When used appropriately, chat on a website is a great tool. But if implemented badly it can also be a real frustration.
Because of this I thought it would be worth giving some of my experiences with chat. Outlining the ways to implement it effectively, maximising benefits whilst minimising frustrations.
Not all Chat systems are equal.
There are a lot of chat systems out there from cheap and cheerful to fully integrated chat, customer service and ticketing systems. The first thing to consider is which one is right for you?
Our experience has been it two systems, Zen Desk and Livechat. Whilst I am not aiming to create a full review here, I can say that our experiece with both LiveChat and Zendesk have been positive. They are both easy to integrate into a website (Both have wordpress plugins) and offer the features you need to make live chat work. Whilst LiveChat is the more expensive option ($16/month compared with $5/month for the Zendesk entry level), it is the one that most of our clients are using, and has great tools for managing the appearance and functionality of the chat box on the website. Other than the price, we would not hesitate to recommend LiveChat, and if your customers value access via chat on your website $16/month should be a cost effective option.
Chat should not be a messaging system
Ok, I will hold my hands up and say that this is a personal bugbear of mine. Chat should be a live interactive medium, and should only be used if you have the resources to man it. One of the things I like about LiveChat is that it can be set to only appear on your website when you are logged into the system and ready to accept chats. That way, when someone starts chatting on your site, there is a good chance that there will be someone there to answer their questions in real time. If you are not logged in the chat box disappears. In these cases they should have other options like email and enquiry forms to contact you.
Chat boxes should not be intrusive
Another way that I think that chat is misused relates to how obtrusive the chat box is on the site. As a website user, when you need it, it should be obvious and easy to access. But when you don’t, it should not get in the way. By all means include chat pop up box after a user has been on your site for a period of time. But if they dismiss it, don’t keep nagging them. It should be their decision if they need to chat. If they don’t, the chat should not get in the way of their browsing.
Be careful of multitasking during chats
One of the benefits of chat over phone calls is you can multitask. Whilst chatting you can deal with multiple enquiries at once, or work on other tasks whist engaging with customers. When doing this however, be sure to prioritise the chat and don’t leave customers hanging for an answer to their questions. If you have to go of and find other information, or are going to take more than a few seconds to respond, then let them know.
Use chat bots effectively
Like much technology chat bots can be used or abused. If you are going to use one, I would suggest that you follow two simple rules:
- Be transparent – If a user is talking to a bot, make sure they know it. Good chat bots are effectively an “intelligent drill down menu”. They ask users a series of questions to point them to the right bit of information. If they can deliver information the user is looking for, they can be a great way to give basic technical support.
- Always offer the option to talk to a real person – Going back to my first point about the fact that chat should be a “live interactive medium”, always give the user an option to talk to a real person. Most people will go onto a chat system with a specific enquiry. If that can be answered by the bot then great. But when it can’t, you need to give them the opportunity to talk to a real person. Not doing this can easily lead to disappointment & frustration.
Follow these two rules and chat bots can be a really useful addition to the chat system.
3 Golden Rules for using Chat effectively
In summary, I will leave you with three golden rules for the effective use of chat:
- It’s not a messaging system. If you are not there to chat, don’t offer it on your site
- Leave the customer in control- Don’t nag web visitors, if they want to chat they will
- Use chat bots intelligently. Focus on the customer experience when deciding to use them.
Follow these rule and chat can really enhance your customers experience, and your ability to engage with them.