Should UK retailers use live chat support for discount codes?

By Andy Soloman, CEO, Yomdel

Live chat support is a hugely efficient way to engage real time with customers when they are on your website, especially as visitors become more savvy and actively hunt  for discount codes or cashback deals before making a purchase.

With 53% of people saying a lack of human interaction can drive their decision to abandon an online purchase, live chat support is increasingly cited by shoppers as being hugely influential in helping them complete their purchases. However, the majority of retailers still do not offer this service and are clearly missing a huge opportunity.

Live chat can be used in many different ways to support the sales or customer service process. In an age when extreme couponing is all the rage, when everyone is hunting for that elusive discount, what are major retailers doing about it on their own sites?

Over here at Yomdel, we took a look at six major online retailers and tried the simple question:

Would you be able to give me a discount code to help me with my purchase today?"

The response, both in terms of the quality of the live chat experience and the outcome was mixed. In fact, of the six (Amazon, Apple, Epson, Schuh, Nike and Burberry) just Apple offered an immediate discount. Epson offered discount if I came back a few days later (still scratching my head over that one) and the others all said "no".

Live Chat Support and Discount Codes

Amazon UK

Amazon UK live chat service dialogueAmazon is the giant of global online retailing, and it comes as no surprise that in the UK it doesn't offer proactive live chat. Like with so many major retailers, you actually have to hunt down the live chat support. Once you get there via the contact us page, the initial response to the live chat request is reasonably quick, but there often seem to be major delays between responses from live chat operators.

This chat took place in mid morning on a Friday. The operator "Judith" was friendly and just about OK. She did not apologise for the lengthy delays between her responses. In the end, as I expected, there were also no coupons offered. I would though have expected the live chat operator to perhaps offer a free trial to the Amazon Prime annual subscription delivery service, but there was actually no attempt to push for any form of incremental sale.

Yomdel Verdict - Amazon UK

Ease of finding and accessing chat -- 3/10

Speed of initial operator response -- 5/10

Speed of operator responses within conversation -- 3/10

Was a coupon or other incentive offered -- No

Overall customer satisfaction score -- 3/10

Apple UK

Hooray for Apple. It's not that I'm a geek, or suffer from blind brand allegiance. I don't. But after a tricky start, Cillian in the Apple UK live chat service hotseat was friendly, engaging, clearly passionate about the products, and most importantly of all, really wanted to help.

Apple UK live chat support dialogue windowAgain, no proactive invitations being served, but once you are on the "buy product" pages, there is a prominent live chat button. Unfortunately, there was an horrendous wait before Cillian finally popped up. In live chat terms, any delay in response of more than 30 seconds risks both the customer abandoning and delivering a thoroughly unsatisfactory experience.

Apple UK live chat service button

In this case, because I had waited for so long, I forgot I'd requested the chat. The window was open somewhere on my (PC) desktop, and after more than 10 minutes I realised there was eventually someone to chat to.

From starting with the question for an Apple discount coupon,  Cillian expertly engaged, asked great questions about what Apple products I wanted (I'd enquired about a Macbook Pro and an iPad Air) and what they would be used for, and he ended up giving great advice.

And what of the search for discount codes? Yes, was the answer. Around 5% discount offered off a Macbook, and lots of support for an iPad purchase. And what's more, there was no pressure to buy there and then. Instead I swiftly received a great email from Cillian detailing the product choices and his direct contacts if I subsequently wanted to take out the offer. Excellent.

Yomdel Verdict - Apple UK

Ease of finding and accessing chat -- 6/10

Speed of initial operator response -- 1/10

Speed of operator responses within conversation -- 9/10

Was a coupon or other incentive offered -- Yes

Overall customer satisfaction score -- 9/10

Epson

Oh dear or dear. I'm not sure how much of this is down to the live chat software (Moxie) used by Epson, or more likely, by its deployment and execution. This was a shocking experience, even if in the end I was offered a 10% discount, but only if I came back several days later.

 

Epson live chat support button Confusing! Moving from this image to...

 

Again, no proactive chat. I found a projector for the bargain (!) price of £2,598.86 and shoved it in the basket. Clicking on the "Epson Online Chat" button was then the cause of all the problems. Problems which the operator "Gillian Owen" was either unfamiliar with or didn't know how to deal with.

Take a look at this next screenshot. From viewing my shopping cart with various incremental sales offers placed in front of me, once I enter chat I was faced with the image below which had opened in the same browser window on the same tab. Bosh! I'd lost all sight of what I wanted, all information about the products I was looking at had disappeared, only to be replaced with a tiny chat window and a big white space.

 

Epson Live Chat Support window ...a big white browser window

 

And so began a strange conversation:

Gillian Owen: Which projector please Andy?

Me: Can't remember. I was on the product page and when I clicked chat it took me away

Me: In the same window

Me: So without leaving chat I can't see it

Gillian Owen: Was it the EM-TW9100?

Me: I don't know.

In a moment Epson had lost a potential customer. The live chat operator should have been able to see which pages I had viewed prior to chat and the chat should open in a new window. The situation clearly unsettled the live chat agent, and the rest of the conversation was uncomfortable and littered with lengthy delay. If anything, it also highlighted the importance of live chat agents being able to seamlessly co-browse with customers.

And what of the question around a discount code? I was first told it wasn't possible. I thanked her and was about to leave the chat when she came back 45 seconds later with an offer out of the blue that I could have 10% off, but only if I came back on Monday (this was Friday). I tried to get the offer the same day but was given no reason for it being unavailable immediately.

Hey ho, another potential customer lost.

Epson live chat support discount offer

Yomdel Verdict - Epson

Ease of finding and accessing chat -- 6/10

Speed of initial operator response -- 5/10

Speed of operator responses within conversation -- 6/10

Was a coupon or other incentive offered -- Yes (sort of)

Overall customer satisfaction score -- 2/10

Nike UK

Fast, smooth and to the point. A quick in and out, even if yet again there was no proactive chat served and live chat support had to be hunted down in the contact us section.

Nike live chat supportAt just 8 seconds from requesting the live chat to actually chatting with a live chat agent, this was the fastest and most efficient. It was all over in a flash. I was offered no discount codes.

Yomdel Verdict - Nike

Ease of finding and accessing chat -- 4/10

Speed of initial operator response -- 10/10

Speed of operator responses within conversation -- 10/10

Was a coupon or other incentive offered -- No

Overall customer satisfaction score -- 7/10

Burberry

With a coat costing £1,595 safely in the shopping basket, it was time to see whether Burberry could help limit the damage on my wallet. The checkout area has a prominent "Start Live Chat" button top right that changes from grey to bright blue after a short delay on the page. This is close to proactive chat, but could be handled so much more efficiently.

Burberry live chat supportSophie B, the Burberry live chat agent, was direct, but there were a few delays in her responses, which with a premium brand such as this are quite unwelcome, especially when this chat followed on from the sharp Nike experience. I was told politely, but firmly, that Burberry "do not offer this".

Yomdel Verdict - Burberry

Ease of finding and accessing chat -- 6/10

Speed of initial operator response -- 7/10

Speed of operator responses within conversation -- 6/10

Was a coupon or other incentive offered -- No

Overall customer satisfaction score -- 6/10

Schuh

That shoes retailer Schuh are huge fans of live chat, is no secret. They understand its potential and execute really well. Importantly for Schuh, live chat is driving great conversion rates. Schuh offers both reactive click to chat and proactive live chat support. Going further, it also offers customers the choice of straight text chat or video chat. The most common engagement is via video live chat where the customer types and the live chat operator speaks and can be seen.

 

Shuh live chat support reactive You can chose video or text live chat

 

If you chose not to deliberately initiate a conversation, you will also be served with proactive invitations. If you accept a video chat, it can be a little disconcerting at first with the process of listening and watching and then typing in your responses, but it is certainly effective.

When it came to my question, sadly on this occasion I was not offered any discount codes or other incentives. But did this in any way ruin the experience? No, it didn't. I came away feeling strangely satisfied, the live chat support was great, and I will be back, even if I do have to buy at full price.

Schuh video live chat support

Yomdel Verdict - Schuh

Ease of finding and accessing chat -- 10/10

Speed of initial operator response -- 8/10

Speed of operator responses within conversation -- 9/10

Was a coupon or other incentive offered -- No

Overall customer satisfaction score -- 9/10

Conclusion

Customers are a fickle bunch. Live chat support is great at keeping them engaged, but is it a good approach to not offer discounts directly when people ask? Maybe. Maybe not.

We would appreciate your views by commenting below. While not a scientific study, it was a real mixed bag in terms of user experience. From the dreadful (Epson) to the brilliant (Schuh), and not forgetting the passionate (Apple). Please do share examples of the good and bad when it comes using live chat on ecommerce websites.

 
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