I was recently browsing a website for a product, when an old-fashioned chat box opened –it was from “Emily.” She was so casual and friendly in her appearance and speech that I was taken aback. Is a person really talking to me? I had to wonder. “Hey there! If you have any questions, feel free to ask me!” she said. Then I realized it was 11pm and it would be very unlikely that “Emily” was a live person, ready and alert to talk to me about her product. I ignored Emily…mostly. I continued to look over the site, with a hint of self-consciousness. I explored the content a bit like walking into an abandoned building, “hello? Is someone in here?”
After a few minutes I moved on but kept the window open to browse later. When I came back, another chat box opened. It was Chad, the CEO! According to the chat window, he had noticed that I had been on the site for quite some time. “Hey, I’m Chad the CEO. I noticed you’ve been on the site for a little while. Need some help?” I suddenly felt a bit shy. Curious to know what would happen if I came back the next day, I was greeted again by Emily: “Welcome back! I’m here if you need me. :)” Again, Emily’s friendliness came through here with the casual smiley face. A quick test shows that the interaction was not live (a status message underneath my note indicates that it has not been seen yet). Instead, I am invited to send Emily an email in lieu of waiting for her to come back to the chat (when she gets in to the office tomorrow morning that is).
Regardless of their non-“live” status, these “live chats” had an impact on me. I distinctly felt both creeped out that someone was watching me, and also that I was being helped (by not one, but two employees—including the CEO!) The ease with which the messages came across (casual and conversational) and the timing with which they appeared (appropriately and sequentially) gave me pause to appreciate the thought that went into the marketing, and the skill that these folks have to make me blush while shopping online. But, I have to wonder, do these live chats work? Do businesses see an increase in sales?
According to Kissmetrics, a blog about analytics, marketing, and testing, the answer is yes. Kissmetrics writes about the results from an ATG Global Consumer Trend study that found that 90% of customers consider live chat helpful, and an emarketer.com survey found that 38% of respondents said they had made their purchase due to the chat session itself. Live chat is efficient from the business perspective, since customer service reps can help multiple people at once. It is also easy for the customer, since wait times are usually much shorter than calling a company on the phone.
In short, live chat provides convenience and cost savings to both sellers and shoppers. It seems that more customers feel helped and served than “creeped out” when shopping online with live chat. What do you think?