ecommerce (Wednesday August 16, 2006 )

Live chat and support via the web is gaining popularity, but perhaps not for the reasons you may think.

It seems that while consumers really do prefer phone support, they are turning to online live chat simply because phone support offered by many companies is inadequate – hold times are too long and complex menus are often quoted as greatest sources of frustration.

I can certainly empathize. Whether I’m calling companies in Australia, the USA or elsewhere, I don’t know how many times I’ve tried phone support only to have to navigate through inefficient voice or keypad menus, and then be answered by someone who can hardly speak english or really doesn’t have a clue about their companies’ products and services.

What makes it even more intolerable is that in most instances where this occurs, it’s with companies who spend millions of dollars each year advertising how good their customer service is. Good marketing on their part I guess, but bleh.

The other issue I find with phone support is that the actions promised by the customer service officer often don’t eventuate. That’s the beauty of live chat and email support – a written record for both parties for cases where there’s a dispute, and also good reference material for future dealings. Sure, many companies who offer phone support record their calls – but you don’t get a copy of the recording after the conversation :).

For companies, a powerful benefit gained from implementing live help via the web is not only increasing the opportunity to convert browsers to buyers, but they then also have a rich resource to draw on for knowledge bases and other written help resources for customers. The content lifted from live chat transcripts are basically articles, FAQs and tutorials are already semi-developed. The old saying of “give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and you’ll feed him for a lifetime” springs to mind – many customers can help themselves and are happy to do so if given the right resources.

There’s a very interesting article just published on Emarketer about the trend towards the growing popularity of live chat and the reasons behind it.

Also, you may want to check out my article on implementing live chat software and services for your online business. If you’re considering including live help on your site, there’s also links in the article to free trial services.

Do you have live help implemented on your site? What’s been your experience?


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