Written by guest author Jordan Wahl (G2 Crowd).
In recent years, the use of live chat software has become commonplace in many industries – not just the customer service space. Historically, companies started using live chat to offer the company’s end-users a portal to get their questions answered quickly. But as live chat providers continue to add more capabilities to their tools, businesses have started using chat as an integral part of marketing, sales, and customer service strategies.
Consider lead generation. You can use live chat as a lead generation tool to fuel your inbound marketing strategy! How? Every website visitor has the opportunity to interact with your live chat agents. So, why not take advantage of that? With live chat, you can connect to your visitors, understand their needs, provide them with information, and guide them through the site to help them fulfill their needs.
Think of live chat as a bridge connecting your inbound marketing work with your sales team. In the end, it can help your business convert more and sell more. Pretty neat. It doesn’t stop there, though. Businesses are learning to work smarter, not harder by using live chat to benefit their businesses.
I’m here to share five things you should consider before selecting a live chat provider for your business. As a former live chat agent, I’ve experienced both client-facing chat and the vendor decision-making process firsthand.
1. What are you trying to accomplish?
Are you an e-commerce business looking to increase conversions and improve customer experience? Looking for a new way to decrease the customer support request emails flooding your inbox? Trying to generate new marketing-qualified leads (MQLs) for your inbound sales team?
All of the above are practical ways to integrate live chat into your business. But in order to choose the right tool with the features you need, you’ll need to understand what you’re trying to accomplish in the first place. Once you understand which problem(s) you’re trying to solve with the tool, you’ll be able to narrow down providers based on your company’s needs in a product.
Speaking of product needs, it’s a good idea to gather critical business requirements right off the bat before you begin the search. Are there any non-negotiable requirements you’re aware of? For example, if your organization handles sensitive patient information, your search will automatically be restricted to HIPAA-compliant chat vendors only.
2. Quality customer support and client success
When it comes to onboarding a new tool, there’s a big chance you will need support along the way. New tools can be complex and it may take some time for your staff to be fully comfortable and explore all of the tool’s capabilities. That being said, it’s important to consider the quality of customer service you’ll receive along the way.
For starters, understand the hours that the live chat provider’s customer support will be available. Is it based in a different country? If so, does its business hours align with your business hours? Is there a language barrier? (I’d advise steering clear of any providers whose hours and language don’t overlap with yours).
Secondly, is the company easy to get ahold of if needed? Does the provider offer any additional support in the initial onboarding phase of the product? Does the provider offer training services for admins and chat agents? What about ongoing success reviews?
These are all important questions to investigate before deciding on a chat provider. The better a chat vendor can demonstrate their commitment to quality customer support, onboarding and training services, and overall client education – the more successful your chat program will be.
3. The product pricing model
This may seem like a no-brainer, but be sure to understand all of the fees associated with each product you’re considering. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) generally has two pricing models: a concurrent user license or a per-seat license.
When it comes to deciding which is best for you and your business, one major piece that should be taken into consideration is the size of the team that will be using the product. For example, a per-seat license model might work well for smaller and midsize companies. But if you’re an enterprise company with hundreds of employees that will need access to the product, you might be better off budget-wise with a concurrent user license.
It’s not only important to understand the pricing model of the product as a whole but to also be aware of any extra fees that are associated with the product at the time of purchase and during your contract phase with the provider. For example, are there specific features you need that are considered add-ons to the base price? Be sure to clarify this question while you research pricing to avoid surprises later on.
4. Simple user interface
In the digital world we live in, it’s incredibly easy to become overwhelmed by the complexity of some products. If something is complicated or hard to use (even if it just seems difficult to use at first glance) the experience can be stressful.
To avoid a less-than-stellar experience for anyone involved, choose a provider whose product is not only easy to use for the end-user (website visitors), but also for your chat agents that will be operating the chat on the backend.
This starts with choosing a simple, intuitive user interface. Is the chat box appealing to the end-user and easy to customize to match your unique branding? Is the backend easy to navigate for your agents? If the chat box is inviting, the consumer will be more compelled to engage. And if the product is easy to use, the faster your team will be able to become fully trained in the product (resulting in more efficient agents and happier customers).
5. Useful reporting and analytics
This goes hand-in-hand with #1. Depending on what you’re using the product for and what you’re looking to measure, you might require different types of reporting and analytics.
For example, if you’re using the live chat tool mainly for customer support, you might want to generate a report on agent response times and customer wait times. Let’s face it, we live in a world where people hate waiting. In order to keep visitors happy, you’ll want to keep response times quick and wait times low, so being able to analyze these will allow you to improve your team’s performance.
Or say you’re using the tool for lead generation. You might want to look at chat conversion rates to better optimize your agents’ responses, which keeps prospects moving through the inbound marketing and sales funnel.
No matter what it may be, consider what reporting and analytics you want in an ideal live chat tool to make sure you will have access to the analytics you need to improve your ongoing chat strategies and make data-driven decisions.
Bonus tip: Read product reviews
I said I’d give you five, but here’s a little bonus tip: don’t forget to read product reviews! Finding the right live chat solution for your business can be a challenge, but reading real, unbiased reviews about products to see what other professionals liked and didn’t like about a product is very helpful. Spend time researching your options and understanding what will be the best investment for you in the long run.
The use of live chat is on the rise for good reason. It’s a great opportunity to answer questions quickly and give the end-user a positive experience, all while providing countless other sales and support benefits to your business. Researching these initial questions will provide you with a great start to your vendor search.
About the Author
Jordan Wahl is a content marketing specialist for G2 Crowd’s Learn hub, a B2B software review site with over 450,000 user-verified reviews. You can find Jordan on Twitter (@jordwahl).