Looking to Build a Winning Customer Support Program? Start With Live Chat Support

It's all about speed--and maybe a little bit about convenience. Great customer support is a core component of scaling any type of business and in 2020, live chat support has to be part of that equation.

Live Chat Support

A study by American Express found that more than two-thirds of American consumers, almost 70%, are willing to pay more for companies that deliver excellent customer service.

But here’s the problem: while 80% of CEOs believe their company delivers that kind of service, only 8% of their customers believe the same thing.

Where does that disconnect come from? Try channels. You might rely on phone and email to help customers with their problems. But what if they’re looking for instant answers instead?

Enter live chat support.

In more ways than one, it represents the present and future of what your audience wants. Industry revenues are expected to rise by 50% in the next three years.

Of course, it can also be difficult to implement or scale without the right resources in place.

So let’s talk about it. This article will cover the reasons for the recent explosion of live chat support, and why not every company might implement it. We finish with a consideration of outsourcing, and what that might look like for this channel.

5 Reasons to Rely on Live Chat for Scalable Customer Support

Customers love it, and you can scale it easily. Let’s dive into the reasons companies are increasingly investing in chat-based customer service, and why it probably makes sense for your company, too.

1) Live Chat is Your Customers' Preferred Support Channel

Let’s start with the obvious: the most important reason to invest in live chat is the fact that your customers love it.

In 2017, JD Power found that more customers across industries prefer live chat (42%) than any other communications channel. The same study also found customers more likely to recommend the channel than any of its alternatives.

Those numbers track with more recent studies, too.

At 73%, chat support offers the highest satisfaction rate of any customer service channel. It’s worth digging into just why this option is such a win:

  • Instant responses. Today’s digital audience expects a response in 10 minutes or less. The average response time for live chat is 23 seconds.
  • Convenient multitasking. Live chat enables customers to keep shopping and browsing, even while waiting for answers. No other channel can deliver that.
  • Little effort required. Email requires extensive typing while phone calls lead to conversations. Live chat can occur in the middle of an activity, right where the customer thinks of the option.

2) Live Chat Can Save Your Company Time and Money

Satisfaction is a natural goal of customer service. But what if we told you that this channel is just as beneficial for your own company?

Customer support can be expensive. It’s difficult to scale, too–especially during phone calls, which always require a 1:1 customer-to-agent ratio. That’s not true for this alternative.

In fact, skilled agents can handle up to 6 simultaneous chats at once without losing quality or response time. Not every new chat requires a new agent.

Imagine the difference that makes when you’re looking to scale your business.

Successful entrepreneurs know: there is such a thing as growing too fast. Scaling without care means not being able to keep up with resources or core competencies.

If your customer base triples, can your service and support keep up its success rate?

With live chat, it can. Because the agent-customer ratio is far better than 1:1, you can multiply your customer base without dropping in service level.

3) Live Chat Can Build a Sustainable Competitive Advantage

If you don’t have a competitive advantage, you don’t compete.

You might have heard that quote from former General Electric CEO Jack Welch, as its made its way into plenty of board rooms. That’s because it’s obviously true: to sustain in any industry, you need to offer something other companies don’t.

What if we told you that live chat could be just that ‘something’?

We’ve already established that your customers love it and that it makes your operations more efficient. So here’s the perplexing part: according to one study, only 9% of businesses currently leverage live chat support.

Meanwhile, 21% of chat queries for websites that do offer it go unanswered.

The takeaway: getting this support channel right almost immediately sets you apart from your competition. Because customers love it so much, that creates a competitive advantage that is truly sustainable.

4) Live Chat Increases Conversions and Sales

Partially because of those above reasons, live chat support can have a positive impact on your entire bottom line. Consider some recent findings:

Customer service starts long before the actual purchase. This is a channel that makes a real-time impact on creating new customers, increasing both conversions and revenue as a result.

5) Live Chat Builds Long-Term Customer Relationships

It’s not just about that first-time conversion, though. Live chat also improves loyalty among your customer base.

That’s naturally connected to the first point we made above. Customers are more satisfied when they use this channel, so they become more likely to stick with you.

But it’s not just about that. We know that an improved website experience leads to more brand loyalty. Adding a chat window to your website is a natural tool to build that experience.

Finally, chat support is a natural way to collect voice of customer data, records of conversations on any support tickets.

Any live chat transcript has that data. You can use it, analyze it, and improve your messaging and the company itself. There’s a reason that one study found VOC data to improve annual revenue increases by up to 10 times.

3 Reasons Why In-House Live Chat Support Fails

All of the above benefits sound great–in theory. But let’s be honest: this is no magic pill or silver bullet.

One reason live chat tends to fail is because in-house management can become cumbersome. It’s difficult to manage without dedicated expertise or agent support available, leading to more problems than advantages.

These are some common reasons why live chat support fails more often than it should. They’re not reasons to stay away altogether, but cautionary tales on how the entire operation can go sideways.

1) Lack of Dedicated Expertise

Manning a live chat window is a unique skill. As mentioned above, it requires the ability to multi-task, but it also requires quick typing skills and language skills for this channel.

Not every company has agents with these skills in hand.

The result, too often, is shoehorning agents that are better served on the phone or for in-person support into live chat windows. As you might expect, the results aren’t always pretty.

According to research by Kayako, 40% of customers are not confident they’ll have a good experience when opening a chat window. The same study found that 56% of consumers cannot recall an exceptional chat experience.

Circumventing this problem takes training and staffing strategy. That, in turn, takes time and money. Just like that, a core benefit of live chat support is wiped out.

2) Lack of Resources for Growing Demand

Somewhat connected to the first reason but worth calling out in its own right is a lack of resources that many businesses face.

Long-term, live chat saves time and money. But the implementation is still crucial, and it’s still an added line item when first implemented.

We know that a limited budget is among the biggest customer service challenges SMBs face in 2020 and beyond. Adding the software and implementation of live chat, not to mention the training necessary to onboard agents, can blow through that limited budget.

That’s especially true as demand grows, and a more expanded plan or a greater cadre of agents need to be deployed. Especially for smaller businesses, the resources just might not be available to manage this growing demand.

3) Lack of Commitment to Live Chat as a Core Customer Service Channel

The final reason in-house live chat support tends to fail is not based on resources or talent, but philosophical.

Even though we’ve established chatting as customers’ preferred communications channels, most companies still believe that the phone takes the cake.

As a result, they tend to prioritize phone-based customer service. Resources in training or budget may be unavailable not because they don’t exist, but simply because they’re used in other channels the company prioritizes.

Because of its unique features, this is another common reason for chat support failure. A lack of commitment to it results in de-prioritizing the effort, and failure to adjust to its unique features and advantages.

When Outsourcing Becomes a Solution for Live Chat Support

So far, we’ve established two core truths:

  1. Chat support has the potential to transform your customer service efforts.
  2. Lack of resources, talent, and priority can make even well-intentioned chat support efforts fail.

That brings us to a natural solution to leverage the benefits of the channel without succumbing to its failures: outsourcing your live chat efforts.

In many ways, it’s a perfect balance. All three of the above drawbacks can be mitigated by outsourcing the service, unlocking the potential for all of the benefits to take place.

You don’t have to outsource your chat customer support. But if you find yourself in any of the above scenarios, it becomes at least a viable option.

5 Steps to Ensure the Success of Outsourced Live Chat Support

Of course, outsourcing any services is not a silver bullet. It doesn’t magically solve all your problems. You have to be diligent in taking steps that ensure you can get it right, and truly leverage the benefits of the service.

  1. Find the right partner. The most crucial part is also the most obvious. You need to find an outsourced call center partner with dedicated live chat expertise and a willingness to customize their services for your business.
  2. Ensure comprehensive partnership onboarding. That willingness to customize can lead to comprehensive onboarding. In this step, you make sure that every agent working on your behalf understands your business as if they’d be your full-time employees.
  3. Build reporting and data transmission structures. How is your live chat performing? What are your response time and satisfaction rate? Can you get the transcripts from each chat? Put the structures in place to get viable and beneficial analytics.
  4. Educate yourself about chat software and its benefits. Every software is different. When you outsource, you don’t have to manage it yourself, but you should still educate yourself about it. Learn about its benefits and how it can help your business thrive.
  5. Integrate live chat into other outsourced customer service efforts. Chat support should never stand in isolation. At its best, it’s part of a larger whole alongside phone, email, and ticket support. Partners who offer these services tend to integrate them well to provide a more personalized, comprehensive customer experience.

These steps are vital. Without them, live chat support is likely to fail. With them, you have a high chance of actually improving customer satisfaction, conversions, and loyalty.

When you do get to that point, scaling your business becomes natural. You no longer have to worry about outgrowing your customer support capabilities. Chat support will grow with you without major incremental cost changes.

At the same time, we can’t stress this enough: you need a partner, not a vendor.

When outsourcing live chat or any other customer support piece, anyone working on your account should be invested as you are. Without that commitment, you run the risk of never getting to the results you need for sustainable growth.

Live chat support is not just the future–it’s here to stay. Is your business ready for it? If you partner with the right outsourcing opportunity, it just might be.