What Is Live Website Chat and Should You Use In-House Staff or Outsourced Chat Agents?

Sean Lund-Brown

Live website chat was one of the first instant contact options for digital customers, and it remains a powerful business tool today. However, the ways that we use live chat have changed. The apps themselves have changed, as have the best practices for putting these communication tools to use.

Luckily, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about live website chat, including best practices, benefits, and who you should leave in charge of the service. You’ll be able to choose between managing your own live chat service, outsourcing it to third-party virtual agents, or creating a hybrid solution where you handle part of the interaction and they handle the rest.

The state of live website chat in 2021

AI and technology are reshaping the digital world. In light of the pandemic, everyone is scrambling to find agile solutions to deliver what customers want. Live website chat platforms are on par to keep pace, but companies are falling behind. Even big brands like PayPal still lack robust (or any) live chat options. Plus, it’s not even just about offering the chat service, but how effective you can be in delivering the ideal customer experience.

Let’s take a look at the state of live chat by the numbers:

70% of customers prefer live agents to AI technology, but still want to use online platforms.

79% of consumers use live chat for the instant response.

92%: The highest customer satisfaction rate across communication channels, the honor given to live website chat.

48 seconds was the average initial response time in 2018.

63% of users who use a live chat service are more likely to return to that site than those who don’t engage with the chat.

More than half of all chat requests are made from mobile devices.

Despite these statistics, there are some less-than-positive ones to note, as well:

● As many as 42% of businesses think that customers prefer phone contact to live chat.

21% of all live website chats are left unanswered.

54% of users report not having a positive experience with live chat in the last month.

So, what does this mean for you? It means it’s time to embrace live chat technology and help turn the bad impressions around for the betterment of your business and consumers as a whole. Not only will it improve your service and sales, but it will make you look great because you’re doing this to make sure that your customers can get to you when they need you.

According to the most current reports, the most common use of live website chat is for sales, with customer support coming in second. Zoho reports that 66% of B2B and 67% of B2C companies use live chat for customer service and support, while 85% of B2B brands and 74% of BRC brands use it for sales.

You should be using live chat 100% of the time for 100% of your possible uses: sales, marketing, customer support, and any other area where customers need dedicated attention and instant answers.

What do consumers think?

Today’s consumers prefer live chat as a way to contact companies. Social media is quickly becoming popular, as well, but several sources are reporting that live chat is offering the highest demand and best customer satisfaction. People like this service because it offers instant or near-instant communication. Here are some other things that customers think about live chat:

● 51% like the multitasking aspect. (EConsultancy)

● 46% agree that it’s the most efficient option. (EConsultancy)

● 29% of consumers say the live chat assistance was better than what they got through email. (EConsultancy)

● 22% of consumers even said they like live chat specifically because they don’t like talking on the phone (which is interesting, since we covered how businesses think that customers do prefer phone support). (EConsultancy)

Not only that, but while the response times are great, customers are even willing to make some concessions to help brands out. For example, a majority of customers reported that they would absolutely sacrifice a longer wait or slower communication via live chat simply for better-quality service. (Kayako)

Why live chat works

Live website chat is effective because it provides people with that real-time, real person connection that they desire, but without having to pick up the phone or visit a business in person. Live chat is quick, convenient, and often has better hours of availability than other customer service channels, at least for AI and chatbots that can start and route the conversation.

When a consumer clicks on a “Live Chat” button or link, they will be taken to a chat window and connected with the next available agent. Some chats will start with prompts to route the user in the right direction before having the chat answered, while some brands choose to have dedicated links for specific chat needs to save the hassle.

This method works because it is almost instant and it allows people to have that human connection that they crave without sitting on hold for 20 minutes. It also offers a lot of opportunities for integration and expansion thanks to outsourcing and third-party chat services that can handle your communication needs.

In-house vs. outsourced live chat

Speaking of third parties and outsourcing, let’s get to the important part — who’s going to handle your live chat service? There’s a lot to consider here. For starters, do you have the infrastructure and funding to support a full-service in-house chat team? Even if that only means one or two agents, you still have to be able to afford the associated overhead and day-to-day expenses of staff management.

It’s not just employees, either. You’ll have to invest in office space, technology, the right chat software, and an IT maintenance team that can monitor the system and make sure that it’s working effectively. That’s quite a list for a company on a limited budget.

Some companies pull off in-house chat services without a hitch. However, those companies are few and far between. And, even the best companies use outsourced agents from time to time, although they may never admit it.

So, what does the decision come down to? Here are five reasons live chat outsourcing is the better option.

1. Customized solutions that blend in

That brings us to another great benefit of outsourcing with modern virtual agents like those offered by Smith.ai: we can customize our live chat services to blend in and feel like an extension of your company so that your customers never feel like they’re being “outsourced” in a negative capacity.

When you choose live support agents from a third-party provider, you can assign as much or as little of the work to them as you desire. Some brands use outsourcing to field all contacts, and then have the necessary ones forwarded to their own in-house agents for resolution. Others use it the other way, escalating to the outsourced agents or using the third-party provider to handle the overflow.

2. Dedicated experience

While you might be experts in your area of business, live chat agents are experts in theirs: communication. If you want to give your customers the best experience, it makes sense to leave it to the pros. The experts at Smith.ai can help you set up the ideal live chat solution and keep it running like a well-oiled machine to keep your business communication moving forward.

3. 24/7 availability

Another benefit of live chat through an outsourced company is that you can get agents that are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Plus, you’re not paying for the round-the-clock staff or fighting the battle of sourcing people willing to work less than desirable shifts. Agents can be on call whenever you need them, and even if you only need third-shift outsourcing, for example, you can still benefit.

4. Flexibility and scalability

If you do integrate your own system, will you have the capability to create something flexible and scalable to grow with your business? An outsourced company offers all of the scalability and flexibility that you need, including the opportunity to scale down during slower times. You can get exactly what you need and nothing more, with affordable pre-configured plans and customized plans available.

5. Valuable chat insights

When you use a third-party provider, they will incorporate a robust analytics platform into their chat service, ensuring that you can monitor and track all communications. This doesn’t just help you make sure that things are done right. It allows you to find areas of improvement and identify inefficiencies that you can fix to improve your communication and your brand as a whole.

Get started with Smith.ai

If you’re ready to step up your communication game with a live website chat that delivers the experience that consumers want, we’re ready to help. Learn more about Smith.ai Live Chat features and integrations or set up a time to discuss your needs by scheduling a free Live Chat consultation.

Sean Lund-Brown

Sean Lund-Brown is a current Marketing Assistant for Smith.ai. A graduate from Metropolitan State University of Denver, Sean graduated with a BA in Music and an individualized degree in Teaching Vocal Pedagogy.

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