How to choose the best live chat software

Providing on-demand customer support has become the new norm. With 49% of customers viewing quick resolution as the most important part of a customer experience, you cannot afford to leave them hanging. Live chat software is a medium that makes it easier to engage with your customers online. A modern and personal way to drive sales and improve your brand, integrating a live chat solution to provide real-time support will give your company a competitive edge.

What is live chat software?

Live chat is a broad term that encompasses any software that gives the ability for your customer support team to instantly message their customers—usually through a chat window on the company’s website or in-app. While having an FAQ in your self-service help center can give your customers a sense of autonomy, there are times when they need to speak with someone one-on-one to solve their problem. According to our latest Customer Experience Trends Report, phone support is still the most popular form of outreach, yet live chat steadily is gaining ground—especially with Millennials and Generation Z. So get ahead of the customer experience curve with a live chat software will help your business provide it’s best possible customer service.

How does live chat software work?

Adding live chat can serve many functions in your help desk. Here are some of the ways you might take advantage of those customer interactions that are almost as good as being face-to-face.

Website Visitor Chat

You have potential customers visiting your site, but for whatever reason some of them are never making it to the checkout. While there is nothing wrong with online window shopping, sometimes your customers just needed some assistance—like in a physical store.

With live chat software, you are able to proactively engage your website visitors and guide them towards a sale if they need it. Live chat solutions also give your company the option to provide customer service in real-time, so less frustrated customers slip through the cracks. Some chat services even allow agents to track customer activity or co-browse their page in order to get more context about issues and provide the best possible support.

Generate more leads

Frustrated shoppers are less likely to make a purchase. Most people don’t want to wait around if they can’t find what they are looking for on your website, so being able to reach out before they have a chance to ask for help could rescue some of those potential sales. 29% of companies surveyed in our trends report said they reach out to customers proactively in order to boost sales or notify shoppers of deals and over 75% of customers said they were fine with this or even appreciated it. These numbers indicate that not investing in live chat could really be a missed opportunity for your organization—especially given that live chat has the highest customer satisfaction rating (92%) of any support channel.

Data and Feedback

We already mentioned co-browsing, or the ability for agents to assist a website visitor on their own screen. This is just one way live chat can help you gather data on your users and work towards improving the experience your customers have on your website or mobile app.

Additionally, pre-chat surveys are a great way to save your agents time by giving them an idea of what the problem is before they interact with the customer. Post-chat surveys are useful in gathering feedback that will improve the overall customer support of your organization. Surveys are also good for qualifying leads, as chat software can be set to request basic information from website visitors before connecting them to an agent. Most chat tools even allow you to automate these surveys so every live chat interaction a potential customer has with your business becomes an opportunity to improve your operation.

What makes good live chat software?

Now you may be starting to see the benefits of making live chat a part of your help desk. But what features should a good live chat tool have? And what type of solution is the best one for your business’s size and scope?

Important features

Interactivity

A 2017 report by Forrester's found that customers are three times more likely to make a purchase when they are proactively engaged on a company’s website. This is probably because the same report found that 83% of online shoppers need help completing a purchase. This means having features like smart triggers that will engage customers based on specific scenarios—like an abandoned shopping cart—could help close more deals for your business.

AI-powered chatbots—programs that simulate human conversation—can also extend the reach of your customer service team by letting you automate answers to simple questions like those about shipping or price. This frees your agents up to tackle the complicated inquiries that might require a more nuanced answer or an on-going conversation. For your agents to have more authentic conversations with website visitors, features like file transfers allow them to send screenshots or product guides that might solve the problem quicker—maybe even a gif or meme for that personalized touch.

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A good all-in-one chat solution should allow you to track your metrics—making your return on investment very apparent. Setting benchmarks for agent productivity or tracking conversion goals and chat history could help your organization see where potential leads may be slipping out of your sales pipeline.

Having live chat software that can monitor real-time data like chat volume and visitor experience will help your company create a knowledge base—making it easier to anticipate customer needs and increasing overall CSAT.

Customizability

Your live chat solution should be as much a part of your brand as anything else on your website. Maybe you want your chat widget to display speech bubbles rather than simple lines, or maybe you need a different color theme for each section of your website. Regardless of what it is, software with customizable features will help your organization keep a consistent brand voice as it implements this new technology.

But beyond looking good, your chat service needs the ability to do things specific to your industry. If you need your mobile app’s chat window to connect directly to dispatch agents but the website chat can be less urgent, your live chat software should be able to seamlessly connection to any APIs you may have in place. Customizability ensures that your live chat is a great way to foster engagement across all your platforms.

Organization

While live chat is making life easier for your customers, ideally it should be doing the same for your agents. Simple features like chat routing—which automatically assigns chats to active agents—will take pressure off your customer service team and ensure website visitors are being served promptly. Being able to route chats to specific departments also lets your business expand to accommodate a variety of regions and languages. Some software also enables businesses to set operating hours for their chat widget, so customers aren’t trying to reach an agent when nobody is around.

What's best for your business

Like any software investment, determining the balance between price and available features is an important part of choosing a live chat software. Some factors that may play into your considerations are:

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You get what you pay for and with live chat that usually comes down to what features your business needs. While some providers offer a free plan option, these usually only come with one or two agent seats and limited functionality. The price range for paid live chat services is quite large as some companies offer their product for $20-30 per agent per month and others might have you paying close to 100$.

Some software will be priced per lead generated or according to website traffic. Taking the pricing policy into consideration may help your business improve its bottom line by choosing the smartest option—retail organizations for example may not want to pay based on website traffic as they will have seasonal spikes that could throw off their budgets. This is when it becomes important to research what live chat tools your organization needs and to what extent.

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How much you pay for live chat will partly be determined by the size and scope or your organization.

Startups for example will likely be more concerned about getting their help desk set up than the initial scale of it. In terms of live chat, a startup usually looks for easy-to-use software that can be quickly integrated to the rest of their CRM systems. Although, startups need a simple solution, they also need a solution that can easily scale for when the time to grow comes.

Small to medium businesses (SMBs) have probably had a customer service department for a few years already and live chat may be the newest support solution they are looking to add. For small businesses, versatility and scalability are important as they grow towards an enterprise-level. Yet small businesses should also look for live chat software with good data collection capabilities and that can integrate well into an omnichannel solution.

Once your company needs over 100 seats in your help desk, it is probably time to get some enterprise-grade software. Now that you’re paying premium you should be expecting features like unlimited chats, chat history tracking, and month-to-month data analytics. Enterprise companies should realistically also be paying for solutions with improved security measures, as the amount of data they interact with will be more sensitive.

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What you are trying to sell will inform what kind of live chat solution is right for your business. As mentioned, retail companies will likely have seasonal staff and therefore could benefit from software that easily allows temporary access to part-time agents. Likewise, some organizations must place more emphasis on the real-time, on-demand aspect of chat, while other businesses may be able to afford a bit of wait time. Be sure to carefully consider what the industry standard is and whether your organization needs to be well above that or is fine with being on-par.

To learn more about live chat and find out if the software is right for your business check out this free demo for Zendesk Chat