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Why You Absolutely Need an Online Chat (and How to Find One)

Picture this. You’re looking for goods or services on a website but you have a quick question. The site doesn’t seem to have an answer, so you send an email. If you wait the average response time for email, you won’t get an answer for 12 hours! Now, did you get the answers you need from this company or find them somewhere else?

Let’s try another scenario. You decide to reach out on social media. Everyone is active there, right? Well, in this case you only have to wait 10 hours. Will you be doing business with these dudes? Nope.

Last scenario. You’re on a website and have a question. You see a little chat window and within 2 minutes (the average response time for an online  chat), you’re talking to a human being who can answer your questions. Killer service? You bet your sweet bippy.

Average customer service response times

We know what you might be thinking. I don’t have staff for a dedicated chat line! Stay tuned, because there’s a great answer to this dilemma that still gets customers the info they need quickly.

Now, most would agree, email and social media are a crappy way for your customers to get questions answered, especially when they are growing tired of looking for answers and not finding them. Yet, despite the fact that 92% customers feel satisfied when they use the online chat feature (ZenDesk), only 9% of businesses are using an online chat according to SuperOffice. Seriously?

businesses using live chat

There’s more. According to inc.com, 44% of consumers say an online chat that answers their questions with a live person is one of the most important features a website can offer. See where we’re headed with this?

You’re probably thinking ah, crap. I need one of those chat thingies but I have no idea where to start, I don’t know much about websites, and I’m not really sure what to look for in an online chat tool. And do I have to hire someone to sit on that chat line all day?

Well fear not my dudes, we’re here to help.

live chat quote

Finding an Online Chat Solution

There are dozens of online chat solutions out there. Some do some rad whiz-bang stuff like emulate human responses with freaky A.I.—with varying degrees of success and failure. Some pop up in your face when you’re just trying to read the page (super annoying). Some are pretty straightforward and connect a human website visitor with a human customer service rep for a human conversation. Whatever the case, there are some key features you should look for in a chat solution.

Automations and Canned Messaging

When someone opens your online chat, what do they see? Many solutions let you leave polite canned messages (e.g. “hey, what can we help you with?”) or even give visitors the option to select which department to talk to (e.g. sales or support). These help customers get their questions answered faster and help you ensure that the right questions go to the right people.

Unified Communications

Your business might get inquiries through Facebook Messenger, your online chat, or even through text messages. It’s a huge hassle keeping track of all that stuff. Solutions like Swell give you one screen through which you can chat with customers, no matter where they came from. This helps you cut down response times and boost the customer experience tremendously.

Mobile Responsive (Everything Is Mobile!)

total mobile web traffic

Who looks at websites on their phones? According to Statista, about 51% of all traffic is on a mobile device. Your online chat needs to be mobile responsive or half your visitors won’t be getting the customer service they deserve. What does mobile responsive mean? In a nutshell, it means that whatever online chat solution you’re using needs to function in a mobile browser. Not only options do this well.

Turbo-Simple to Add to Your Site

How savvy are you with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript? If, like me, the answer is not even kind of, then you need a solution that’s easy to add to your website. Be sure whatever you use doesn’t require a ton of coding mumbo-jumbo to make it work, and be sure your vendor is ready to walk you through setup. With the right solution, setting up a chat is like baby-town frolics.

Easy Enough for Cousin Eddie to Use

Our man Eddie

Ok, you got that bad boy installed and it’s time to use it. The right solution ought to be a set-and-forget sorta situation. Once implemented, it should notify the intended customer service rep, so they can answer as soon as possible. But what if a customer reached out via text yesterday, Facebook the day before, and your online chat today? Well, that tool better be able to wrangle those messages into one thread, right? You don’t want your people running all over trying to recall some important detail—you want them able to treat every customer like they’re best friends—and this means recalling everything about their last interaction.

Tailored to Work How You and Your Team Do

So, what if you can’t hire someone to constantly monitor an online chat at a laptop to keep on top of new conversations? There’s another way. With Swell, each conversation you have through online chat—whether it’s on a mobile device or a desktop—actually happens over text message. As soon as a customer sends an inquiry, they’ll enter their name, phone number, and request. Your team will receive their message inside the mobile or desktop version of Swell along with a notification. Your customer will get a text message letting them know that you’ll respond ASAP. When your team is able, they can text the customer from Swell. This gives you a lot more flexibility in terms of how and when you respond, and it doesn’t force you or your team members to constantly monitor an online chat.

WebChat screenshot
Swell makes it easy for your site visitors to reach out to you.

Supportive Vendors That Kick Butt

Most people skip this part. They shouldn’t. You’re not just relying on software; you’re relying on the team who made and supports it. As you evaluate, pay attention to how attentive a vendor is from the moment you call them to the moment you sign up. Having a helping hand when you need it is often the difference between success and failure. So too is having someone willing to help you set things up by established best practices.

Sweet, now we know how to research a solution (you could just save the hassle and go with Swell—or whatever, I’m not your mom).

Next, let’s talk about how to get the most from an online chat once you have it.

Getting the Most From Your Online Chat

You can’t just set up an online chat and call it good. You need a light strategy for how you’ll handle incoming chats. You’ll also need to set a few goals that will help you boost customer service

Set Your Goals

With online chats, there many metrics you can track, but here are a few key ones to keep your eye on:

  • Wait time – How much time passes between your customer opening a chat and a rep replying? As noted, the industry average is 2 minutes. If you’re on top of your stuff, your goal should be seconds, not minutes. Of course, if you can’t realistically meet a short timeframe, you can’t leave your customers hanging. If you can move the chat to a text message format, you’ll still be able to reach them even if they’ve moved on to something else.  
  • Chat duration – How long did it take a rep to solve a problem or answer a question? This number varies but most chats should be done between 3-5 minutes unless there’s a major issue. Don’t rush chats but be efficient and respect customers’ time. Hefty delays between responses isn’t going to make them happy.
Respecting customers' time
  • Chats per site visit – How many people visit the website and use the chat? This might help you understand whether you need to scale up support or sales resources.

Setting up a Team

Who is going to handle incoming web chats? Will you need to route customers to certain departments? Be sure your team understands that you’ve just added an online chat to the website. Make sure they know how to answer various inquiries and who to go to with problems (Karen always wants to talk to a manager). Last, help them understand any chat duration goals you might have.

Set up Canned Messages

As noted, your canned messages can either greet customers, inform them about certain news (maybe you’re closed during a holiday), or even let them know that the online chat is only open during certain hours. Take a moment to set up various canned messages so your customers know what’s up.  

Set up Automations

live chat automations save time

Some chat solutions allow you to set up a few automations at the beginning of a customer interaction. This helps your team gather critical information about them like name, account numbers, their inquiry, and etc. Armed with this information up-front, reps can cut down on chat duration and get straight to answering questions.

Making It Super Simple

Ok, here comes the good part. Imagine having a chat up and running in a few minutes (our team will get you set up). Imagine it feeling like it was made for your brand and your website. Imagine bringing together online chats, Facebook Messages, and even adding the ability to text message customers. Imagine making scores of customers happy from the moment they find you. Ok, now imagine that same app kissing your forehead and serving you coffee and toast for breakfast in bed. It doesn’t do that, but it will feel like it did. In any case, businesses looking to power a better customer experience on their website should consider Swell. Oh, and we haven’t even mentioned the other incredibly powerful tools that are built right in. Get your custom demo and start growing your business today.

Swell WebChat icon

Last Thoughts

Recap: get a freakin’ online chat! We’ve covered how critical these tools are. Knowing that your customers expect them, why not add one? You can begin building trust and providing great service from the moment a customer finds you. What better way to prove you’re awesome than to show them right off the bat?

Pssst…. Just a reminder. Swell WebChat is a great way to do this stuff. Seriously.