Pros and Cons of Live Chat For Your Business

Posted on 10/03/2021 by Elliot Haines

There are plenty of benefits that live chat can give to your business, but it’s worth evaluating the negative impact it can have in other areas to see if it's right for you.

Live chat five years ago was seen as something of a luxury. However, in 2021, it’s a staple for many websites. According to SuperOffice, over 50% of customers prefer to chat with someone online rather than emailing or calling a company. Live chat is now expected on most websites, with 41% of people seeing it as a staple for a positive experience.

What is live chat support?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably already come across some form of live chat on a website. Live chat is a piece of software that enables a company to connect with users on their website to instantly answer any questions they might have.

A live chat function is usually found in the form of a small pop-up box somewhere on the right of the screen, like this example from Natwest:

natwest live chat

The user is engaged with the live chat after clicking start and can now ask questions, follow up with orders and receive the support they need. 

Why should I use live chat?

The statistics surrounding the use of live chat support speak for themselves…

  • Live chat leads to a 48% increase in revenue per chat hour and a 40% increase in conversion rate (SuperOffice)
  • Data from Zendesk has live chat (85%) customer satisfaction ratings superior to all forms of customer service other than phone support (91%) help centre/FAQ articles (83%), email support (82%), Twitter support (81%), and Facebook support (74%)
  • 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer (Forrester)

What are the best live chat options?

There are tonnes of live chat options out there, we’ve picked out five ones you might want to consider. 

Each option has it’s pros and cons, so it’s important to do your research when choosing which one to go for. Some may be better for those on a budget, e-Commerce specific or ideal for the sales and marketing teams. 

Five business benefits of live chat support

1) Convenience for your customers

Many people don’t have time to make personal calls during business hours, so having a live chat on your website is one way to make it as easy as possible for them to contact you. If you have the resource or manage the user flow correctly, live chat can be live 24/7. 

2) Support and simplify the sales process

If a customer has a question while entering their payment information, or wants to know more about a product before they buy it, you can address this straight away and avoid losing them to another site. You can integrate your live chat transcripts into your CRM so the customer records are there in one place. 

3) Gather invaluable information on your products/services

With more people likely to engage with live chat than over the phone, it can be an invaluable first-party data resource. What are people liking about your products? What themes are you picking out from live chat queries? What do people think of the website and brand? 

Discussion

4) Keep your customers coming back

Live chat once added to your website will most likely increase customer engagement with your website, which can only be a good thing. It could also help you to retain loyal customers by providing useful information on things such as the status of an order, returns policy, and handling complaints.

5) Cost-effective

With the right training, your customer service team can handle multiple tasks at once, improving efficiency as well as waiting times for your customers. Everyone wins! 

Three potential cons of live chat

Given this information, it may seem like a no-brainer to add a live chat function to your website. However, like most things, it’s only worth having if it works properly and there are trade-offs to make. 

1) Site speed

This is the biggest blocker to many websites implementing live chat functionality. With many people reporting between 1-10 seconds added to page speed after implementing live chat. Ultimately, it comes down to the plugin you use and what sacrifice you’re willing to make to improve your customer experience.

Lots of studies have been done testing each plugin and how they impact site speed. I particularly like this one done by DebugBear.

DebugBear site speed test for live chat

With page speed already a ranking factor and the page experience update in May, you must think very carefully about implementing live chat and test, test, test. Live chat can impact Largest Contentful Paint (LCP), First Input Delay (FID) and Cumulative Layout Shift (CLS), which are all metrics forming part of Google’s Core Web Vitals. Check out my colleague’s latest blog on all things Core Web Vitals here 

2) Spam 

Live chat can be particularly vulnerable to spam. The amount of spam you’ll get varies by industry so you’ll only know by testing out live chat. If you are getting too much spam through, you can reduce this by qualifying the customer by asking for a name, email address or order number.

It’s worth noting, I’d only consider this if you are getting too much spam. Asking for these details in live chat can drop engagement stats. Personally, I don’t always like handing over personal information if I’m just browsing a website and have a few questions.  

3) Training

As covered above, it can make sense for you to have someone on live chat, rather than on the phone. However, people often mistake live chat as something that can be totally automated. From experience, full automation of live chat can run into a few issues. For me, I’d only consider this if you’re dealing with thousands of queries a day. People use live chat because they still want to engage with a human, they just want a faster response than by email or ringing up.    

Unless you have a really robust and simple user flow in place using live chat that is automated can often leave your customers more frustrated than if they were chatting with someone on the phone. The Natwest example above is one of the best uses I’ve experienced of an automated chatbot. 

Make sure the person (or people) answering live chat requests are able to provide an effective service. Do they have answers to the most common questions? What should they do if they’re struggling to help? Prepare a script for consistency if more than one person will be responding.

Other points to consider

Aside from the pros and cons we’ve covered, there are other things you need to consider when discussing live chat for your business.

Purpose

Will you use live chat solely to answer queries about your products? Or will you handle complaints and cross-sell as well? Be clear on this from the outset and prepare appropriate responses.

Timings

Use your analytics data to determine when most people are on your website This is when your live chat support should be active. If your customers expect 24/7 support and it makes financial sense to have it live 24/7, then do it. 

Tone

Live chat can be a great way to build relationships with your customers and keep them coming back by being warm and friendly. Most people resort to using live chat support because they want to speak to a human, so be human. Use live chat as an opportunity to build a rapport with your customers. 

Transparency

Boost customer trust by providing a transcript of the chat, and set expectations by explaining if there is a queue.

There are many live chat software providers out there, and most of them offer a free trial period, so you could try it out and see if it works for your business!

Audience

According to Help Scout, live chat is the preferred form of communication for millennials. With millennials making around 50% of the UK workforce, it shouldn’t be a demographic you ignore. Unless you’re targeting a significantly older generation then live chat should be considered.    

millennial workforce increase

The verdict

Whether live chat is suitable for your business varies massively and should be considered on a case-by-case basis. 

If you’re a business that has frequent points of contact with your customers and their queries and a demographic that expects an instant response then it makes sense to test out live chat on your website. But try to implement it with real people wherever possible! The last thing you want to do is frustrate your customers by providing an unresponsive and unhelpful live chat function.

It’s worth considering, it will harm your website speed which in turn could impact your organic rankings and overall user experience, so make sure you test before and after implementing. Always keep on top of the engagement stats you see on live chat, making sure it is always providing value to you and your customers. If it doesn’t then you should remove it. If you can tie live chat to the revenue and profit your business makes, then you’re in for a winner.

If you want to know more about live chats, get in touch with us.


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