chatbublesThe fundamentals of great service remain the same. We all want to feel recognized, listened to, valued and cared for. However, some online customer service channels are more effective and popular than others.

In fact, web chat has been one of the most rapidly adopted contact centre technologies of recent years. The recent Software Advice survey – on customer preferences and discussions with companies that offer web chat as a customer service channel – reveals a variety of factors that businesses, looking to implement web chat, should consider.

Key findings from the survey report:

  • 56% of respondents used web chat at least once to get an answer to their question on a company’s website.
  • 49% of respondents prefer using web chat for online-shopping questions.
  • Regardless of the nature of the question, 56% of respondents aged 18 to 34 prefer to use web chat rather than picking up the phone, when compared to 27% of respondents aged 35 and older.

So why is web chat so popular?

Free, quick, simple to use and anonymous, web chat appears especially well-suited to answering questions customers have while doing their online shopping. As customers are already online, using web chat requires little effort, with no need to phone, worry about cost or being put on-hold. Web chat offers quicker response in real-time than other channels such as email.

When respondents had to choose between web chat and voice (phone) in the scenarios below,

  • To discuss complex financial information;
  • To perform a simple task, such as updating contact information and;
  • To discuss an online purchase.

There is an apparent correlation between respondents who prefer web chat to voice with respect to age. People between the ages of 18 to 34 said to have used web chat at least once, while people aged 55 and over where more likely to have never used web chat before.

The plausible reason for this is the added convenience that web chat offers, especially for those who are used to texting and instant messaging. It provides real-time support and its anonymity allows customers to ask difficult questions which they might not feel comfortable to ask over the phone.

Whilst voice is still a popular choice for consumers, it is an expensive channel for organisations, and can reduce customer satisfaction levels by routing customers through endless IVR loops. Online chat however, allows contact centre agents to handle 2-3 chats simultaneously, improving efficiency and call response times.

The main benefit of offering a live chat solution from a customer perspective, is that it allows website visitors to stay in their channel of choice. Providing customers with the tools to self-serve and also giving them an additional real-time contact channel, ensures the customer journey is a seamless one.

It is important however to consider live chat as part of an overall multi-channel interaction strategy, rather than as a stand-alone service. Customer service across all channels should be simple, efficient and, above all, consistent.