In the last five years, we’ve seen a huge rise in the number of companies offering messaging channels for their customers. More and more companies now offer Live Chat and Chatbots to customers in additional to other communication channels. This isn’t new technology. In fact, the first chatbot was invented in 1996, and instant messaging was even earlier, around 1992. So, why the sudden interest in messaging services for customers in 2020?
We’re in the digital age where customer experience is of paramount importance to companies. Businesses all over the globe are now competing with each other to offer the best experience to their customers so that they spend more money and keep coming back. Messaging channels are a key part of this equation. Let’s take a look at why all businesses in 2020 should offer Live Chat and Chatbots.
Dispelling The Myths about Live Chat
There are many commonly held myths about Live Chat that prevent companies from pursuing it, despite the many benefits it offers. In this section we’re going to identify and dispel each myth.
It’s Only For Big Businesses
Many business owners mistakenly believe that their customers won’t want Live Chat. Maybe you think they prefer to talk on the phone? Or over email? The reality is that people have a varied set of communication preferences, and these can even change day to day. Some people may generally prefer to talk on the phone, but we all have days where this isn’t feasible or we’re just not feeling in a sociable mood. If you limit the options available to your customers, you risk limiting the number of customers you get or hang on to.
People like to have a choice, so you should offer them a choice. In fact, more than 40% of customers now expect Live Chat on your website, yet only 10% of companies use Live Chat.
This proves there’s a disconnect between what a company thinks the customer wants, and what the customer actually wants. If you want to establish your brand as a customer-focused business, then you need to start delivering on what customers want, not what you think they want. This is an important distinction that many companies struggle to incorporate into their business planning.
Competition can be particularly fierce for small and medium-sized businesses in 2020. The big brands have already had solid brand equity. This doesn’t mean they can rest easy, but it does mean that they don’t have to try as hard to grab your attention. After all, you probably already know who they are and what their company is about. By contrast, for a small business to win a customer over, they have to offer a unique experience that they can’t get elsewhere. The issue is the big brands have been innovating in communication and customer experience and this has set high expectations for customers. Why would they choose a small business (even if it offers something unique) if the business can’t meet their basic expectations? Live Chat is now becoming a basic expectation.
Only Millennials Want Live Chat
Millennials indeed prefer Live Chat. In fact, 63% of millennials prefer to have their basic customer support queries answer on Live Chat than any other medium. However, that doesn’t mean other age groups don’t want the option to use Live Chat. Live Chat is great for people who want to solve an issue from their smartphone when they are on the go, and 81% of Americans now own a smartphone. Even in rural areas of the US, 71% of people now own a smartphone. These are all potential users of your Live Chat service.
It Will Cost Too Much to Staff
There’s no reason for Live Chat to cost any more than your traditional customer service operation. If you want to, you can keep the same operating hours so that customers know when they can expect a response. You can also train your customer service agents to be adept in Live Chat in the same way they are for email and calls.
It’s Difficult or Expensive to Implement
It’s now easier than ever to implement Live Chat software. Advances in software development have resulted in easy to install off-the-shelf software that works well for businesses of all sizes. The software is designed to be scalable and flexible so it can adapt as your company adapts. We are no longer in the days where you need to hire a team of software developers to design a bespoke system for you that would take months to implement. Live Chat software is also cheaper than it’s ever been due to the abundance of options out there.
Benefits of Live Chat
Increased Revenue and Increased Customer Loyalty
According to one study, 40% of consumers are more likely to buy from a company if they offer Live Chat. Another study found that 63% of customers were more likely to come back to a website that offers Live Chat. So, why is this?
It’s difficult to pinpoint an exact reason, but there are several significant factors at play here. These statistics suggest that consumers feel more comfortable buying from companies that offer a direct and immediate form of communication. It’s common for consumers to experience some form of anxiety when shopping with a company for the first time. They may ask: Will the product be what I want? What if I can’t figure out how to use it? What if it doesn’t get delivered on time? What if it’s broken?
If the company only offers a phone number hidden away on the contact page, the customer may be more reluctant to complete the purchase. After all, we’ve all been stuck in a call queue or been put on hold. By comparison, when a company offers Live Chat, they tend to announce it to the customer no matter what page of the website they are on. The customer will see a little chat box pop up. This reminds your customers that you are available to talk if they encounter any issues, therefore increasing their confidence in your product.
Confident customers become loyal customers. If a customer can count on your business to solve any problems they encounter in a timely manner, then they are more likely to keep coming back.
Reduced Customer Service Costs
Running a successful customer service operation can be expensive, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be more efficient and drive down your costs. One key benefit of Live Chat over calls is that it allows agents to multi-task. Agents can handle one to three chats at one time. If you don’t have a Live Chat service, the customers who would normally use Live Chat are forced to call the customer service team. Call agents can only handle one call at a time which means that you either have to take fewer calls or hire more staff.
Data, Data, Data
A huge benefit of Live Chat is that you have instant access to a wealth of customer data you can search through by tapping a few buttons. Although calls are often logged, it would require a dedicated team member to listen to the calls to extract important information. This isn’t a concern with Live Chat because you can quickly search through thousands of customer chats to find key data points. This is incredibly useful when it comes to identifying customer pain points. You can then use this data to make actionable goals for your business.
Improved Customer Experience
Consumers find Live Chat to be convenient. They don’t have to completely stop what they are doing to interact one on one with your company. They can chat while they are doing other things, which makes it a much more convenient option than calling.
Consumers love convenience. They also prefer anything that offers improved customer experience over another company. In fact, 68% of customers said they are willing to pay more for a great customer experience.
Dispelling The Myths about Chatbots
Just like Live Chat, there are many myths floating around about Chatbots. These myths deter companies from implementing chatbots even though they stand to gain a lot from using them.
They Are Clunky and Ineffective
With the recent boom in data science, machine learning, and artificial intelligence (AI), chatbots have come a long way. Chatbots are now very capable of answering a range of customer service queries as long as they aren’t too complex. Not every customer who contacts your customer service team is coming with a complex question. Sometimes customers simply want to update their address on their account but don’t know how to, or something equally simple. It’s a waste of time and resources for these customers to be put through to live agents who are better suited to handle more complex problems.
Customers Don’t Like Them
This simply isn’t true. It’s not the chatbot customers don’t like. Think about it. Would you like to receive an instant answer to your question? Yes. Would you like to have your problem solved quickly? Yes. Are there times when you don’t want to talk to someone but still want your problem solved? Yes. Would you like to have your problem addressed outside of the company’s operating hours? Yes.
It’s ineffective chatbots that customers don’t like, but these are becoming rarer as we progress through the digital age. According to Business Insider, an estimated 67% of consumers worldwide used a chatbot for customer support in 2017. Now three years on from 2017, we can only expect this figure to be even greater.
They Will Replace Agents
As AI becomes more prominent in our modern society, there has been growing concerns about AI replacing people. This comes from many angles. Agents might be worried about their job being made obsolete. Consumers might worry that if they engage with chatbots then they are showing their willingness not to speak to an agent, and eventually there will only be chatbots available.
The goals of chatbots isn’t to replace agents, but to help support them in their role. There are many situations where an agent is necessary, not just because the issue is complex, but because customers have a better experience when they can form a relationship with the company. Agents should be able to focus on these tasks and be freed from answering basic questions that can be handled quickly and cheaper with an AI.
Benefits of Chatbots
Stay Relevant In The Digital Age
Consumers are more likely to buy from companies who appear modern and innovative, rather than behind the times. Implementing chatbots is a great way to signal to your customers that you are keeping up with modern technology and are committed to innovation.
Chatbots are an excellent way to still provide customer service outside of your core operating hours. Chatbots make it possible to offer customer service 24/7 and at very little cost. We’re living in an increasingly flexible world where consumers expect to be able to contact businesses at any time. Chatbots are how you can deliver on this.
Reduced Operational Costs
By providing 24/7 support, you take pressure away from your customer service team who otherwise would be inundated with calls once the business opens in the morning.
Reducing the Number of Errors
Customer service agents are human, and humans make errors. Once a chatbot has been programmed to give the right answer, they will always give the right answer.
Customers don’t want to wait for a reply to their question and the longer they have to wait, the more unhappy they become. With calls, the customer may have to wait for an agent to be available, and then they might be put on hold later in the conversation. With Live Chat, the agent might be handling multiple chats at once which will cause a delay in response. Even if the agent is only handling one chat communication, they still spend time thinking of their answers and typing them up. This is all instantaneous with chatbots.