Live chat is here to stay. No longer is it a customer support tool that's nice to have—it's now a requirement for most customers. According to the market research firm Forrester, 44% of consumers said live chat was the most important feature a company could offer. Millennials, in particular, love it because it feels like the messaging apps they use every day. This figure will no doubt continue to rise.
With its recent survey of 1,000-plus U.S. customers and 100 small- and medium-sized businesses, the customer support platform, Kayako, set out to ask: How is live chat working for customers right now?
It turns out that customers still favor live chat and want it to be more widely available. But they also have significant annoyances and gripes about how companies use it today.
In its research, Kayako found that almost half of customers prefer to use live chat to contact support agents, instead of emailing, calling, and writing a social media post. And for nearly 40% of customers, live chat is a deal-breaker; they're more apt to buy from a company when live chat is offered. Those customers who spend $250-500 per month online, are even more loyal to live chat. 63% of them report a preference for e-commerce companies that offer chat.
So what does this mean for business? Live chat is no longer optional. It drives customer loyalty and creates positive word of mouth marketing. Just offering live chat shows your customers that your company cares about them and is accessible.
38% of customers think live chat UX is poor
Live chat is hard to get right. To name just a few problems customers frequently run into: live agents who are not, in fact, live, disconnections and dropped chats, and long wait times. Many of us have no doubt found ourselves on live chat repeating the same basic information (name, problem, order number) twice—or more.
Chatbots can be particularly frustrating for customers too. Though they promise to help field common customer questions, in practice they cause more headaches than they're worth. Your customers want to talk to real people and can tell right away when they're not speaking with a human.
29% of customers are annoyed by scripted responses
Support agents often have to rely on canned responses to reply to the large volumes of queries they might get in the day and keep their average handle times down. But unfortunately, nearly a third of customers said scripted responses made their chat experience less satisfactory.
Good support agents use these scripted responses (also known as macros) as a jumping-off point. They add a bit of personalization and warmth. "I'd be happy to help you," becomes "I'd be happy to help you with your payment problem, John." Hiring empathetic, creative live support agents is key.
Addressing this source of customer frustration also requires businesses to focus more on customer satisfaction metrics over AHTs. Customers are happy to spend more time on live chat talking to an agent if it means their query is solved. The key is quality over quantity.
47% of customers haven't had a positive interaction on live chat
Think of this statistic this way: You have about the same chance of getting a live chat experience right as you do getting it wrong. You have half a chance of making a good first impression.
And don't forget that while word of mouth can help your business and drive sales, it can also do the opposite. 20% of the customers Kayako surveyed said they have told their friends about a bad live chat experience (29% told friends about a positive experience, in comparison). This negative word of mouth marketing—whether it's a customer talking to a friend or coworker, or someone posting on social media—will do the opposite of convert sales. It'll drive customers away.
79% of businesses have seen a positive effect on sales with chat
Making live chat available has been proven to be a factor that influences customers' purchasing decisions. Chances are, if you offer it, customers will be more apt to make the first purchase, and 51% will return to shop with you over competitors.
Take Intuit, the company that owns QuickBooks and Mint. Adding a live chat widget across the Intuit site upped the company's average order by 43%. Sales increased an astounding 211% when Intuit added a live chat widget on their product comparison website pages, as well.
Investing in a live chat platform that can grow with your business and provide a frictionless experience for customers is worth the money. When customers are satisfied with the help they receive on live chat, they'll become more loyal to your brand and recommend your company to friends.