Paperclip provides Live Chat to many of its telephone answering and booking services clients. This blog is a primer on Live Chat. It explains what it is, how you can get it on your website, how to avoid simple mistakes and, most importantly, how to make the most of it. We hope you enjoy it.

What is Live Chat?

Although you may not have referred to it as Live Chat, there is a good chance you have already used it on at least one occasion. If you are under-35 you probably engage with it frequently to help you make decisions when shopping online.

If you are on a web page and an icon appears asking whether you need any help, this is Live Chat. There is a text box which you can use to ask questions of the Live Chat agent: ‘How many toilets are there in the property I am browsing?’, ‘Can I have an initial free exploratory meeting with a solicitor ?’, ‘Does the kennel accommodate dogs – your dog – of a nervous disposition?’. The agent responds, answers your query and you book the kennel, arrange to meet the solicitor, book to view the property with its multiple bathrooms. Simple.

How do I get it?

And, in general, it is just that: simple. Adding it to your website requires the addition of some simple code. If you are web savvy you can do it yourself, or your web designer can add it. At Paperclip, when we engage with a new Live Chat client we add the code for you.

Do you need it? Yes, but…

Having said that it is simple, a word of caution: done badly it can potentially damage your brand and your customer service. Before we run through the numerous benefits of Live Chat, here are a few of the pitfalls to avoid:

  • Don’t make your Live Chat oppressive

If your Live Chat avatar appears on screen immediately your customer or prospect may feel they are being pressured. Just like walking into a shop and an assistant immediately asking if you need any help before you’ve had the opportunity to browse. Live Chat software allows you to delay the appearance of the icon. For example, depending on your product or service you may want to let the visitor browse a page for 30 seconds before the icon appears. This amount of time spent on a page self-selects the visitor as probably being interested in what you have to offer.

  • Don’t make the visitor wait

Research indicates that customers are willing to wait longer for a Live Chat response than, for example, a telephone answer; one of the advantages often cited for Live Chat is that the customer is able to ‘multi-task’ when using it. However, longer than 30 seconds and the customer may, quite reasonably, start to think that they have been abandoned. This can be extremely damaging to your reputation.

  • Think of your audience

Equity release, the ability to access some of the equity in your property for income, holidays or any one of many other reasons, is a product targeted primarily at the over-60s. This demographic rarely uses Live Chat. They are much more likely to engage with you if you make it easy for them to phone you or, in the case of my 85 year-old Dad, write to you!

  • Be professional

The language used by a customer on Live Chat tends to be less formal than, for example, in an email. The response of the Live Chat agent can reflect this to some extent, but the default should always be to remain professional. Misjudging tone and mood can quickly lead to confrontation.

  • Complexity

Complexity and Live Chat are generally not good bedfellows. If the product or service you supply is complex then it is probably better to encourage the potential customer to phone you rather than engage in a long and extended Live Chat exchange.

  • Don’t dumb down

As humans we are all, by definition, complex creatures. Whilst they may reduce Live Chat costs, using standard scripts, chatbots and repetition soon frustrate. They rarely fulfil the ‘effective’ in cost-effective.

Do you need it? Yes, because…

None of the points raised above – with the possible exception of demographics – are game changers. Most websites would benefit enormously from engaging with visitor using Live Chat. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • Sales

Depending on what your read, 70-80% of purchasing journeys start with an online search. If you’ve invested in your website, have a strong customer service ethos and, most importantly, don’t want a potential sales opportunity to slip through the net then you should use Live Chat.

  • The way we ‘shop’ is changing

Over 50% of search is now on mobile platforms. We ‘search’ in the passenger seat, on the train, at work. Depending on your fellow travellers or co-workers, these environments may be more conducive to Live Chat than an email or telephone call.

  • Customer services

Live Chat is intuitively a good thing if you believe in customer service. Being available to your prospective client at their ‘time of need’ is hugely beneficial in terms of closing a sales or resolving a service issue. Even if the Live Chat agent doesn’t have the specific answer required they can point the visitor to other resources on the website – FAQs, white papers, case studies, testimonials – that help the visitor make a decision.

  • Live Chat is a warm lead

When the visitor engages with your Live Chat there is considerable contextual information available to the Live Chat agent to shape the conversation. They know the page the visitor is on, they know their search history, and they know how long the visitor has been on that specific page. On many platforms they will be able to access any previous conversations with the visitor.

  • Identify pain points

Live Chat helps identify general customer ‘pain points’. Live Chat conversations can be saved, filtered and searched. Trends can be identified and action taken to ease the ‘pain’. Live Chat can generate excellent analytics that can feed into all sorts of aspects of service delivery and customer communications.

  • Competitive advantage

Live Chat is still relatively rare in the UK. If you are the first solicitor, estate agent, IT support company to offer it to your target market, this can give you a considerable competitive advantage.

  • The international dimension

Live Chat is advantageous if you sell, or are wanting to sell, into international markets. Whilst English is often referred to as the lingua franca of international commerce, most people with English as a second language are much more comfortable writing it than speaking it. Live Chat gives your international audience more time to compose their questions and understand the Live Chat agent’s responses.

So, do you need it? Probably yes…

Start with the proposition that it is most likely to be a good thing and then see if you can find compelling reasons to contradict this position. We believe you will arrive at the conclusion that you should at least try it.

How do I get the most from Live Chat?

  • Style

With most Live Chat software you have considerable flexibility to design your ‘icon’ to reflect your branding and culture. It could be a photo of the chat agent complete with name, an avatar, or simply a question bubble in your company colours.

  • Honesty

If you do add Live Chat to your website do you have the systems, procedures and, most importantly, the manpower to operate it effectively. It’s important to remember that Live Chat is not email. Users expect a quick, if not immediate, response.

  • Partnership

One alternative is to use an experienced and professional Live Chat provider like Paperclip as your Live Chat partner. We respond as your avatar/icon; your customer isn’t aware they are talking to a third party. Like our telephone answering and booking/reservations/appointment services, we work with you to agree the rules to follow, the questions you want us to answer, whether/how we can have access to your back office systems to take orders, bookings etc. Our IT Manager will work with you to insert the necessary code on to your website and make sure it is working correctly.

So, how do I start?

As a starting point visit www.paperclip.co.uk and Live Chat us to see how the system works. Alternatively, call us on 01246 418181 and we’ll answer your questions over the phone.

Whatever you do, don’t sleep whilst your competitors chat!

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