Live chat has firmly planted itself in both the B2B and B2C spaces, and every year hundreds of companies decide to conduct their online sales and/or support efforts through a live chat service for the first time. Yet, have you ever stopped to think about the key role that demographics play in the live chat sphere? Craig Borowski of Software Advice wanted to explore this very question, and recounted his findings in this recent study. We had a chance to chat with Craig about his findings, detailed below!
SnapEngage: Which specific aspects of live chat correspondence do you feel appeal to those aged 18-34? Which psychological and/or lifestyle traits of those in this age bracket make these aspects of live chat more appealing than other forms of communication?
Craig: “It’s the immediacy of live chat that Millennials find so appealing. Immediate, instant results appeal to them primarily because they’re more used to getting them than other generations. Having grown up in the age of high-speed Internet access, with nearly ubiquitous mobile data networks and richer online resources, they’re used to having the answers always at their fingertips, so the prospect of writing an email and waiting for a reply is, by contrast, not at all appealing.
On the other hand, this isn’t to say that other generations don’t appreciate immediacy. They certainly do. The main difference being that unlike Millennials they’re less likely to expect it. In that sense, live chat has even more to offer to older generations. It’s a chance to really impress them with a new type of help desk service solution.”
SnapEngage: Describe a common barrier experienced by businesses when implementing a live chat solution, and how businesses could take steps to overcome this barrier.
Craig: “Most of the common barriers businesses run into when implementing live chat stem from not fully understanding live chat from their customer’s point of view. It’s not uncommon for a business to consider implementing live chat by asking traditionally business-oriented questions: Can live chat improve sales? Can it increase conversions on our site? Can we improve our first-contact-resolution rate by offering service and support on live chat? When implemented correctly, the answer to all these questions will almost certainly be Yes.
However, designing a live chat implementation with only these types of bottom-line goals is not the best approach. Instead, a business should carefully appraise how their customers are currently using their online resources. What pages do they view most often? What actions do they take on those pages? Are they returning to the same pages again and again? After understanding the variety of interactions customers are having with their existing website, a business will have a better idea about how to most effectively implement live chat. They’ll avoid the common barriers (poor adoption, unprepared agents) and the bottom-line goals mentioned above will follow.”
SnapEngage: According to your research, which negative aspects of phone and email correspondence are not present in live chat?
Craig: “If you’ve ever emailed a company with a customer support question, you probably received a reply moments later. Did that reply answer your question? Probably not. Chances are it was just an automated response stating that your email was received. Your real answer may not arrive for another 2 – 4 business days. While email can be an effective support channel, and some companies do prioritize fast, helpful responses, the simple fact is that email is not a real-time communication channel. Once you send one, you can only sit back and wait for a reply.
Live chat is a real-time channel. You ask a question and a reply follows immediately. If the agent needs more information to help you, they ask for it immediately. If for some reason they still cannot answer your question, they can explain why they can’t and let you know when they will. So even if the customer doesn’t get an instant answer— though they often do— they’re kept in the loop and know when to expect one. They’re not kept in the dark waiting for an email reply.
Phone is a real-time channel, but it comes with its own rocky history and cultural baggage. For decades, consumers have been trained, albeit inadvertently, to expect long hold times, IVRs that speak slowly and listen poorly, and repeated requests to repeat the same information over again. It doesn’t matter if your company’s phone line does none of those things. The fact remains, many consumers expect these inconveniences whenever they call a larger company.
While live chat and phone are both real-time channels, live chat has many important advantages. Not least of which is the fact that it doesn’t carry the historical baggage of phone communication. Customers don’t engage live chat with lowered expectations, as is so often the case with phone.”
SnapEngage: Do you see any trends emerging in terms of specific business sectors that are especially well-suited for live chat interactions with customers and prospects?
Craig: “E-commerce and online-shopping businesses are especially well suited for live chat and it’s likely that adoption in that sphere will remain very strong. Use of live chat to provide customer service and support will continue to grow and likely spread to more verticals. Industries with specific regulatory requirements, like healthcare and finance, are starting to look at live chat as a viable option now that more live chat platforms incorporate the security and encryption needed to meet compliance.
Apart from those uses, I think we can all look forward to seeing more creative implementations of live chat as more companies discover what it brings to the table. As I mentioned above, it’s critical that businesses approach a live chat implementation with a customer’s point of view. As more do this, and look beyond the traditional metrics of business like increased sales, more uses for live chat will be discovered. There’s a lot to look forward to.”
SnapEngage: What are some of the primary points a business should consider when selecting a live chat provider?
Craig: “They should consider how easily it will integrate with their website and with whatever software they use internally. They need to ensure it will be customizable to their exact needs (the exact needs of their customers). And they need to be comfortable with the pricing and deployment models, the contract and the QoS terms and know that the platform will scale with projected growth.”
SnapEngage: Successful live chat efforts are reported across even the highest age brackets in this report; how do you feel companies with older target audiences will approach live chat in the future after taking into account these new findings?
Craig: “That was one of the most interesting findings in this report: that people of all ages, including seniors, are attracted to the same qualities of live chat, it’s convenience and immediacy, that make it great. I spoke with many businesses who had recently implemented live chat. Their impressions were overwhelmingly positive. A few that cater specifically to older consumers did mention that, at first, it was challenging to get more customers using it. Live chat can be implemented very unobtrusively, such that customers need to look for it. If customers aren’t aware that it’s an option, then they might miss out, and this can often be the case with less tech-savvy or older customers.
In these cases, it helps to be more proactive with live chat. Have the chat window appear earlier in the customer’s visit to the site, have it begin by offering very specific messages— not generic “How may I help?”— based on what the company understands about their customers and how they’re using the website.”