"We [ran] these analytics the last couple weeks about the live chat functionality we have on our site," said Ryan Thornton, director of customer success at Quorum, a SIPA member in the legislative data field. (They are not a publisher per se, but Kevin King does write an excellent weekly blog for them.)
"And we found that 70% of our clients have used that live chat functionality, which to us was an astonishing number. It clearly demonstrates that it is providing value to our clients because it is an easy way to provide them with access to our team without having to send an email or call us up."
This was the second morning reference to the live chat function at last month's SIPA Customer Onboarding and Retention one-day conference in Washington, D.C. The first came from Heather Farley, the COO for Access Intelligence, who led off. She said that online chat has changed the way that her company communicates with customers.
"It's helped us with our overall customer engagement," she said. "Anybody who's not doing an online chat [should consider starting one]. It's the typical bubble box that pops up. There are people who will not call customer service but if they can engage in an anonymous way, [they will do that].
"We've seen our inbound call volume go down, while our revenue has gone up. So it's a very expeditious way to solve problems—for less than $3,000 a year it's really cost efficient. We get three licenses so three inbound customer service reps can be in the system at the same time." (They use Boldchat.)
Anyone on the customer side of a transaction has probably used an online chat feature. First you saw it with software companies and big online product companies. But it makes sense for anyone dealing with customers on a regular basis.
I've used it recently with travel companies. It's funny though; you get so used to the ease and immediacy of live chat, that when it's not available, you feel shorted. At first, that travel company had their live chat open on Saturdays, but now it says they'll get back to you Monday.
That's one of the lessons that a site called Brandignity mentioned in an article last month by Maciej Fita titled How to Create an Approachable Live Chat Box for Strong Conversions. Here are more:
1. Show that you're a company wanting to talk to customers. "A well-placed chat box allows your visitors to chat with you in real time and lets you address any concerns so you can provide up-to-the-minute customer service that will put you ahead of the competition," Fita wrote. "Live chat is considered helpful by 90% of consumers."
2. Make it easy to find. Because not everyone expects this box to appear, you need to make it really stand out, (As opposed to an "About" feature which we may not mind hunting for.) If you don't do that, people may just assume you don't have one. Often you them in the bottom right.
3. Keep it open as users scroll and move to other pages. "There is nothing more annoying to a user than being in the middle of a chat box session, clicking on [an inside] link and suddenly losing the entire chat."
4. Make it friendly. Brandignity posts, "Anna has joined the conversation. Hi, thanks for stopping by Brandignity! If you have any questions regarding our services we're right here." You might even want to put a face to it, real or otherwise.
5. Give it a little personality. "There is no hard and fast rule that your chat box has to be boring. You can certainly add a little branding, personality and fun to the process."
6. Make your site consistent. "The support link should appear in all the pages of your site so navigation is simple for site visitors."
7. Give it a similar look and color scheme. "Your chat box should mesh well with the overall look of your site, and there should be a nice contrast between background and text." On Exodus Travels, a live chat bar comes up in the bottom right that fits well into the color design and layout.
All of that day's sessions can be viewed by members here.