Did you know that first live chat software was born over a decade ago?
Yeah, live chat hasn’t been a recent invention.

There is a question - why not until recently have we recognized live chat as a powerful tool to effectively engage users on a website?

The answer seems simple - current live chats are better designed and provide more features.

Yes and no.
Modern live chat solutions have more options than the first versions but the idea behind the software hasn’t changed. People want to interact with each other to exchange information.

For example, if somebody looks for a new type of printer on a website, the person simply sends a chat message to the Customer Support to find the solution. It is not about speaking with a machine, but with a human being.

We have to admit, though, that the tendencies have changed - users became more aware of the attention they need because they recognized themselves as valuable assets to online business. They bring money in, they have the real power.

At the beginning, the primary aim behind online chat on a website was to simply allow users to interact with support teams behind the screen. The problem was that not much effort was put to create particular strategies for the Support teams.

A very common practise of “a ghost live chat” was omnipresent, meaning that users were trying to speak with somebody on a chat, but there was no one to assist them. In other words, a great tool with nobody to operate it.

We can easily compare it to a situation when you buy a truck to deliver fresh fruit and vegetables to your clients, but you haven’t passed your driver’s license, which unables you to drive the car. So, investing money and other resources won’t do any good without a plan and strategy behind it.

Here, we will discuss how to increase the effectiveness of a live chat performance by applying simple strategies to improve the user experience and eventually, convert users into customers.

User experience design

Let me ask you a few questions about how your live chat looks:

  1. Is it easy to locate the widget?
  2. Are the colors adjusted to your website?
  3. Are the fonts coherent with the styles on your pages?
  4. Is there a real picture as an avatar?
  5. What kind of heading do you have?

When it comes to the first question, it seems very obvious, right? Almost every single live chat widget is located at the right bottom corner of a page. But, is it visible enough? Does the icon attract attention? Or maybe, your user has a difficulty to say if it’s a contact form or a live chat? Make it clear that you’re offering a real-time online communication tool in form of a live chat widget.

How about the colors? Do they go together with the colors on your website? Or maybe the opposite?
We recommend to make it similar to the colors on your website. If your main theme is blue, make the icon blue. It makes users feel that everything goes together on your website.

The same story with fonts - coherence is the key. Your users would feel dizzy if you use different fonts on your pages and chat - have one standard font and get your users used to this one particular style.

How would you feel if you were talking on a live chat with a person whose avatar was a picture of a dog? Personally, I would turn a blind eye to it, just smile. But after a while, I would feel more and more frustrated that I’m taking to a dog about a serious issue, which is kind of offending.

So, our recommendation is to have a real picture of a person as an avatar. Your users deserve respect and they want to be sure they are talking to a real human being behind the screen.

Speaking about your heading, is it encouraging your users to interact with you? Is there a welcoming phrase that shows your willingness to help and assist?

  • "Always here to help!"
  • "We are here for you. Send us a message!"
  • "Questions? Let us know! We'll help."

Sentences like these ensure your users that your team is present and ready to assist at any time.

Be present

As mentioned before, the whole idea of live support software is about finding solutions to problems your users have in a real-time. As quickly as possible.

If one of your users sends you a message via chat, don’t make the person wait. The more you put off replying, the greater the chances are that the user will leave the page forever. Don’t let this happen! React when you see a message.

Of course, we are only humans - we don’t work 24/7. There are Sundays, holidays and other occasions when your Customer Support team is not there. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to lose potential customers.

Create an automated workflow (action path) that sends a default chat message to every single user who needs your help via chat when you’re absent. Inform them about the situation:

  • “Hi, unfortunately there’s nobody to help you right now. Simply enter your email address and we’ll get back to you ASAP!”.

No one expects you to be a working machine, always present in the office. But you need to keep your users updated about the situation so they are more likely to understand it and you’ll still have a chance to engage them.

Be kind & helpful

Greetings: Welcome your users with a hearty phrase, which they somehow expect from you - they expect the best possible service, right
To save time, create automated workflows (action paths) based on a trigger, when your user visits your website but hasn’t signed up, then automatically the person sees a chat message with:

  • “Welcome to [...]. How can we help you today?”
  • “Hi, awesome to see you here. Is there anything I can do for you?”
  • “Great to see you here. How can I help you today?”

As you see, they are all anonymous and they target only those who hasn’t enter an email address (name is thus unknown). But, create another flow and target users who visit your page and have already signed up:

  • “Hi [name]! Welcome to [...]. How can I help you?”
  • “Hi [name]! Awesome you’re with us! Is there anything I can help you with?”
  • “Welcome to [...], [name]! How can we help you today?”

Be thankful and appreciative: Show your users that you appreciate their time and you’re truly happy to have a chance to talk with them. Your users may not remember what you’ve exactly talked about but they are going to definitely remember how it’s made them feel. That’s why, you should take a real care of handling your customer.
If a user signed up, use the data to determine the name, location and browser language (to deliver the user’s language). All to create personalized messages. For example:

  • “Thanks [name] for writing! I hope that you’re doing great.”
  • “Hi [name]. Thanks for writing! It’s awesome to have visitors from [country].”
  • “Welcome [name]. Thanks for being with us. How can I help you?”

Listening: Nobody likes feeling ignored. Nor do your users. They don’t deserve to get repetitive answers, showing that your Customer Support team members do it very reluctantly. Imagine that somebody asks a question “Hi, is there any printer with function X and Y?” and gets an answer “Unfortunately no”. No further recommendations or questions aiming at finding the solution. The user feels ignored, as if he was the fifth wheel.
Instead of ditching your users, try one of these phrases to show that you are actually listening. If you don’t understand a question, ask for clarifications. We’re humans, nobody expects you to know everything:

  • “I see you’re interested in X. We don’t have it in stock right now. Maybe I can recommend …?”
  • “Do I understand it correctly that you need a device with X and Y? If yes, let me check also some alternatives”
  • “I am not sure if I understand. Did you mean …?”

Apologizing: Yeah, we’re human beings and we make mistakes. That’s why, when you are not sure about something - inform your user and ensure you need to confirm the information. But, if you made a mistake, for example by giving an incorrect price, admit it openly and just say sorry. The worst you can do is to try to sweep it under the carpet, pretending that nothing really happened. Then, your user feels offended by your dishonesty, which means that the person is never going to buy enough from you. Instead, when you make a mistake, try:

  • “I am sorry. I provided you with a lower than price of XYZ than it really is.”
  • “Sorry for the inconvenience caused by the late delivery. How can we make it up for you?”
  • “Let me apologize for the misunderstanding. Is there anything I can do to improve your experience with us?”

Keep it simple, not simplistic

Your users write to you because they want to get an answer fast. That’s why, don’t overwhelm them with long sentences, where you are going to brag about your sophisticated writing skills :-). It’s more about how to include all the essential information in the simplest possible way. So, it should convey the information in a way that a user understands fast.

Use all the possible features a live chat widget gives you: attach files and pictures, send videos. All the interactive materials are super helpful in guiding your users and showing them practical solutions to a problem.

For example, if somebody asks you about the most powerful features of your product, you can send a short video with its presentation, which your user is more likely to remember than a longish piece of writing.

Engage & take care of a relationship

We already talked about the main idea behind chat - do you remember?
Yes, it is about connecting people with people to get valuable information, solve a problem, improve one’s experience.

That’s why, it’s very important to adjust messages you send to your users to take truly the most from live chat software. In other words, it isn’t going to serve its purpose if in the very first message you include “Hi! Interested in our …?”, which makes users flee - they feel harassed instead of understood.

If somebody visiting your website, sends you a chat message with a precise question on your product, start with a hearty greeting and then go to the question. Offer further help if needed and depending on how the conversation goes, recommend similar/different products or simply encourage to visit particular pages on your website.

Don’t be pushy with your offers. Step by step.

Make sure that your user is happy about the service and knows that you are there to help if needed.

Let’s take a look on this chat conversation:

A final piece of advice

Having discussed how to increase the effectiveness of your live chat performance, let’s sum it up very quickly.

Live chat software is a very powerful tool if it goes together with a well-thought Customer Support strategy. Thanks to marketing automation platforms, chat messages can be sent automatically if particular users perform specific actions on your website. It saves time and helps to engage them more efficiently.

Delivering personalized messages is possible thanks to data collection and you doing everything to understand preferences and tendencies of your users.

Be present, give help that users need. Be thankful and appreciative for their presence on your website. Respect their time and provide them with clear explanations in the shortest possible time.

Marta Debska Saas Implementation Project Manager

Posted on June 17th, 2016