Is it Necessary to Have Live Chat as a Small Businesses? [What to Know]

Seeking Virtual Real-time Digital Engagement

Like many readers, I need to engage professionally and personally with a business several times per week or more. The list of reasons for contacting businesses is myriad—internet issues, questions about a charge on a utility bill, scheduling home repairs or maintenance, questions about a software solution we purchased, shipping status on an order that is past its due date, among various others. 

Looking up the businesses contact information is the first thing that I do. Too many businesses seemingly make it intentionally difficult to locate contact options; it sometimes requires adroit navigation of a vendor’s website to locate a support email or phone number. I immediately ignore all web forms and email support addresses; waiting hours or days to get a response to a question or problem was removed from my vocabulary years ago.

Phone Support: Not-for-Every Engagement

Most organizations still offer phone as a sales and support channel. But simply picking up my phone, placing a call, and getting a fast response is the exception. In most cases, I must wait on hold for a lengthy period of time or navigate a guided automated voice system to reach someone with the knowledge to answer my question and help solve my problem. As a result, I must identify and allocate time on my schedule to actually place a call in the first place. I suspect many readers are nodding the heads up and down, as you’ve also gone through the exact same scenario numerous times.

Advantages of Live Web Chat

Virtually every website for large businesses offers some form of live web chat for sales and/or support today. Most live web chat tools are easy to implement—at least their basic capabilities—and use. Live web chat is used by 85% of B2B companies and 74% of B2C companies for sales. The ratios for support are lower, but still represent a significant share of businesses—66% of B2B companies and 67% of B2C businesses. 

For small businesses, the ratio of live web chat adoption is much lower. The most prevalent reasons for low adoption rates include insufficient time to implement and maintain the requisite technology tools, and a lack of resources to actually manage live web chat engagement. At the same time, a shocking 21% businesses—per a study conducted last year—actually offer live web chat but fail to respond to questions and inquiries from prospects and customers. The study doesn’t reveal the reasons behind their failure to do so, but I suspect many of them implemented live web chat and discovered they didn’t have the time or resources to manage it. (I only can imagine what their net promoter scores [NPS] look like.)

For many small businesses, there is a strong case for live web chat. A majority of customers expect to find live web chat for both their sales and support questions and issues. Many do not want to call due to the inconvenience, and sometimes their location simply doesn’t permit a phone call (e.g., sitting in a business meeting or in a loud environment). Some customers will simply leave your website and never return if you don’t offer them a live web chat option. 

Live web chat regularly is cited by customers as their preferred engagement channel—over phone, email, and text. Businesses benefit on several fronts as well. First, live web chat is typically 15% to 30% cheaper operationally than phone support due to the fact that one live web chat agent can concurrently engage with three or four customers versus a phone agent who can engage with just one at a time. Second, businesses with live web chat see online purchase rates upwards of 60% more per order than businesses without a live web chat option. Third, as customers find live web chat more convenient and efficient, their satisfaction levels are higher than those who must engage via phone support or email—73% compared to 44% and 51%, respectively. 

Checklist for Selecting and Getting Started with Live Web Chat

Small businesses seeking to set up live web chat, there are a few things to consider:

Simple and Fast to Set Up

Most live web chat solutions are easy to set up a configure. You should check out reviews of the live web chat software options you’re considering to ensure that other small businesses find it simple and fast to install. Even better, you can even sign up for a trial and test it out (don’t simply take the word of others). 

On-demand Outsourced Live Web Chat

Small businesses must keep a lot of plates spinning at the same time, and it is difficult for them to keep all of them spinning. Allocating a resource to manage live web chat may not be possible in every instance. Further, many small businesses will not have customers and prospects submitting live chat requests every minute. This is where outsourced, on-demand live web chat services like Davinci Live Web Chat are a great alternative. If you do pursue this route, you should make sure the team has a documented process in place to learn your business so that they come across as if they are a full-time member of your team.

Customizable Chat Buttons

Most live web chat solutions include customizable chat buttons. Every business—big or small—should ensure that their brand style is reflected in the chat buttons on their website. You should think through the experience you want prospects and customers to have when they see your chat buttons and ensure the call to action on them clearly reflects their desired response.

Proactive Live Web Chat Invitations

Static live web chat is great. Proactive live web chat is even better; chat invitations pop up on a visitor’s web browser based on their behavior. 

Customizable Chat Invitations

Just as you should customize your chat buttons, you should also customize your chat invitations. Chat invitations should be customized based on what pages they visited, time spent on a page, shopping cart abandonment, among others. For example, a pizza restaurant might have a live web chat invitation offering to answer questions about customizing a pizza or its delivery charges. An accounting firm might offer chat invitations during tax season that ask visitors if they need help preparing their federal and state income taxes. 

Customizable Greetings

Live web chat agents need to introduce themselves when initiating a chat session. Small businesses need to seek a live web chat solution that allows them to user their customer’s name, identify themselves, listen and ask questions, and answer questions promptly and accurately. 

Staying In Touch With Your Live Web Chat Agents

Most small business owners and managers are on the go most of the time. They remain in touch with the business by getting information on their smartphones. Whether you’ve outsourced phone and administrative support to entities like Davinci Live Receptionists or using live web chat agents through Davinci Live Web Chat, you need to seek out a provider that delivers updates and alerts via iOS and Android mobile apps. Your live web chat agents can engage with you in real time when they need your support.

Transcripts and History

Providing customers with a transcript of their live web chat conversion is useful in helping them to resolve outstanding issues and confirm the answers to their questions. Chat transcripts and a history of a customer’s live web chat interactions are useful to you as a business as well. You can monitor visitor interactions to ensure you are engaging with them at the right moment and actually answering their questions. You can also tap transcripts for training live web chat agents on the best responses to specific customer inquiries. Your marketing team can also leverage them for follow-up activities.

Digital Interactions in a Digital Age

Small businesses should not allow lack of resources and expertise to prevent them from tapping the full potential of the digital age. Websites are the digital face of a business, and just as you would limit in-person interactions with your customers, you should not limit your digital interactions with them. Live web chat is one of the tools that virtually every business must have to ensure digital engagement with customers. 


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