Has live chat software reached the limit of what it can do for businesses?

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Business woman using live chat to engage with customers onlineWhen live chat software was first introduced in the early 2000s, it promised to revolutionize the world of online sales and service by helping businesses bring the human factor online. But just ten years later, it seems to have already hit a ceiling.

While live chat software works well for simple conversations, for complex requests and customer service it is not nearly the time-saver and efficiency booster it promised to be. It takes longer for customers to type out detailed questions and accurately describe their needs in writing than it would to tell the agent via audio communication or show them via live video chat feed. And most chat agents are juggling 3-5 live chats simultaneously, resulting in less than ideal response times and, more often than not, hastily scripted (or completely canned) answers.

“Are you a robot?” is also one of the first questions many visitors ask their online chat agent during a conversation, and even those who do realize they are speaking to a real person often still find the experience robotic. An exchange of one-liners hardly conveys complexity and emotions and fail to establish true connections with the agent and the brand.

When to use live chat software? Consider the human factor

Though 42% of customers cite getting their issue resolved quickly as the top priority when contacting a business, 40% now long for a more personal interaction with their agent above anything else. According to study by Harris Interactive, over 50% of US consumers admit to cart abandonment due to the lack of human interaction on a website.

As a result, many multichannel merchants are experiencing online conversion rates and average purchase values that are just a fraction of what they achieve in-store. A massive 90% of all transactions still take place in physical stores and  sales of high-value, high-consideration products and services has proven to be quite difficult online. Last year, luxury online sales accounted for only 5% of the industry’s total $270 billion generated. Only 8% of U.S. beauty sales are made online, representing a tiny portion of the $32 billion total. The apparel and high-tech sectors have experienced significant migration online, however for large purchases, the transactions still take place offline. And 29% of US banking customers still visit their local branch at least once a month to get in-person assistance and advice about complex products and services.

The truth is that while live chat software can handle simple requests, it just cannot replace rich, human conversations. At the same time, the center of gravity of most consumer research is online.

Trust-building live video chat

Gartner estimates that 100 of the 500 largest global brands will introduce live video chat by 2018.

Technological breakthroughs and greater bandwidth availability have paved the way for a new, improved means of real-time communication. More personal and natural than live chat, video-based communication is a major step forward and allows for live, friendly, face-to-face assistance, in the context of a digital experience.

One third of all communication is nonverbal and with live video chat, agents can demonstrate enthusiasm, empathy and build trust, not only through their words but also through their tone and body language. Remember the importance of a handshake or looking at customers in the eye. Making eye contact  suggests both interest in them and confidence in the products or services. It leaves the receiver feeling positive about the interaction and more connected. That level of connection can now happen online.

Companies who currently use live video chat to communicate with their customers are already achieving fantastic results. Compared to live chat, companies see a:

  • 200 – 300% increase in conversions
  • 20% increase in average order value
  • 20 – 40% improvement in customer satisfaction scores

Increasing sales with collaborative tools

Together with live video chat or audio assistance, complementary collaborative tools create an unparalleled, hybrid experience. Experts can now offer richer conversations than ever, with co-shopping and co-browsing tools, and showcase products by demonstrating them live via a second webcam. Customers can be assisted live in the review of contracts and sales documents, substantially reducing inefficiencies.

While rich conversations such as these aren’t usually necessary for simple purchases, they can seal the deal for sophisticated products and are also an easy way of providing Premium services to high-value customers. Almost 9 out of 10 US customers say they would pay more to ensure a superior customer experience!

Changing the face of customer service

In addition to dramatically increasing online sales, in-person live engagement is also helping revolutionize post-sales support.

With live chat software, customers had to type out the problem they were facing or even reach for a phone to describe it in detail, in the hope of being correctly understood by their support agent. With live video chat assistance, they can simply use the video camera on their smartphone to let the customer service agents see exactly what issue they are facing with a product. They get a rapid response, often in real time.
Businesses are dramatically cutting resolution times and average handle times while increasing customer satisfaction.

The relationship continuum

Rather than one-size fits all, multi-feature solutions combining text, audio and video chat allow companies to engage their prospects and customers in the right way at the right time.

The anonymous nature and low cost of text chat, makes it invaluable for new prospects who are looking for quick answers to their questions about simple or routine purchases and are not yet ready to start building relationships with a brand.

Audio conversations are more personal and demand more commitment both from the brand and from the customer. They are best used once a customer has begun showing genuine interest in a product or service and needs the reassurance of  a human voice or quick answers to more complex questions.

One-way or two-way live video chat communication is the most effective way to build rapport with online customers. It truly recreates the efficiency and feeling of closeness experienced during in-person purchases and is the best choice when closing high-value deals.

Combined with digital collaborative tools, solutions such as videodesk, text, voice or video-based conversations create a new type of interaction that combines the best of online shopping and service together with the best of human exchange.

 

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