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Today’s consumers expect instant answers from businesses. Giants like Amazon have set the standard, with seamless customer service at the push of a button. Unfortunately, your business likely doesn’t have the budget or resources of an Amazon, but your customers still expect that level of service.

That’s where live chat can help.

Live chat services are becoming an increasingly popular way for consumers to reach out to brands with questions, comments, and concerns. There are benefits for customers and businesses alike, so if you haven’t yet dipped your toes in the chat waters, now might be the time.

Let’s take a look at why live chat is such an effective option for business communication.

What is live chat?

But first, what is live chat? Live chat is exactly what it sounds like: It’s a web chat option that allows customers to speak with an actual customer service representative when they have a question or issue. Live chat is sometimes confused with chatbots or AI chat, but they’re different.

Here's an example of a dental group with live chat enabled on their website.

Chatbots and AI chat are not manned by real people. Instead, they’re programmed to offer help menus or recognize certain words and phrases, responding with boilerplate answers to common questions. Live chat offers human-powered customer service in real time.

Why is live chat effective for small businesses?

Now that we understand what live chat is, let’s talk about why it’s such an important addition to any successful marketing strategy.

1. Helps you reach customers on their own terms

People are busy. In fact, 51% of customers indicated they preferred live chat services to other means of communication because it allowed them to multitask, and more than 40% said they liked it because they could get answers to their shopping questions while at work. Plus, 92% of customers said they felt satisfied after using live chat.

This stat from Inc shows that customers enjoy live chat because it's easy for them to use

Similarly, most people don’t have the time to sit down, make a phone call, and wait on hold to speak with a customer representative. Forty-two percent of customers liked that live chat services eliminate the need to wait on hold.

This multitasking element is also beneficial for the companies that institute live chat functions. Working with a marketing partner for live chat services (like us, hint hint!) allows you to outsource the chat function but still receive a record of all communication, so you’re not having to hire a staff to answer questions (or do it yourself!) — saving you time and money.

2. Gives you a better understanding of customer concerns

With live chat services, it’s very easy to keep track of the interactions consumers have with your business. You end each interaction with a transcript, and as time goes on, you’ll see patterns emerge.

Specific questions, comments, or concerns will come up again and again. This offers valuable insight, which you can then use to direct changes to your website and content strategy.

Let’s say you run a roofing company. If you get numerous questions asking for clarification about your process for quoting jobs, it might be time to revisit the wording on your website to make your quoting and pricing process more straightforward. If you have a lot of people chatting to ask how to know it’s time to redo their roof, that might be a sign that you should create a blog post or explainer video on that particular topic.

3. Lets customers get answers at any time

Very few businesses can staff a phone line 24/7. For small businesses, budget and headcount limits may keep you from offering that kind of access for your customers.

But just because someone isn’t manning your phones doesn’t mean there aren’t consumers out there that have questions. And regardless of the time of day, they want quick answers. In fact, Forrester Research found that 53% of consumers will abandon a purchase if they’re not able to get a fast answer to questions related to the purchase.

This live chat stat shows the importance of providing information to customers quickly.

While FAQs can be of some help in this arena, they won’t cover specific, individual questions in the way that a one-on-one interaction can. Live chat services are a far superior option to a chatbot, which asks the consumer to go through a series of prompts leading to a pre-written answer that (hopefully) speaks to their question.

4. Lets you capture leads or go for the upsell

When consumers are left to their own devices on your website, it’s very easy for them to talk themselves out of a purchase. It’s comparable to an in-store experience where you’re not approached by any salespeople. We’ve all been there — it’s a lot easier to walk out of the store empty-handed if you haven’t established a connection with anyone who works there.

Think, on the other hand, about what it’s like when you get a warm greeting as you enter a store. The salesperson says, “Hi there! Let me know if you need help with anything,” and then when they notice you eyeing one particular product for a few minutes, they come over and volunteer some information about it and share why they think it’s so great. You’re much more likely to make a purchase when that’s your experience!

The same principle applies online. When someone has the opportunity to chat with a live person, they’re a lot more likely to at the very least come back to the website again and at the most make the purchase right then and there.

5. Can preserve your business’s reputation

A good reputation is important when it comes to winning new customers. But, if you own or manage a business, then you know how easy it can be to get a negative review.

A good business reputation helps you offset the influence of negative reviews online.

Many of those reviews come from a less-than-ideal customer service experience like not being able to reach someone, not getting answers to questions, and more.

With live chat, you can triage customer service before anything turns into an issue, which can help you preserve your business’s reputation while delivering excellent service to your current customers.

Getting started with live chat for your business

Live chat can make a positive difference for any business. But if your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to take on another channel of communication, never fear! We’ve got you covered with 24/7 live chat services.

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