I hate talking on the phone. On more than one occasion, I’ve convinced my S.O. with pleading doe eyes to make phone calls for me and even finagled my mom into making a few on my behalf. Let’s be clear, it’s not talking on the phone that’s bad; it’s a fear of the unknown. I love chatting with friends and talk to my mom daily, but when I have to call a help desk, I’m petrified.
You never know who you’ll reach when you call customer service. Sometimes it’s someone helpful and kind, easily able to find a solution. Other times, it feels more like I’ve called a torture line. I’ve waited an hour just to find out I called the wrong number. Another company had no centralized records and thus couldn’t help me. I’ve even had an agent hang up on me. All of this in the last three months.
This is why I say: Long live live chat.
I've waited an hour just to find out I called the wrong number. Another company had no centralized records and thus couldn't help me. I've even had an agent hang up on me.
Why live chat?
First, live chat is wonderful because it’s not the phone. I joke, but for others like me, having the option to chat might mean the difference between reaching out to a company… or not. There are also some very real benefits to customers.
Although live chat is still an emerging channel, recent data from Software Advice shows that the channel’s highest adoption is by people age 18-34. The primary reasons for choosing chat over the phone are the lack of hold times and the convenience.
Add to that, 2015 data from Zendesk revealed that the most common time people access live chat is between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.—generally when they’re at work. The response time is almost immediate and chat allows me to multitask while waiting for a response. Location also plays a role—live chat meets me where I am, already on a website. It doesn’t require headphones or using my minutes, and if my phone is the only device I have, live chat still works.
Live chat has another major benefit going for it: it’s live. In 2015, Zendesk benchmark data revealed that the average response time across participating customers is 1 minute and 36 seconds. (Even Millennials can wait that long.) For comparison, average response time on social media is 10 hours, and email is even higher, at 12 hours.
A 2018 benchmark report from Zendesk also revealed that between 2016 and 2018, chat as a channel has grown about twice as fast as email in terms of ticket volume. This is likely because live channels like chat boast the fastest response times and least replies before resolution. All of this contributes to higher customer satisfaction, making chat a channel that’s efficient and high-performing for everyone.
It’s a better customer experience
If designed well, your website should guide customers to the information they’re looking for. Even still, customers may struggle to find things (don’t get me started on my investment bank’s website). In these moments, it’s nice if help is just a click away: to open a chat widget and search a help center, or to initiate a chat. Because customers like me don’t want to call for support, use of help centers, FAQs, and live chat rose from 67 to 81 percent over a three-year period, according to Forrester.
Use of help centers, FAQs, and live chat rose from 67 to 81 percent over a three-year period, according to Forrester.
Better for business
Live chat results in high customer satisfaction—that should be reason enough, but that’s not the only benefit to offering live chat.
Call centers are expensive to operate and phone agents can only handle one call at a time. Live chat, on the other hand, allows for some automation and enables agents to work on multiple tickets at a time. In the long run, live chat is less expensive from an operations standpoint. Since each interaction is faster, chat lowers the overall cost of customer service. At Dollar Shave Club, for example, using a bot that serves helpful articles before customers initiate a chat or submit a ticket has kept help desk headcount flat at each of its support locations.
A confused customer will bounce. Forrester discovered that 53 percent of people will abandon their online purchase if they can’t find an answer to their question quickly. That’s a lot of lost sales, and I’m definitely among the 53 percent that has bounced. In cases like this, chat agents can engage with a customer through a proactive, automated message and, if there’s a response, be there to help customers through their issue.
Once a customer is engaged, agents can upsell or offer another product suggestion. Kissmetrics found that when live chat was active, 62 percent of customers said they would buy from the site again, and 38 percent said they made a purchase simply because of the live chat interaction.
When live chat was active, 62 percent of customers said they would buy from the site again.
The numbers speak volumes
I’m not making a case to get rid of phone support in favor of chat (even if I personally won’t be calling you)—phone support is almost always a customer’s fallback option. Data shows that if an email goes unanswered, 71 percent of customers will try the phone. If a social media post goes unanswered, 55 percent will call phone support.
Phone support isn’t obsolete, especially as it becomes easier to integrate calls with omnichannel support systems and to provide phone support over the Internet. But the data also shows that more and more customers are gravitating towards live chat. And why not? It’s proving to be an easy way to resolve customer problems and create happy, loyal customers. Myself, and my fellow Millennials, included.