Here we break down the pros and cons, as well as things to consider before implementing online chat.
You’ve no doubt heard countless pieces of advice about improving your company’s website and online experience, and hopefully you’ve heeded those helpful tips. However, no matter how good your website is, and how clear the information is, there will still be some customers requiring further assistance. So where do they go? More traditional routes like providing a number to your office or filling out a contact form are of course still valuable options, but you shouldn’t overlook implementing a live chat customer service system. Here we’ll list out the benefits, drawbacks, implementation considerations, and best practices on using a live chat.
The pros and cons
Live chat is increasingly the preferred method that customers want to get support. If done properly, it provides customers with the immediacy of response that more traditional customer service techniques can’t match. Especially given trends showing that younger generations are more comfortable using live chat than calling, it presents an extremely attractive alternative to traditional customer service. Further, according to a 2021 study by the Forester Group, 42% of US adults responded saying it was important for a company to have live chat, up almost 20% since 2019.
Reports from the ICMI, who compile research from various different consultant groups, also show that companies who operate with live chat increase their revenue. That report revealed that using live chat resulted in a 48% increase in revenue per chat hour and a 40% increase in conversion rate. Further, a 2015 Aberdeen Group report showed that companies with live chat produced a 34% greater annual improvement in customer satisfaction rate.
If we’re being honest, there are a few drawbacks when it comes to implementing live chat. It’s relatively easy to incorporate, but might require a little technical expertise and a slight increase in initial investment. Further, if you choose to do a live chat with a human responder on the other end, there will be training and potentially other staff costs to take into account. But overall, most of the initial drawbacks of using live chat are easily repaid by the benefits listed above.
Live v. AI
The biggest consideration you’ll have to make is whether you want your chat function to be run by human responders or an AI. They both provide various benefits and drawbacks of their own, of which we’ll get into. AI software tools will usually function using keywords, where they’ll be programmed to respond a certain way if they detect a certain combination of words, for example ‘climate-controlled storage’. This means that while it can provide information in an instant, and can provide customers with most of the relevant information, there will still be times where a customer runs into a wall the AI can’t answer. At this point, you will most likely have to offer another way to get in touch.
On the other hand, a staff response can be more emotive and provide a more tailored customer experience. If trained correctly, they can provide just as much assistance as a regular phone operator. However, the information might take longer to get, and training will most likely take longer than implementing AI. The best thing to do here is just offer the customer a variety of ways to get in touch so that they feel the most comfortable while also giving them easy, alternative ways to contact you.
If you choose to have staff responders on your live chat, you’ll have to train existing staff or hire more. On this note, they should be trained to the same level of knowledge as any other customer service staff member, but there are also some different things specific to online chat that should be taught. Firstly, the etiquette on live chat is different than on the phone. Chat windows are much easier to close, so there’s a greater chance of losing a customer if their question isn’t answered promptly. So the staff member must be able to give information out quickly and accurately. Also, while you’re able to fill in gaps on the phone with ‘um’s’ and ‘ah’s’, all the customer gets on a live chat are either three moving dots or nothing at all. The wait will feel much longer to them. A final point to make is that your staff members must make sure their grammar and punctuation is accurate. A mistake will reflect poorly on your brand and appears unprofessional.
While live chat can be useful, especially if using a staff responder, customers will rarely make actual purchases on them, with them mainly being used for customer enquiries. With this in mind, you should provide a contact form or something similar, which will allow you to follow up on their inquiries to see if they’ve been properly solved, or if you can be of any more assistance. This keeps your company in the consumer’s mind, and following up will often lead to conversion.
Overall, online chat is a valuable service that should be implemented on your self storage website. It provides customers with near-instant support, and given that it is not a massive hassle to set up or require a large initial investment, it should be a no-brainer to improve your company’s customer service.
Related Article: Maximising self storage customer conversion on your website