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When thinking of ways to improve how your business functions, your mental checklist might include things like marketing and customer service. What’s often glossed over is the role live chat can play in both tasks. In fact, working out the best live chat option for your company site can pay off, helping both with customer retention and conversion.
If you’re new to this concept, it can feel a bit overwhelming. That’s why we’ve compiled a one-stop shop guide. It breaks down what live chat is, discusses its benefits, offers some stellar options, and provides a startup walk-through. You'll find practical tips for making the most of your live chat experience.
What Is Live Web Chat?
Live web chat is a term used to encompass any kind of chat box you may wish to feature on your website. They’re used for many purposes but often focus largely on customer service. They can be automated, fully staffed, or use a combination of both. But the main takeaway here is that live web chat works by connecting you and your team with your customers in real-time.
Web chat boxes often appear in the bottom right hand part of the screen when you visit a site that has this feature. It’ll either open automatically or prompt you to click on it by blinking or notifying you in some way.
Advantages of Using Web Based Live Chat for Your Business
Before we dive into some of our software suggestions, let’s discuss a few reasons why web chat is such an important feature to prioritize on your business site:
- Immediacy. With live chat, prospects and customers can get in touch with you as soon as they have a question, or the need arises. No contact forms or phone calls to deal with.
- Close deals. Inline with the above, web based live chat makes it easier to close a sale because you’re removing the lag between a prospect asking a question and them receiving an answer. Immediate answers often result in more immediate sales.
- Problem solve. If someone has a question about your website or if they’re having a product issue, your live chat can help them troubleshoot in real-time. This makes for a much better customer service experience.
- People have come to expect it now. So many SaaS and retail sites provide live chat now on their websites that customers come to expect it. They may feel inconvenienced if they must reach out via more traditional channels.
- Provides convenience. You meet people where they are at their convenience. No contact forms or phone calls. This means they’re not having to wait for an answer for 24+ hours. Also, they don’t have to take time out of their day to wait on hold. One live chat option, Podium, actually takes all web chat conversations directly to text. This way, customers can continue to talk with you even if they’ve left your website.
- Speed up conversion rates. Having a live chat module on your site helps to remove roadblocks in your sales funnel. The result is more sales and speedier conversions.
- Get better leads. Since prospects can ask questions and get immediate answers, you’re much more likely to be dealing with higher qualified leads than if you relied on traditional contact forms or other options.
- Cheaper than traditional support. Perhaps one of the most convincing benefits of all, live chat platforms are much cheaper than hiring a full customer support staff.
Best Live Chat Software
Choosing the best live chat software for your specific situation is imperative for success. Here are a few metrics for making a decision:
- Features. Simply put, does it offer the features that you need to best serve your business?
- Expandability. Can the live chat service be expanded and/or are there premium packages available that will serve you should your company needs grow exponentially?
- Price. Budget is always a consideration. Some live chat options are cheaper than others, so it’s important to keep that in mind as well.
With these metrics in mind, let’s explore three options for live chat software that can be expected to meet the needs of many business types.
Podium is a live chat option that you can install on your website to better interact with your customers. It combines a variety of services into one smart hub that makes it easier to manage all customer communications. Some of its most notable features include:
- Web chat converts to SMS text automatically so customers can carry on their conversations with you even after they’ve left your site.
- More readily gather leads since you’ll grab names and phone numbers as a part of the web chat interface.
- Schedule appointments, demos, and consultations with prospects right from within the chat dashboard.
- Customizable chat widget.
- Full lead management tools.
- Automated FAQ responses, analytics, leaderboard, and more.
Zendesk is another full-featured chat system that you can install on any site to quickly and easily answer customer questions, close sales, and convert visitors into customers. A few notable features include:
- Popup chat box that triggers when a visitor lands on your site or scrolls to a certain point.
- Full metrics.
- Integration with other customer support services including phone, text, and contact forms.
- Integration with social media messaging apps like Facebook Messenger.
Still another fantastic web based live chat option is Drift. It makes uses of a “conversational AI” to interact with prospects while they’re on your site. They can deliver contextual answers while your human team can interact with those who have more complex inquiries. A few more features include:
- Connect with customers in real-time to answer questions and encourage sales.
- Create custom messaging that speaks to the specific needs of any given campaign and of your customers.
- Get alerts when a customer is on your site.
Online Chat for Websites: A Startup Guide
If adding web chat for business to your site sounds like a good idea, you’re in luck. We’ve prepared a startup guide that walks you through the setup process quickly and easily. But first, a few words of caution.
Issues You May Encounter
One of the biggest hurdles to getting started with live chat is ensuring you have the resources to cover it. That is, you need the staff to talk to people when they interact. Yes, you can post “office hours” but you’ll need to make this timespan wide enough to accommodate as many people as possible. You’ll also need to fill in the non-staffed times with a smart chatbot that can pull from FAQs and other resources to guide customers.
You may also find that some people in live chat have complex questions that need in-depth responses. This can be a resource-heavy task. So, figuring out a good time to switch from a live chat interaction to a one-on-one demo or consultation is important as well.
You may find that once you have live chat on your site, prospects and customers will be more likely to submit their inquiries there than use other forms of customer service. On the one hand, this is good because you can provide immediate feedback. But on the other, customers that may have readily found an answer in your FAQ will now use live chat instead. Figuring out ways to both aid customers quickly and streamline the experience (for both your team and your customers) is key.
Get Live Chat Set Up Quickly
To illustrate how to get started with using web-based live chat, we’ll be walking you through the setup process using Podium. Though this chat system works on a variety of content management systems including Shopify, Joomla, and Duda, we’ll be using WordPress for demonstrative purposes.
1. Download and Activate the Podium Plugin
Most CMS require you to paste an HTML code snippet into your site where you want the chat box to appear but for WordPress, you’ll use a plugin.
So, to get started, you’ll need to download the Podium webchat plugin and activate it.
2. Paste the Web Chat Code Into the Plugin
Next, go to the Podium website and log in. Walk through the setup module and grab the code snippet for web chat. Pop back over to the plugin’s settings page and paste the code in the Podium Script box. Then switch the toggle to Enabled next to the line that says Podium Webchat is…
Finish going through the setup module on Podium’s website and test the installation. If successful, you should see the following once returned to your account dashboard:
And this is what you should see on your live website:
Customize the Webchat Experience
Once everything is installed, you can work on matching the chat’s appearance with your company’s branding. First, write a greeting that visitors will first encounter when interacting with the chat box. Then, change the avatar image.
You can also change the chat bubble color, change the chat icon, positioning, and more.
You will also need to set the auto-responder text. This is what site visitors who interact with chat will receive immediately after sending a message. These messages will only be sent during your business hours. A different message can be configured for after hours.
The details of Podium live chat setup will vary from CMS to CMS and website to website. This is a basic, bird’s eye view of the process that will hopefully relieve any anxiety you may have about its complexity. In short, it’s easy.
And when you're all done with setup, you can begin to manage your web chat-to-text conversations from one simple inbox:
Tips, Strategies & Best Practices for the Best Live Chat Experience
Now that you have a decent understanding of what live chat is. You know how it works, why it’s important, and how to configure a chat box on your website. Let’s discuss some of the best ways to ensure your site visitors have the best live chat experience possible:
1. Prioritize Convenience for Your Customers
Though web chat is in and of itself quite convenient, you can always do more to encourage sales and help prospects by providing even further convenience. You can offer as wide a range of operating hours as you can manage. Offer a chatbot for your after-hours times that prompt visitors with contextual links to a knowledge base or similar. Plus, offer a chat-to-text service that allows visitors to leave your site and still interact with you.
2. Make it Cohesive and Familiar
When using live chat, make sure it’s a predictable experience. Remember: your site will be one of many that includes this feature. So, make the chat windows appear predictably. The right hand corner is usually best. Also, make sure you take the time to customize the look to match your branding and opt to have the chat box appear on every page of your site. This last bit is extra important. Never make a customer hunt around for ways to get in touch with you. Make it plain as day.
3. Make Parameters Clear
Clearly post office hours, show when a customer is speaking with a chatbot versus a real person, and indicate how quickly a visitor can expect to receive a response.
4. Be Responsive
Related to the above, long response times are unacceptable for live chat. Customers expect speedy answers. If your responses fall outside the time frame you’ve publicly posted, you could hurt your chances of conversion. Respond quickly to customers but also respond accurately. This means carefully reading each message you receive and crafting a short, succinct, and effective reply.
5. Be Human
A human touch can go a long way. Though there’s only so much you can do to make auto-responses sound human, there’s a lot you can do to sound, well, human! In fact, throwing in a touch of personalization here and there can go a long way toward building rapport with potential customers.
Even light humor works on occasion! And a little bit of empathy never hurt anyone—especially if your prospect or customer is struggling. Engage in a professional and personable way and you’re certain to make a lasting, positive impression.
Get Started With Web-Based Live Chat
If you want your business to succeed and grow to its fullest potential, you need to leverage live chat in your marketing and sales plans.
Without it, you won’t be able to get near competitors who offer this feature and you also won’t be able to address customer concerns in-the-moment. The more quickly you can address the needs of your customers, the better outcomes you’ll find.