Every business thrives off the positive relationships it creates with its consumers--both the loyal ones, all the way to the prospective window-shoppers who are still on the fence about purchasing. And a huge part of that discussion on how to both retain previous customers and attract new ones comes down to personalization. 

The more you can make someone feel like you are there to serve them and all of their specific needs, the more likely they will be to not only become a purchaser and user of your product or service, but an advocate for it as well.

The best way to go about creating that sort of positive engagement, especially over the Internet, is an interesting one. The topic tends to revolve around social media, since those platforms are the shiny new objects that have turned tiny ideas into big businesses simply through the simple act of sharing really great content (although, that's a feat that sounds easy, but is actually much harder than people believe).

But what's interesting, and something that I have wondered for a long time, is how live chat functions perform. You might have a great social presence, but what happens when someone lands on your website? How do you, in a sense, "keep them in the store" and help move them from prospective lead to loyal customer?

The reason I'm intrigued by live chat actually has more to do with the long-term automation of chat functions, and the future of chat bots. And a few of the stats below will show why:

1. 51 percent of consumers say a business needs to be available 24/7.

According to this 2016 report, a business needs to be on at all times--and not just "on," but engaged. This is where a live chat function in your website can be extremely helpful, since obviously a large portion of consumers have questions (and will want those questions answered before they make a purchase).

Long term, however, many companies are looking to automate this process, since many consumers end up asking similar questions. As chat bots become more and more intuitive, this level of engagement won't be an ask on the consumer's part--it will become standard.

In our hyper-connected society, it's only going to become more and more widely accepted to have someone (or some thing, like a chat bot) always at your disposal.

2.) 42% of consumers say that they prefer live chat functions because they don't have to wait on hold.

How many times have you found yourself listening to some horribly crunchy, distorted elevator music blaring through your speakerphone, fury mounting while you wait for someone on the other end?

In our impatient society, this sort of experience is a death sentence.

Conversely, this is a key reason why consumers say they prefer live chat functions. They can get their questions answered in real time without the hassle of calling--or waiting.

3) 92% customers feel satisfied when they use the live chat feature.

According to a report by Zendesk, customers feel most satisfied during their buyer's journey when using a live chat feature, compared to other options such as voice (88%), email (85%), and even social media messaging (Facebook 84%, Twitter 77%).

I reached out to live chat software company, Tagove, to weigh in on why. Tagove provides companies with video and voice chat communication tools, real-time browser activity tracking, screen sharing (for when a customer has a specific question, on any given page), and a CRM tool to track leads and pick up chats where they left off last. Tagove has clients like Citibank, Upwork, and other well-known companies that require constant positive communication with customers.

"Live chat adds that human touch that can't be replicated elsewhere. Even though much of the industry is moving toward automation, us included, everyone is hyper-aware of maintaining the human element. Chat software is what builds confidence in a user's web experience, if done right," the company, Tagove, said.

I'm a believer that the bad reputation live chat has suffered from in the past is the result of older, less seamless live chat software being extremely disruptive. What comes to mind here is a website from the early 2000s with loud, intrusive chat bubbles exploding on the screen. Things have improved drastically since those early days.

4) 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person during an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer.

This is fascinating. In fact, it's difficult to ignore a stat like this, for all you data junkies out there.

If you were running a storefront and someone told you that you could increase sales by almost 50% by just having someone available to answer questions, you would hire and fill that role immediately. Yet, when it comes to the online experience, it seems that most people steer away from live chat for two reasons: first, they worry it will disrupt the online experience, and second, they don't know where to begin implementing something like that (you'd be amazed how many businesses struggle with decisions like this purely from a lack of knowledge standpoint).

5) 51% customers prefer live chat for multitasking purposes, with another 21% preferring live chat so they can shop while they work.

Online shopping is more than just an act--it's everything from a hobby, a way to save time, all the way up to (in extreme cases) being a compulsion. In short: online shopping is huge, and if you aren't catering to the masses who buy, buy, buy on the Internet, you're missing out.

According to this report by Econsultancy, a big reason people prefer live chat is because they can continue making steps toward a purchasing decision without committing an exclusive chunk of time. This is important to understand contextually, considering our society now bounces between dozens of different stimuli at any given moment. It has become normal for us to check our email, respond to an Instagram comment, and text back a friend all in a matter of seconds. So it makes sense, from a business perspective, to cater to that sort of lifestyle. Remember: the most important part of marketing is to integrate into the consumers daily actions, not ask them to change how they operate for you.

Published on: Apr 25, 2017
Like this column? Sign up to subscribe to email alerts and you'll never miss a post.