Making live chat work in eCommerce

Consumers today are more demanding than before.

When they need support, they expect answers quickly and conveniently, with some degree of personal attention.

Retailers often struggle to engage well with their customers, especially when engagement happens online. One obvious solution is live chat, which allows eCommerce businesses to chat with customers as easily as if they were friends. This has the benefits of increasing sales conversions, reducing shopping cart abandonment and, overall, boosting customer satisfaction.  

How exactly does live chat work?

Enabling live chat on a company’s website is similar to having friendly sales assistants present at a physical retail store. With live chat, consumers ‘talk’ with a support agent via a pop-up chat box on the website to ask for help such as information on the product or assistance at the checkout process. In recent years, there has been a strong growth in live chat due to its convenience, speed and user-friendly nature.

Here are a few tips to help e-commerce businesses who wish to implement live chat.

Define your business objectives

Live chat can be used to achieve different goals, so first define what you want to get out of it. It is a good idea to prioritise these goals, as different departments may want different things. Some common benefits of live chat include:

Improve customer satisfaction: Live chat typically is the fastest way to resolve a customer’s problem. Customers love it because it’s quick (the majority do not want to wait for longer than a minute for support), convenient, personal and effective. Even though live chat is relatively new compared to other help channels, it has become increasingly popular. Zendesk Benchmark results show live chat scored the highest satisfaction rates at 92 per cent, comparing well to phone (88 per cent), email (85 per cent), and social media (77-84 per cent).

Increase sales and revenue: Some consumers are hesitant to purchase a product online as they have questions, leading to high rates of shopping cart abandonment. Live chat helps to close the sale. Zendesk research found that customers are three times more likely to make a purchase, when a business reaches out to them via live chat. Other research has indicated that more than 80 per cent of customers require support when making an online purchase.

Reduce operational costs: Live chat is one of the most efficient ways to support the customer, as one agent can handle multiple conversations at the same time (compared to phone support, where an agent can only talk to one customer at a time). This means higher productivity and lower costs.

Optimise the consumer experience

When, where and how your consumer uses live chat affects whether they have a good or bad experience. Some considerations include:

Location of the pop-up chat box: Align this with the goals. For example, if the aim is to increase online sales, locate the chat box at the checkout counter. For SaaS companies, customers often base their purchase decision on a trial experience, so include chat support for those undergoing a trial. When a business first rolls out live chat, make it available on only a few web pages first. Once you become familiar with live chat, you can expand it to other web pages.

When chat is available: A good rule of thumb is to stick with regular retail hours, such as Monday to Saturday, 10am to 8pm. For those with global operations, remember to extend the support hours available. If your business has peak periods, consider increasing the number agents available during these times.  

Proactive or reactive chat: When a consumer initiates the chat, the agent responds reactively. When the agent initiates the chat, this is proactive. Retailers can set up triggers to alert them when to be proactive. For example, if a consumer spends a few minutes at the checkout, a trigger can automatically initiate a chat asking if he needs help.

Who can access the chat: To keep live chat manageable, you may wish to limit it to specific group of people, for example, VIP customers.

Integrate live chat with other support tools

The beauty of live chat is that it can integrate seamlessly with your business’ other support tools, such as phone, email, social media, an FAQ page or online forums. While providing support across multiple channels can be challenging, it is necessary as different consumers favour different platforms. To make things easier, businesses can install a customer service platform that allows agents to conveniently monitor all channels from one dashboard. This will ensure that no customer’s query falls through the gaps, and that all customers enjoy a consistent support experience.

Live chat can be instrumental in helping your business to succeed. By defining the objectives, optimising the customer experience and integrating live chat with other support, you are well on your way to chatting to your customers like a friend!

Shun Chen


* Shun Chen is the GM of Chat at Zendesk, a leading cloud-based customer service platform that brings organisations and their customers closer together.



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