A recent article here on Return Customer asks if new trends in phone, email and chat support have ushered in a new age of customer service. Phone and email have long been mainstays of customer service, but you’ve probably noticed that chat is coming into its own as a valuable tool for customer service. Why is that?
For businesses that want to talk to and really connect with customers while they’re still browsing their website, chat is a very powerful tool. The growing adoption of chat shows that more and more businesses are realizing this power. A Forrester report from February 2013 showed that while phone is still a preferred service channel, there has been a 43 percent increase in chat usage in the last three years.
Chat also meets the changing expectations of online shoppers. Customers want an online shopping experience that’s similar to what they get in the real world. That means a clear path to the register, and if they have questions they want someone who’s there to help quickly. Companies who provide this kind of service have seen customers respond with dollars and delight. For instance, we’ve seen companies experience a 48 percent increase in cart size and three times more same store purchases for customers who chat with customer service.
So how can you use chat to add value and create more returning customers?
The difference between a response time of five and 30 seconds on a website could be that of a sale or a missed opportunity. After all, a customer interaction is really a test to see if you can meet their expectations and how attentive you are. Through chat, you can answer customers quickly, even with a simple hello to get the conversation started. This way they know they’re speaking with a real person who cares and who can help. With chat, a customer doesn’t have to leave what they’re viewing to make a phone call or send an email. They can get an answer and complete their purchase.
Chat doesn’t have to be everywhere on your site. In fact, many companies start by adding chat to their pricing page where most conversations lead to sales. If you’re worried about staffing, you can show chat to only customers with more than $500 in their shopping carts, or customers who are sitting on your checkout page for more than 60 seconds. Understand your site and where chat can target bottlenecks, and understand your target audience so chat can streamline their decision making process.
Chat provides you with added context about everyone on your site, like where they’re browsing, what pages they’re viewing, what’s in their cart, and whether they’re a returning customer. Your operators can use this to proactively approach someone browsing on your site and provide a more personal experience. Some companies even take this one step further, offering chat as a white glove service for their most valuable customers.
The call center culture has created a world where shoppers have grown tired of scripted responses. Use chat as a way to stand out from the competition, show your company’s personality and make it fun and interesting for shoppers on your site. And be curious! You’ll learn a lot from your customers.
Unlike phone support, chat lets you talk to multiple customers at once. Many chat operators can go up to four, even five conversations at once. Suddenly your operators become four- to five-times more powerful than their phone support counterparts. They won’t be able to leap buildings in a single bound, but they can deliver even more customer happiness.
These are just a few ways in which chat can help you create more return customers, but it’s really up to you how to best use it. For inspiration, check out sites like Bonobos, Trunk Club and even our own site, Olark. On any of those sites, you can try chatting by clicking the tab in the bottom corner and saying something as simple as, ‘Hi – I’m just checking things out.’ Chances are you’ll get a real person the first time, and experience the new age of customer service.
About the Author
By Ben Congleton, CEO and Co-Founder, Olark (www.olark.com)