Telephone support is great when it works.
The customer has a problem, so they contact a customer service team. They dial an easily found low-cost phone number, which is quickly answered. The person answering the phone knows how to solve the customer’s problem and provides clear information that resolves the query. The call ends.
Unfortunately, it’s not like that in the real world.
Long wait times, confusing menu options, and overseas call centers frequently combine to give a poor customer experience – just when your customers need you the most.
Have you thought about using live chat instead?
When you consider that the primary objective for a person contacting your customer service team is to have their problem solved quickly, does it matter whether they speak to a person or not?
I’d argue that in most cases, the channel used is less important than the outcome. You want cost-effective and efficient customer support solutions. And live chat has many benefits over the telephone support alternative.
This article considers seven ways that live chat outscores telephone support. First, I’ll look at how live chat benefits customer service and then examine cost optimisation gains.
Customer Service Benefits
1. Communicating, Storing, and Retrieving Data.
Many customer service calls require the accurate transfer of information from one party to the other. Details like an email, physical address, or contact number sometimes need revising.
If a customer calls and wishes to change her email address, then achieving this via telephone support can be a lengthy process. The customer needs to communicate a long string of text and numbers and (because she can’t recall the phonetic alphabet) desperately tries to think of cities and countries;
“erm… A… for… er… Azerbaijan.”
Live chat alternatively makes it easy to communicate information quickly and accurately, and there is no requirement to repeat any letters or numbers.
Many businesses also record customer telephone conversations for training or security purposes. From time to time, there is a need to review a conversation. With telephone support calls, this can often be a long process, as it likely needs to be listened to in full again with specific sections rewound and replayed.
With text chat, retrieval of information is much faster. Supervisors can read a support session more quickly, and the whole chat log is searchable by keyword. So you find relevant sections more swiftly.
Customers also get to keep their record of the conversation too, which they can review to clarify anything not understood at first.
2. Live Chat Is Portable.
Sometimes a live chat support session can’t achieve a resolution immediately. A business may need to liaise with a senior manager, or a customer may need to access essential information later.
In this situation, live chat can be more than just a widget on the website. Live chat can accommodate the quirks of a support call and prevent the need to start a new session from the beginning again.
Suppose a customer telephones your customer support on their lunch break, they hold for ten minutes and are transferred twice before speaking to the right department. The customer explains their problem, but a critical piece of information required by support is at the customer’s home.
Unfortunately, the customer will have to wait until they go home, then start the process from the start again. With live chat, your team could simply transfer the chat to the customers WhatsApp account for them to continue the session when they have access to the required information.
There is no need for the customer to begin the process again, saving them time and stress. The customer support team member just needs to review the existing chat to continue the session.
3. Prevent Customer Loss From Busy Phone Lines.
You can only resolve a customer problem if you know it exists. Telephone helplines are constrained in two ways; the number of phone lines available and the number of staff on hand to tend the phones.
If a customer needing support telephones you and the phone lines are jammed, or there is no staff on hand to answer the call, then the problem doesn’t exist as far as the business is concerned.
Live chat ensures that you are aware of every attempt to contact your support team. If you are not available when the customer reaches out, or the customer closes off the support session before you start the chat with them, you can always send an email to enquire if they still need assistance.
4. Live Chat Has the Best Response Time.
Live chat has the shortest response time of any channel. Average wait times for email support are measured in hours, whereas average live chat response times are counted in minutes.
A recent survey from Super Office found that the average response time was 17 hours for email, 10 hours for social media, and just two minutes for live chat.
Just think of the difference this could make to a customer. Some customer support needs are time-sensitive, for example. If you run a travel agency and your customer hasn’t received a booking confirmation, he needs to check-in at the airport. Responding quickly to this support need could ensure your customer catches their plane and starts their vacation on the right foot.
With live chat, you can also proactively offer support too. Suppose you make live chat available on the high-ticket products or services on your website. In that case, you can prompt an inquiry from an undecided customer and potentially enable an otherwise lost transaction.
Cost Optimisation Gains
A phone conversation requires the undivided attention of a customer support worker, and each support rep can only deal with one telephone inquiry at a time. Telephone calls require concentration, too, as each party is either speaking or actively listening 100% of the time.
Live chat doesn’t follow the same active/passive pattern, meaning neither party has to give live chat their continuous full attention. We expect a short pause before receiving a chat response, as each participant gathers their thoughts and chooses what to type next.
These short pauses enable an efficient customer support worker to handle more than one support session concurrently. Plus, support staff can use a database of resources and canned responses to copy and paste answers to routine questions to handle them efficiently.
It’s not just your business that benefits from live chat multi-tasking; the customer gets to multitask too. When a customer initiates a live chat support session, they understand that there will be a short delay before connecting to an operator. But instead of having to wait on hold, they can carry on with whatever they were doing until their browser notifies them the session has started.
Consider this; a customer has registered for your SaaS product but can’t work out how to import their data. While they initiate a live chat support session, they tab over to their email and process their email inbox while waiting for the chat widget’s ping. The customer won’t face the distraction or irritability of waiting on hold for telephone support.
6. Cost Savings and Competitive Advantage.
Live chat is cheaper to deploy than a telephone support channel and doesn’t require costly telephone helpdesk infrastructure. Yes, VOIP calling has reduced call charges in recent years. But the infrastructure necessary for telephone support, particularly as we move towards a home-working workforce, remains high.
Live chat instead uses existing computing and data resources so you can add it to your customer service department relatively cheaply. Or even leverage your workforce’s home internet connection to provide support.
The 18-49 age group prefers live chat over phone support, and telephone support only just edges out live chat in the older age groups. So offering a live chat support channel can help a business gain a low-cost competitive advantage over your rivals yet to launch live chat.
7. Increase Order Values.
Live chat can be the online equivalent of a bricks and mortar personal shopper. With live chat on hand to answer any customer queries about your products or services, you can help enable sales and reduce cart abandonment.
Barriliance found that 32% of abandoned shopping carts were due to issues that could likely be rescued by live chat support. Confusing checkout, concerns about payment security, and a lack of coupon codes are all problems that can be rectified quickly via live chat.
For example, a shopper’s mouse hovers over the checkout button as they contemplate a high-ticket purchase, but they have a concern. They notice that you don’t accept Paypal and have reservations about using their credit card.
If live chat is on hand, and they react to a prompt asking if everything is OK. Your support team can reassure the shopper that your website encrypts the checkout process, so it’s safe to enter their credit card details – and the sale is rescued.
Shoppers are more likely to interact with a chat widget that proactively asks if they require quick assistance than calling a support number to complete a checkout process.
Telephone Support Still Has a Place
As you can see from the preceding seven points that live chat has many advantages over telephone support. It can’t replace all of a customer’s support requirements, however.
Angry customers are usually not well served by live chat. Text chat lacks the tone and delivery of a telephone conversation, and the nuance of communication is reduced. A human voice is more trustworthy than text, and the warmth of more personal interaction may result in a better outcome with dissatisfied customers.
When considering adopting a live chat support system, you should also consider your customers’ demographics. If your customer base is disproportionally older, you will need to think about a telephone support line. More senior people, on the whole, prefer to talk to a real human than communicate via text.
While telephone support has a place and is essential for some customers (particularly angry ones), you miss a step if you don’t have live chat in place on your website.
You get a record of every customer that reaches out with a query, which is not possible if your phone lines are jammed up. And live chat technology makes it possible to transfer support sessions to alternative platforms and continue at the customer’s convenience.
The biggest benefit of implementing a live chat channel is the cost and efficiency savings you can expect. Customer support representatives can communicate with your customers faster, plus with preparation and training, they can handle more than a single session at once.
Finally, placing live chat widgets on your website can increase average order values by helping out customers, just when they were about to hit the back button.
Live chat is cost-effective, can reach the customer rapidly, and is convenient for most. Why wouldn’t you use live chat?