Live chat is a powerful tool, but like any tool, it needs to be used properly to get the maximum utility out of it.
If you want to support customers with live chat, you’ll need to make smart decisions about where it’s added to your site, how your customer service team will use it, and how it integrates with your other support processes.
We’ve put together this guide to help you not only successfully implement live chat on your website, but also to offer the right kind of support experience for your customers.
Let’s take a look at why live chat is such a powerful tool for customer support teams. But first…
What is live chat support?
Live chat support is a customer service messaging channel that allows businesses to communicate with customers on their website via chat. It provides a range of benefits for businesses: they can provide instant support to customers and answer customer questions in real-time, which reduces wait times, improves customer satisfaction, and boosts sales.
How live chat fits with evolving customer service needs
Modern consumers rarely have a single touchpoint with any given company. The research process for even small purchases can be long and difficult: there are reviews to read, content to consume, docs to check, and questions to be asked.
“Modern consumers rarely have a single touchpoint with any given company”
All of these touchpoints are opportunities to have a conversation with a customer before, during, or after a purchase.
By offering live chat on your site, you’re making it easier for customers to start that conversation. They don’t have to hunt for a contact email address or take time out of their day to call you. Live chat also helps you personalize the support experience for customers who might have a longer research process than others or naturally ask more questions. With an omnipresent chat window, you’re giving these customers an opportunity to get answers faster without feeling frustrated or inconvenienced.
We’ve found that companies using our live chat solution have a dramatically shorter time to first response than the industry average. This means your support team can spend less time rushing through Q&A sessions, and more time creating thoughtful, personalized interactions that nurture long-term relationships.
The top 3 benefits of live chat support
Since 38% of shoppers are more likely to purchase from a business they can chat with, offering live chat support can help you increase your sales. But that’s not the only benefit, not by a long shot.
Here are the top benefits you’ll see by adding live chat for customer service to your site.
1. Customers won’t have to wait for help
The on-demand nature of the internet has conditioned us to expect results immediately. That includes responses from a business: when a customer contacts you with a question or problem, they want a solution as quickly as possible.
“Live chat support helps your visitors get the answers they need right away”
Live chat support helps your visitors get the answers they need right away, decreasing the chances of them leaving your site for a competitor, writing a negative review, returning a product, or canceling a subscription.
Even if a member of your support team isn’t available immediately, live chat tools like Intercom Messenger can provide personal, in-context resolutions to any type of customer query – from simple to complex – with a Messenger-first ticketing solution. Even if your customer drops off the chat, our Messenger will follow up via email for a seamless experience that they can interact with on their terms. This behavior removes some of the uncertainty from the situation and makes them feel valued.
Your live chat software can also provide self-service options to help customers find what they need on their own. You can add a search box within the Messenger or fully automate the question-and-answer experience, providing an even faster response time for customers who have easy-to-answer questions.
2. Customers can get support where they need it
Some products are more complex than others, and some customers might have more questions based on their level of experience. Because of this, live chat doesn’t just help you respond faster: it helps you offer support at the exact time and place it’s most useful
“It helps you offer support at the exact time and place it’s most useful”
Live chat allows you to use the data you already have to support your customers when and where they need it most. With live chat software, you can measure website traffic data or draw from what you already know about your products to decide where your support is most useful. A few ideas:
- If most of your website traffic is to a specific support page, add live chat there
- If you have a physical product that’s frequently returned, you can start a visitor auto message on the return page with a link to your FAQs
- If you have a software product, and customers frequently need help during setup, trigger an auto message in your Messenger during this process
Plus, if you use the Intercom Messenger in particular, you can help customers in their moment of need – in your product, website, or app while their query is top of mind. Collect real-time data about your customer to power even more personalized experiences. This support can go far beyond simply answering questions before they sign up or make a purchase – it can strengthen and lengthen your relationship with each customer.
3. Customers are more likely to buy
Live chat isn’t just convenient. Our research shows that website visitors who chat with you are 82% more likely to make a purchase. They also spend, on average, 60% more than those who don’t use live chat.
If a potential customer knows you’ll be there to help them answer their questions, now or in the future, they’ll feel better about buying. They’ll also feel more confident about returning for a second purchase, upgrading their plan, or referring you to a friend.
This feeling of trust only increases if you use live chat as part of a full customer support experience. If you’re checking in with customers via email, keeping your phone lines open and taking calls, and being present on social media, you’re showing them that you’re committed to their success and happiness no matter how they get in touch with you.
4 best practices for a successful live chat support experience
You know live chat is important. Now you need some tips for successfully supporting customers with it. Here are four of the best ways you can delight website visitors with the chat experience:
1. Offer help when it’s really needed
In some contexts, adding a live chat window can be more distracting than useful. An unwanted live chat experience is like a store clerk shouting at you with a megaphone when all you want to do is window shop.
To offer the right kind of help at the right times, ask yourself what pages, products, or parts of your process are stumbling blocks. They might be:
- Your checkout
- A pricing page
- Your signup process
- Various stages of the setup process
- The process of deciding between similar products
- Returns or exchanges
You can have a live chat message automatically present quietly on this page, pop up in a window, or even show specific information.
Think about where your customers have the most questions or need the most amount of support, and aim to offer chat experiences that match.
2. Tell them how long they’ll have to wait
Customers don’t visit a physical business outside of its operating hours and get frustrated by the lack of staff – after all, the hours are posted right there on the door.
Think about your live chat experience the same way. If your team of chat agents is currently available, your live chat app should show that someone is ready and waiting to help – like a “We’re open!” sign on a business’s front door.
But if someone needs support during a time when your team is busy, it’s up to you to tell them how soon you can help them. This might mean:
- Adding your normal operating hours in the live chat window
- Including an estimated wait time for a response, based on the first time to response in your shared inbox
- Letting them know they can receive an email when you come online
Remember that customers prefer live chat support because of the urgency it offers. If they need to wait a little while for a reply, that’s fine, as long as they know when they’ll hear back. But it’s called live chat for a reason, and that means these messages should have a higher priority over other forms of communication.
3. Help them find the right information themselves
If a customer has an urgent problem, they may not want to wait even a few minutes for a member of your support team to respond. They may want to find the answers themselves, but don’t know where to look.
This is where automation can save both you and your customers valuable time and energy. If a member of your support team isn’t immediately available, intelligent chatbots can review a customer’s question for common phrases or keywords, and then suggest relevant docs or FAQ pages, or even, in the case of Resolution Bot, resolve the question entirely.
Live chat automation helps your customers find the right information themselves, eliminating the need for your team to be live 24/7. It can also help establish that feeling of trust we talked about earlier since it shows that you’re committed to finding ways to help even when you’re not physically present.
4. Give them extra resources
Earlier, we talked about the multiple touchpoints a customer can have when interacting with you. With that in mind, one final best practice is to think about how you can continue the relationship with a customer after their support experience is over.
Think about evergreen resources you could have your support team send to customers while your chat is winding down, like:
- Upcoming or previously recorded webinars
- Blog posts
- “How-to” docs
- A link to sign up to your email list
The resources you send should be relevant to what your customer was chatting about, or a natural “next step” in the process of supporting them. For example, if a customer contacted you with a question about the ingredients in your all-natural body lotion, you might send them to a blog post on the subject. Or if they were on your pricing page and about to purchase your software, a video about getting set up might be the natural next step.
Sending them these resources doesn’t just make them feel valued (although it really does!): it cuts down on the number of times they need to contact you again because you’ve already anticipated exactly what they need to succeed.
5 companies with a successful live chat support experience
Online chat can make your customer service experience faster, smoother, and more memorable for all involved.
With features like customer support chatbots, a smart, real-time inbox, and options to add chat to specific locations, you can successfully support your customers as they navigate their relationship with your company from a variety of platforms and devices: over Facebook messenger, or on iPhones and Android mobile phones.
To give you some more ideas for your own live chat implementation, we’ve put together examples of five different companies using our live chat software. These companies use Intercom to help their customers at multiple stages of the support process, from guiding them through the signup flow to giving them ways to make product suggestions in-app.
GoFetch+ is a subscription service app that aims to improve pet care and decrease the costs that come with it in partnership with your selected vet. They adopted Intercom in 2022 with the aim of easing communications between pet owners and vets.
Through our Messenger, GoFetch+ users can connect with their chosen veterinary clinics, provide access to live support and self-serve information as well as hosting a rewards system through the chat.
Gymshark is a fitness brand that specializes in activewear apparel. It also provides a community forum for members worldwide to meet like-minded fitness fans, and learn new techniques, recipes, and exercises.
As more and more eCommerce customers expect instant responses, clarity around their online orders, and a transparent customer journey, GymShark deployed the Messenger to achieve just that. From the moment the chat pops up on their website, shoppers are served a range of help center options such as order tracking, answers to FAQs, and instant chat with an estimated response time for complete engagement clarity.
3. Mingle Sport
Mingle Sport is a social app for grassroots ball sports fanatics to create and share content using computer vision AI, great design, and cutting-edge mobile technology. They are using the Messenger to chat with customers, set response time expectations, and allow customers to search their help center for quick self-serve resolutions.
Ostrom is a Berlin-based energy management platform that makes green electricity affordable and straightforward for households in Germany and Europe. Consumers can view their energy consumption and control their bills in real-time and avail of customized, live German support via the Messenger.
Maybe is a modern financial planning and investment management app. Not only are they powering customer service through Messenger, their instant messaging and FAQs provide the ability to host a live stock index feed – so customers can stay up to the minute with where they should, shouldn’t, and have already invested their money.
Better live chat supports starts with smart decisions
To offer great live chat customer support, you’ll need to think carefully about what kind of chat support you want to offer, where you’ll offer it, and how chat fits in with the overall customer experience to support your customers from research to post-purchase.
Remember: chat can be an incredibly powerful way to improve relationships and increase purchases, but it’s not something you can just add to your site and immediately reap the benefits from. Sit down with your support team and make sure you’re all committed to fast responses and helpful follow-ups. As long as you’re all on the same page from the start, you’ll be sure to delight your customers.
Ready up your support game? We’ll show you the best strategies for offering a premium customer experience while turning your support team from a cost center to a value drive when you download our ebook: Supercharge Your Support: How In-context Support Can Boost Your Bottom Line.