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Does having a live chat feature on a website increase conversions enough to cover the cost administration?

Most of the data I have found comes from companies selling live chat solutions and is unreliable in my opinion.

Do users find this as a valuable feature or an annoyance?

Personally, I'm annoyed by sites that use live chat especially when a little box pops up without my explicit request, but if users find this valuable then I should consider implementing it. Any concrete data is appreciated.

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closed as primarily opinion-based by John Conde Jan 20 at 1:42

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise.If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

    
Are you asking about customer service chat, or have a general member's chat on your site? –  mellowsoon Oct 23 '10 at 19:27
    
Customer service chat. –  Jim Oct 23 '10 at 19:32
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4 Answers 4

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Well this really depends on what the chat is for. I quite like live chat for example when:

  • It's discreet, in that there are no popups without your consent e.g. by clicking a link.
  • I only chat when I have a problem or a question I want to ask immediately. Sometimes I don't want to wait for an email reply the following day (or the next).

If the chat obeys the above then quite simply it is better to have chat than not to. This essentially comes down to how much will it cost you and will you see the return.

So if you are running an ecommerce store for example and people want to ask questions about a certain product then they have this opportunity right then and there. This could lead a conversion where there otherwise would not have been one. Perhaps the potential buyer would send an email instead only to be replied to the next day. In the mean time they have found what they wanted elsewhere. Have a read on this blog about a Live Chat survey completed in 2009. They summarised the results quite well - "If you’re not using live chat these two things are true:

  1. Extremely valuable prospects are slipping through your fingers, and
  2. Your competitors who use live chat are building strong and lasting relationships with their customers that you won’t be able to overcome."

A chat also comes in handy as most people work during the day, buying, booking things online. A discreet chat window to get information / or technical support is better than your colleagues hearing you have a chat on the phone about it.

If the chat is for technical support this is really helpful, and this is the kind of chat I most often use. As is normally the case, you run into a technical issue - you are already on your computer and only a few clicks away from contacting someone that can help you. I use this feature a lot with my hosting company albeit they sometimes cannot answer my questions and I have to open a ticket.

Personally I find live chat invaluable as long as it is discreet and doesn't bomb my screen with popups. This is why:

I am on the Internet trying to find something or do something, if I can't find it, do it or have questions about it then I want to ask those question right now and get an answer. I don't want to wait for the answer.

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+1 for less intrusiveness (for you and your coworkers). –  webbiedave Oct 22 '10 at 16:11
    
Thank you for the detailed answer. –  Jim Oct 23 '10 at 18:20
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This is obviously going to depend on the site/service/salesperson. But most sites I've come across don't pop-up a live-chat invitation. So if you find it annoying, you could always not go that route. Or some businesses prefer to use live analytics to identify when a user who's shown interest in a product is looking for some help—then, and only then, do they pop-up a live chat invitation.

Anyway, I haven't used Live Chat on any of my sites yet, but I've been evaluating different options. You may find my question helpful.

I think adding a new channel for communication between you and the customer can only be a good thing. Sometimes email isn't fast enough but the visitor isn't interested enough to pick up the phone. A live chat sales rep is right there on the site, removing any barrier to contact. Think about it: how often have you had a question for a service provider or manufacturer while browsing their site, but were too lazy to write an email or pick up the phone. It's so much effort to look up the appropriate e-mail contact, open up your email client (or log into Gmail), and then type up an e-mail that probably won't be answered for at least an hour. Looking up a phone number, dialing, clawing through voice menus, and being put on hold while waiting for a phone rep to become available is an equally unpalatable proposition. A live chat representative, OTOH, is just one click away. Don't ever underestimate the power of human laziness...

It's also cheaper to have live chat customer service reps than phone reps—especially if you can get a live chat setup that supports 2-3 operators, each of whom can manage 2-3 conversations at a time, for less than the cost of setting up 4-9 phone lines. So if you're running a business that is mostly conducted over the internet, then this might be a preferable support option (you could type links or even display images or multimedia in the chat), or at least another alternative for real-time communication.

You could even have a system that's interfaced with SMS (could probably be done through twitter) so that your chat reps would be able to answer chat requests even while they're out.

And if you have a live chat solution that also comes with video conferencing/1-to-1 capabilities, then it adds another level of intimacy and interaction that could greatly improve your conversation rates over plain old e-mail or phone.

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+1 for cost effectiveness (versus phone) –  webbiedave Oct 22 '10 at 16:10
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I think live chat has become quite common these days. People are getting used to it and it has been proved an effective way to communicate with online customers - fewer operator dealing with more customers - and collect visitor info.

I like it when it's a good-looking button that will always wait there for me to get a talk right away or leave a message, but I hate pop-up windows, especially for those that pop up on every web page.

It is said that live chat works best with the travel industry.

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Good to see this conversation on the Webmaster forums. I was intending to blog about this for quite some time now, but was procrastinating!!

Live Chat helps. A lot.

I used to be the webmaster of an organization which ran a site as their primary lead generation mechanism. I also used to lead the marketing team to run different campaigns (Adwords, Facebook, Adroll, Bing, LinkedIn), optimize their content for organic searches and manage their social media presence.

For all these activities we used Google Analytics with some custom reporting using hand made scripts. All of our tactical decisions on the different campaigns were thus based on the reporting we had. To give you a brief idea of what kind of reporting we did - GA would track traffic and traffic sources, the entire site has e-commerce and lead generation mechanisms and those were the goals used on the site. We tracked the number of leads per traffic source, the revenue generated per traffic source, the conversion rate per traffic source (and even the keywords for the paid leads).

We used Olark for our site chat software and manned the site chat 16 hours a day in two shifts. The only reason we decided to ramp this up because we found that the conversion rate of leads generated by site chat is higher.

We also tried various experiments with our site chat -

  • Showed an ugly pop-up for sitechat to every visitor on the site. This did not work.
  • Track search terms coming from search and point the visitor in the right direction.
  • Created a FAQs section for the team manning the site chat and encouraged them to keep adding to it

The only difference we realized with site chat was that the operators were given direct sales targets, then they would focus on sales and forget to talk to the site visitors. The leads dipped and so did the sales ... so instead we gave the site chat operators lead targets which is working for us.

tl;dr Go with Site Chat

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