Offering live chat support on your website has been proven to increase your conversion rates, positively influence customer service and encourage customers to spend more per visit. However, deciding whether live chat support is worth it for your business can be difficult. And if you decide it is worth it, then choosing a software system from among the dozens that are currently available can be just as difficult. 

Let’s examine why you should consider offering live chat support and which software system might be the best for you and your business needs. 

Why Offer Live Chat Support? 

Aside from its positive impact on conversions, customer service and average order value, live chat support offers you and your employees a real-time window into the status of your customers. More than any other feedback system, the immediacy of live chat offers you the ability to quickly identify an issue and address it as it arises. This can be incredibly important for businesses that rely heavily on their website or web traffic to generate revenue, as well as businesses that might outsource elements of their process to vendors. 

By engaging with your customers in real time, you’re effectively saying two things: we care about you and your experience, and we’re a forward-thinking organization that values your time. Making these statements will go a long way toward turning your current customers into loyal and returning ones

Here are a few other reasons to consider when debating whether to implement live chat support:

  1. Can you and your business handle the demands of live chat support? In addition to software maintenance, you’ll need to allocate employee hours solely to chat support. You’ll also have to make sure that your employees are suited to conduct chats, which means they need to be friendly, quick typers and decent writers.
  1. What hours of the day do you typically see an increase in site traffic and therefore anticipate an increase in chat support? If you’re only able to offer live chat from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but the bulk of your website traffic is from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m., then live support might be a wasteful investment.
  2. Does your business lend itself to live chat support? If you are a company that primarily offers services tailored to each individual client’s needs, then you might want to consider an online form that allows the client to request that you contact them for more information. An inquiry like this doesn’t require immediate feedback. However, if your business is more about identifying and resolving issues, then live chat support might be a great asset.
  3. How global is your business? If you manage a lot of overseas contacts, then offering live chat support might be more or less effective depending on the time difference. Consider when these customers would most likely need to speak with you, and see if that aligns with when you can offer support.
  4. How long does it normally take you to resolve an issue? If you currently operate a customer-service call center or some other kind of helpline for customers, consider how long it typically takes for a call to be resolved. If the answer is more than ten minutes, online live chat support probably isn’t for you.
  5. Clearly define what your live chat support will be used for. Many times people want quick answers to their questions. While the abundance of FAQ (frequently asked questions) pages makes it easier than ever for customers to find their own answers, occasionally they may just need to speak to someone about a specific issue. If you plan on using online live chat for this purpose, that’s fine; it just changes the types of software you might consider. 

5 Live Chat Support Software Systems to Investigate 

Let’s say you’ve determined that online live chat support is right for you and your organization. Terrific! Now you begin the daunting task of evaluating and choosing the right software for your needs. Keep in mind that many of these software systems will offer a free trial for a limited amount of time, which will give you a chance to really test the software. Since these free trials are limited, it’s recommended that you choose a location, facility or specific employee to manage the trial so that it can be evaluated on a small scale for its effectiveness. 

Here is a list of some notable live chat support software programs, including pros and cons for each.

1. Olark 

Offering a robust API and customer relationship management (CRM) suite integration, Olark seems to get high marks among internet consumers for its design, responsiveness and pricing. It also lets you hide the chat option from different pages of the website, creating a more streamlined customer service experience all around.

PROS: Reasonable pricing and proactive chat feature to reach out to customers. 

CONS: Highly detailed customer interactions might be too involved for everyday chat use. 

2. LivePerson 

One of the first online live chat solutions, LivePerson has developed significant name recognition, growing to become one of the most popular options as well.

PROS: Track record of success and satisfied customers. 

CONS: A little more expensive than other options; you are assigned one customer-support rep per issue, who may not always be available to help you when you need it. 

3. LiveHelpNow 

Probably the best option for small and medium-sized businesses, LiveHelpNow is one of the most affordable live chat solutions around. However, just because it’s cheaper doesn’t mean it skimps on quality. LiveHelpNow offers a plethora of customer service choices that make it a wise investment for many businesses looking for live chat support.

PROS: Great training tools, such as the “whisper” function, and mobile chat capability. 

CONS: You may find the number of options overwhelming or not relevant to your business.

4. WebsiteAlive

Perfect for the lone entrepreneur, WebsiteAlive is designed specifically for very small businesses to offer a combination of proactive chat, mobile and real-time email notifications, all with the option of full customization.

PROS: No coding is required to implement; can be applied to multiple websites at once. 

CONS: A little more expensive than some other options. 

5. Comm100

Recognized for its simplicity, Comm100 is the best option for small and medium-sized businesses looking for a plug-and-play solution. Its no-frills approach gives you the live chat options you’re seeking without a bunch of features to confuse the issue. 

PROS: Offers full widget customization for a seamless user experience. 

CONS: Integrates with Salesforce.com but not Facebook; it does not have as much opportunity for growth since the program itself is fairly basic. 

Whichever live chat support software solution you choose, make sure that the benefits outweigh your investment. While live chat support can be tricky and may take some experimentation, the opportunity to increase your online conversion rates and your average expenditure per transaction will make all of the trials and errors well worth it.