Live Chat for e-commerce

E-commerce didn’t eliminate the need for live help and live customer service. Support web sites and e-retailers need to meet service needs at an acceptable cost.

Live telephone support is expensive. It is not cost effective and can be frustrating. Customers using telephone support are often asked to key in the digits of their credit card. One mistake and you are out! And what if your credit card was lost, and you are reporting it stolen? FAQs and web help solutions don’t meet the needs of the customers. Either they are too simple to give the needed information, or so complex that almost nobody can find the information.

Live chat provides a low cost and better alternative for many customer queries and sales needs. At growing number of e-retailers and e-commerce sites of all kinds are turning to live chat for eCommerce customer service.

Live chat is just getting started, but it is taking off pretty quickly as customers get used to the idea. Forrester Research reported that in 2003, 30% of online customers used live chat for customer service when it was available, whereas only 19% used it in 2001. Live chat is estimated to be used by nearly 60% of e-shoppers in 2007, according to Forrester.

Live chat operators can be located anywhere in the world, and be ready to provide 24/7 personalized customer service.

Online Australian jewelry retailer Sharon Wild reports, “I have found that live chat works very well in quashing those niggling questions that would otherwise prevent sales. The feedback received from our customers who have used live chat through our web sites has been overwhelmingly positive.” “Live help helps,” she asserts. Wild writes:

“The majority of business web sites were designed on the premise that consumers would purchase any time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without the need to first interact with a sales or customer service representative.”

“The self-service model unfortunately does not recognise that some consumers still want the assurance of live communication.”

The option increasingly proving to be an effective tool in meeting customers’ needs is live chat services.

Live Chat for eCommerce provides cheaper customer support
Live chat is cheaper than telephone support. Live help agents can usually service several customers at a time with live chat. Forrester research estimates that the average chat session costs about $3 to $5, while the average telephone session costs about $10. Others estimate the cost of an average live chat session at about one dollar, and estimate that telephone customer service calls can cost from $6 to $20. The cost estimates depend on the diversity of customer needs in different industries, and the different styles of customer service in different firms.

Live Chat provides better customer satisfaction
Customers can get more satisfaction using live chat because:

  • Support can be available 24/7
  • It’s fast and easy
  • There is no need to input identification information
  • Written responses and instructions are clear. There is no need to remember or write down live help instructions as is often the case with telephone support. If the customer is to be directed to a specific web page for performing a transaction or getting information, a good chat system can “push” the URL, so all the customer has to do is click, rather than writing down complex instructions. Live chat can even open a new web page for the customer.

Of course, live chat for eCommerce doesn’t necessarily suit every customer, sales or service need, but it can provide a cheaper and better
solution than telephone support in most cases.

Live chat is better customer help for vendors
Live chat has numerous benefits for venders, including some unique advantages over telephone support:

  • How may I help you? Like a live salesperson, live chat can send an invitation while a customer is browsing, while telephone service can only help a customer who asks for help.
  • Stop shopping cart abandonment. Over half of e-commerce web shopping carts are abandoned without filling the order. Live chat allows live help customer support agents to intervene and provide guidance to the confused, and enticing offers to others.
  • Better conversion. Retailers estimate that live chats increase the likelihood of making a sale. One retailer claims that live chat increases the probability of a sale by 20%. Another claims that 15% of live chats result in sales. This is a remarkable achievement, considering that 98% of site visitors don’t usually buy anything.
  • Who is calling? Live chat can tell vendors what pages the caller has visited, so the customer service representative knows what products interest the customer.
  • Is this a customer or a problem? Live chat can give the customer service representative the support history of the caller. Is this caller a perennial complainer or someone just “shooting the breeze?” Or is this caller a big spender? Who serviced their calls previously?
  • The personal touch. A good live chat service allows vendors to show a picture of the customer service representative for the personal touch.
  • Metrics and performance monitoring. A good live chat service gives management a written, searchable transcript of every call, allowing tracking of customer service representative performance, analysis of most frequent queries and extraction of data that can help improve the service and make it more efficient.
  • Canned messages save labor time. A live chat service can allow vendors to set up pre-set messages for the most frequent queries, saving additional customer service representative time.
  • Instant communication alternative. Live chat is faster than email and telephone.
  • Identify opportunities. Live chat interactions allow live help agents to spot opportunities for up-sales and cross-sales.
  • Understand the market. Real-time data about consumer behavior help vendors sport opportunities to identify intentions and missing services, and to create new strategies for adapting and influencing those behaviors.

Live chat for eCommerce sales and customer service
E-commerce sites often use live chat first as a sales tool. When a shopper is taking too long at checkout or in browsing through the site, live help agents can intervene and prevent the visitor from leaving the site without buying. But live chat is increasingly being used for customer service as well, allowing interactive help that is based on customer history and needs.

Live chat: A better alternative for customer satisfaction
Live chat for eCommerce fills the need for interactive customer support in e-commerce, increasing customer satisfaction at lower cost than alternatives, decreasing abandonment of web shopping carts and increasing conversion rates.