Five mistakes to avoid with live chat on your ecommerce website

Mistakes to avoid with live chatLive Chat is great, but it's easy to mess up and then upset your customers.

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that everyone is talking about live chat as a customer service channel, but what is true is that more and more shoppers are having real time web chats as part of their shopping journey.

Executed well, live chat is seen as being marvellous by both the online retailer and the customer. Done badly and the customer gets absolutely fed up, while the business suffers reputational damage.

We all know that traditional shops employ shop assistants who are there to meet, greet and provide great customer service. But why is it that once the focus shifts to ecommerce, etailers seem to forget all about the customer. There may be a phone number (fancy being on hold or getting an answer machine, and often on a premium rate number?) or an email address (you may get a response in 48-72 hours).

With ever increasing amounts being spent on pay-per-click (PPC) campaigns, why is it that the customer service delivered once someone enters an online shopping website is comparable to inviting someone into a shop and then turning off all the lights? No surprises then that more and more businesses are turning to live chat in an attempt to directly engage with their customers online and drive increased sales.

Studies from Forrester Research, among others, clearly show that live chat for ecommerce can push up average order values (AOV), conversion rates and CSAT scores. It can also help reduce abandonment and encourage a transaction to take place where previously it was unlikely. All sounds rather good, doesn't it? But get it wrong and your customer service team will be dealing with complaints rather than endorsements.

If you are thinking of trying out live chat, here's 5 mistakes to avoid:

1. Don't think live chat observes working hours

If you have live chat on your ecommerce website don't think you can just have it there some of the time. You need to consider when your customers are likely to visit. Will they come at weekends or in the evening? How about late at night after they get home from having a meal with friends? Do they come from abroad and different time zones? Just because it is the middle of the night where you are, it will be the middle of the day somewhere else. Ecommerce never sleeps.

2. Forget any idea of doing it when you can

One of the great benefits of real-time web chat is just that -- it is real time. It means customers are able to get immediate answers to their questions. What happens if you step out to make a cup of tea, or forget to change your status to away? That's when you create disgruntled customers and lost sales. If live chat is active on the website, you have to be there to answer questions as and when they are asked. The very presence of a live chat function generates expectations in the customers' mind that there will be someone to chat with. They don't want to be told there's no-one there and be invited to send an email. They certainly don't want to just find their chat request ignored. If you consider a traditional shop, it would be a bit like a shopper asking a shop assistant a question and then being completely blanked. That is not customer service, it is customer disservice.

3. Don't criticise customers for asking "stupid" questions

One ecommerce business owner once told us he had abandoned live chat as he was fed up with people asking stupid questions. His excuse? The answers were all on the website if people could be bothered to look he couldn't be bothered to answer. It's a little like the old saying: "There's no such thing as stupid questions, only dumb mistakes." In this instance the dumb mistake is thinking customers are lazy. Live chat is conversational, if people have questions you want to ask them to speak with you directly, in fact you want them to ask you directly rather than search for answers. Every chat engagement can result in new sales, happy customers, or both.

4. Don't think people will click the button to request a chat

My mother always said that if you moved to a new town make sure you go at least 80% of the way towards meeting your new neighbours. If you do they will come the other 20% and you will meet. She was right. If you sit at home with the doors closed very few people will come and knock to introduce themselves. But if you go to them, they will happily engage and you could find friends for life. The same is true for live chat. It may only be 0.5% to 2% of all visitors to your website that actually request a chat when they have a question. However, if you were to invite people to chat when you think they may need some help they are far more likely to engage. Perhaps as many as 20% will stop for a chat. So, don't just think reactive click-to-chat, think proactive. Understand how and why people abandon and step in with a nice friendly invitation to help them. They will thank you for it, sales will grow and your business will benefit.

5. Don't take too long answering questions

When someone asks a question via live web chat they expect an immediate answer. While it is possible for operators to handle multiple chats at the same time, they also have to ensure they are swift with their responses. If they need to go away and find an answer, they should always let the customer know. If there is going to be a delay in responding they should let the customer know. Whatever happens, under no circumstances leave the customer wondering whether they have been forgotten. Manage expectations carefully.

At Yomdel we’re really excited about live chat and what it will do to the ecommerce environment. If you know of any other reasons why you should use live chat in your business leave a comment.