You’ve seen it a handful of times this past week already.
You’re surfing a website and *POP!* a little bouncing face with a chat window appears at the lower right corner of your screen.
“Hi, I’m David! May I help you out today?”
Welcome to the world of live chat.
While live chat (let’s just call it “chat” for this article) can help potential customers get answers to their questions in real time with good accuracy, you need to make sure adding this functionality to your site is actually useful to your customers.
Let’s run through some thoughts about chat.
Chat can be convenient for visitors
Forrester Research found that 44% of online customers say that one of the most important website features is to have a live person available to answer questions in the middle of the online shopping experience.
Are you losing the opportunity to convert a confused visitor into a happy customer? You could be if that visitor would have purchased from you if only they had someone to quickly ask a question of.
The power of the online world is that there is almost an infinite amount of knowledge available at anyone’s fingertips. That means if a visitor has a question, but you’re not around to answer it for them, they can easily Google their question (it’s easier than trying to call your 1-800 number or sending you an email).
“Good for them. That means I don’t have to spend time or resources talking with them.”
That could be true, except your visitor has actively left your site and is now once again in the wide-open world. That increases the likelihood they will stumble upon a competitor in their search and purchase from that other site instead. Lost sale and revenue for you.
If a visitor leaves your site to find an answer, they may never come back.
If your product is fairly technical or solves a technical need, the likelihood is increased that your customer has a question that needs an answer before they buy.
Understand the customer journey to know when and where they’ll naturally pause to figure out more details.
Chat can tell you where your content is lacking
If a customer has a question, then it’s possible your website failed to clearly communicate to them. Chat gives you a chance to hear directly from someone who didn’t readily see the solution on your site.
They are explicitly telling you their pain point.
They are telling you of a benefit they are looking for.
A customer that engages with chat can tell you a of benefit others are looking for too.
Take note of the question and type of question you’re asked. Consider using the answer to it in your website’s copy (especially if you get the question with any frequency).
For every customer that has to ask you that question before they buy from you, how many are just bouncing away because their question wasn’t already answered on your website?
Is chat worth it to your business?
Because all companies, industries, and customers are different, the answer is “it depends.”
As with any marketing or business decision you make, you should ask “How many qualified leads will I get?”
If your product or service is pretty straightforward or customers are highly unlikely to ask a question before they buy, then you might get very little engagement through chat (and therefore, leads).
However, if you’re selling a commodity product, you can help set yourself above the crowded fray by using chat as differentiating service you provide (especially if your competition isn’t offering it).
One other factor to consider is the amount of traffic you currently see. If you have low traffic already, you may not see much chat engagement. On average, about four to ten percent of visitors will initiate a chat session with you.
Expect that 4% to 10% of website vistors will engage chat.
The overall key is to study and analyze the effect chat has on your site and business.
I highly encourage you to split test chat (i.e. randomly only show half of your customers the option for chat) and review the impact chat has. Do those customers have higher conversion rates? If so, then you can start calculating the value of chat so you know how much and what resources you can put behind it and get a good ROI.
If you don’t have the resources. knowhow, or traffic to set up a reliable split test for chat, then make note of when you add the functionality to your site. From here, compare the conversion rate from the date you added chat to the time before you added chat. If there is a notable increase in conversions, then you may be on the right track.
While your business may be different, Digital Marketing Depot released a white paper that found live chat can increase online leads by an average of 40%. So if your conversion rate for leads was about 2% of visitors, then it’s possible you could increase that rate to 2.8%.
Live chat can increase online leads by an average of 40%.
Be sure to have Google Analytics set up (and its Ecommerce turned on if you’re handling transactions).
If your website doesn’t do transactions (like a website for a CPA firm), then make sure you track the number of leads that start from engaging with chat.
In addition, you should review the general bounce rates and time on site.
If chat is causing visitors to noticeably engage with your site and stick around longer, it may mean they’re finding value in it and therefore more likely to use your services.
Also, not all businesses are ideal for chat. Businesses like nail salons, restaurants, coffee shops, and laundromats will not likely get any value from a chat functionality on their website.
The ideal canditates for chat are B2C businesses that typically need a phone call before a customer will make a purchase (law firms, plastic surgeons, CPA firms, etc).
In the end, if you can’t decern any noticeable difference in your business from having added chat in a period of time you want to run the experiment (say, 6 months), then you should consider removing it in order to reduce bloat and distraction (and better allocate resources).
Chat best practices
Just adding a chat client to your site doesn’t mean you’re going to get reliable results from it. You need to make sure you’re optimizing the channel.
Train the team – On site chat means the person you have handling the channel has to know their stuff since visitors will be expecting near instantaneous responses and good answers. Good training, clear processes, FAQs and cheat sheets are the keys here.
Know when to be live – You need to dig into the analytics of your site and know what time of day (and days) visitors are on your site. You may find that while you were going to set the availability of chat at 9 AM to 5 PM Eastern, your analytics may show you that you have 50% of visitors from 6 PM to 10 PM Eastern. Understand when and why someone is on your site.
According to ApexChat’s review of nearly 8,000 businesses, 42% of chat leads occur after business hours. Also, that same study found that Mondays were the busiest and Saturdays were the slowest (no big surprise there). However, you need to base your decisions on what your company’s analytics show.
Consider chat a sales channel – If you treat chat as a way to sell or upsell visitors, then you may need to have a different type of person on your end handling it. A typical customer service representative usually just wants to answer the question and move on.
A salesperson wants to understand why the question was asked and works to make sure the lead decides the product is the right thing to solve the problem.
Be open to using chat as a marketing tool – If you have a visitor that engages with you via chat and is gushing about how well you answered their inquiry, then it may be a good idea to channel that positivity and gently ask them to like your Facebook page or post a review for your business online.
Make sure your chat works on mobile – With a large share of web traffic coming from mobile users, you need to ensure the chat client you use both look good on mobile and is easy to use on mobile.
While the thought of having to handle a visitor on the fly can paralyze some (what if we say the wrong thing or don’t know the answer?), you need to make an educated decision if it’s the right addition for your website. If you think it is, be sure to continue to study the channel to make sure the data supports your hypothesis.
If you’ve got questions about adding chat to your website, feel free to reach out to us at enotto. We’re happy to help you make your website and business better than it was yesterday.