Live Web Chat Services vs. Email Support: Which One is Best for Your Business?

The average digital attention span is counted in seconds. Psychological and behavioral studies were documented by Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling book Blink, which explored the adaptive conscious and the mental processes that rapidly—and automatically—process information and form impressions based on it. Research, accordingly, reveals that digital interactions require a response in eight seconds. Individuals are targeted constantly with notifications, ads, emails, texts, and more via smartphones, smartwatches, and other devices. 

Getting the Right Digital Engagement Channel(s) in Place for Your Business

Whether you are selling products or services on your website, providing customer support, or both, you need to ensure that you have the right digital engagement options. While any reasonable customer does not expect a response via email in eight seconds, they do expect a timely response. Studies show that it takes an average of 12 hours for a typical business to respond to a customer request for sales or support. However, this is a problem given that nearly half of customers expect a response in less than four hours; 12% demand a response within 15 minutes.

Ideally, organizations need to deliver omnichannel engagement options to customers—phone, email, live web chat, social media, and even text. Customers indicate they want options when it comes to contacting and interacting with businesses. They also want a seamless experience across omnichannel engagement channels. Forcing customers to repeat the same information on the phone that they just provided in live web chat can be very frustrating; even if you deliver them a great outcome, they will likely leave the call perturbed that your systems and engagement channels operate in siloes. 

Staffing all these different channels requires time and resources, both of which are in short supply for entrepreneurs and small businesses. This is where on-demand services like Davinci Live Receptionists and Live Web Chat have a tangible value proposition. Rather than hiring a full-time staff member to manage your incoming calls, live chats, and other communications, you can engage on-demand service providers who have teams of online sales and support professionals. These individuals become experts on your business, allowing you to focus on expanding your operations and growing your revenue. 

Weighing Email Support vs. Live Web Chat Services

When it comes to live web chat services vs. email support, each serves a purpose for engaging with customers. The following is a quick overview of the pros and cons for each.

Advantages of Email

For customers who in the midst of an online purchase or need a rapid response to an issue, email support isn’t the desired option. They abandon shopping carts and either find an alternative online retailer or postpone or cancel their purchase altogether. In the case of a customer service issue, customers can become frustrated; potential repercussions include negative comments about you on social media, poor online reviews, or even a lost customer. Putting these issues aside, there are situations where email is a good option to give customers.

1. Captured Details. Email is a great way for you to capture details from a customer on a support issue. This enables you to do preliminary diagnosis before engaging with the customer on a solution—ensuring that the time the customer spends with you on the phone is optimized. 

2. Less Intimidation. For some customers, they may prefer to delineate their problem in email and receive a proposed resolution via email. Tech support is a great example where email might be the best initial engagement channel to use.

3. Recorded Interaction. Some situations require a documented record of the interaction between the customer and business. And while transcripts are available with some live web chat solutions, these are more difficult for customers to attain. For example, assuming transcription is attached to the live web chat solution, customers may need to request the transcript. 

4. Attachments. Email offers customers an easy way to attach images, photos, video, and documents that can aid in the resolution of a problem or discovery of an answer to a question.

5. Convenience. Customers can write and send an email and not worry about remaining available for engagement over the phone or live web chat. This enables them to go back to work instead of waiting on a live web chat support agent to respond.

Disadvantages of Email

As noted above, email is not ideal for every sales and support situation; live web chat is a better option in many of these instances.

1. Immediate Response. For online purchases and urgent customer support issues, email isn’t a viable channel. Customers will abandon purchases and take their business elsewhere. And in addition to become detractors, perhaps even active on social media and review sites, customers who cannot get answers to their urgent support questions will look for alternative solutions on the market.

2. Clarification of Details. When an email fails to capture sufficient detail to answer a question or solve a problem, the resulting back-and-forth between the customer and email support agent can become frustrating and waste a lot of time. 

3. Email Spam and Delivery. Growing implementation of cybersecurity tools to filter spam and malicious mail isn’t 100% accurate. 

Advantages of Live Web Chat

Live web chat overcomes many of the limitations of email—as well as phone—and is increasingly the preferred engagement channel of customers. A majority of customers say the number one feature to offer on a website is live web chat.

1. Convenience. Live web chat gives customers a convenient option when trying to identify a quick answer to a question or solution to a problem. They don’t need to waste their time navigating an IVR system to reach a live support agent (or even need to call in multiple times because the IVR system hung up on them). 

2. Real-time Clarification. For certain sales and support situations, real-time information is the difference between a successful and failed customer engagement. Email cannot meet this requirement 100% of the time. Live web chat, in contrast, enables you to provide your customers with answers and solutions in real time.

3. Flexibility to Multi-task. Phone typically requires customers to remain available without interruption. In most instances, customers can multi-task—or dual-screen—when chatting with a live web support agent.

4. Digital Collaboration and Support. Live web chat agents can provide customers with links to images, photos, videos, and articles that provide them more information on products they are considering or answers to questions they might have. Businesses can even upsell or cross-sell customers during live web chat interactions. 

5. Gather More Info on Your Customers. Live web chat offers businesses an opportunity to get more information on their customers, which you can use to target them with products and information that generates more revenue and makes them more successful.

6. Scalability and Efficiencies. Live web chat agents can typically handle up to four interactions at the same time. If you’re using an on-demand solution like Davinci Live Web Chat, then you simply need to add more interactions to scale your live web chat to accommodate fluctuations or growth in your business. 

Disadvantages of Live Web Chat

1. Unintegrated Engagement Channels. For businesses that rely on live web chat services that reside in siloes—namely, they aren’t connected to other engagement channels like email and phone—customers can become frustrated at needing to repeat themselves when they move between different engagement channels. Thus, it is important to choose a live web chat services provider that has cross-integration linkages between engagement channels.

2. Long Wait Queues. If you offer live web chat engagement but put customers into long wait queues, then you are replicating some of the disadvantages of phone support in your live web chat support channel. Customers can become annoyed with you after waiting a couple minutes for a live web chat agent (waiting feels more painful). The upside with on-demand live web chat service solutions like Davinci Live Web Chat is that chat requests are handled by teams of agents versus one or two individuals. This provides the scalability you need during peak seasons and hours without the overhead of additional staff.

3. Impersonal. Scripted live web chat services can seem impersonal to customers and lack the empathy they often desire. To offset this potential issue, organizations can work to ensure only portions of live web chat are scripted and offer their support agents the opportunity to create their own brand. (Check out the Gearheads from Backcountry as one example.)

Getting Started with Live Web Chat Services

Delivery of great experiences when you engage with customers is crucial to your business. You need to offer customers multiple engagement channels and ensure those channels are integrated. Live web chat support is no longer a “nice-to-have” option for customers but rather a requisite. Customers expect businesses to offer live web chat and will take their business elsewhere if you don’t’ do so.


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