When organizations are considering a chat strategy, there’s a common debate over whether live chat or a messaging app is the right method to use for client communication. Both models have pros and cons, but technologies have evolved to make a hybrid approach not just possible, but effective.
By blending both models together, you can test, collect feedback, and grow — and new tools make it easier than ever to take the best from each approach. Below we have a list of live chat benefits and which platform is the best to use going forward.
Live Chat Benefits: Understanding the Possibilities
If you’re on the fence about including a live chat feature on your website, there are a couple of reasons why you shouldn’t be. First and foremost, companies that have included a live chat feature see an immediate competitive advantage. Forrester reported that companies saw a 10% increase in the average order value when customers engaged in chat before making a purchase. Live chat also leads to about a 48% increase in revenue per chat hour. There’s no doubt that one of the biggest live chat benefits is that customers prefer the consultative and instantaneous experience.
But before we define each of the live chat benefits and drawbacks of each, it’s important to define the difference between “synchronous” and “asynchronous” messaging.
What Is Synchronous Messaging?
Synchronous messaging is commonly associated with live chat, where a customer can only maintain one chat “session” at a time with an agent. These conversations only exist for as long as the customer is active or at least one agent is online.
What Is Asynchronous Messaging?
Asynchronous messaging is commonly associated with email, social media or SMS messaging. Within these channels, neither the customer nor the agent communicate in real-time. This means customers can start a chat and come back to it an hour later without worrying about ending “sessions.”
What’s Wrong With Live Chat Solutions?
Chat used to be confined to a website, where customers would wait for an agent to become available. If they got disconnected or refreshed the page, the session would end. To keep customers from waiting after sending their chat message, many organizations would disable the chat experience on their site whenever agents weren’t available. Once connected to an agent, customers would have to stay confined to their desk chairs chatting back and forth until they resolved their issue.
The Old Version of Live Chat: Pros and Cons
- PRO: Customers get instant replies and immediate feedback, which sets that expectation going forward.
- CON: The “session” philosophy means a customer can’t message you from their computer, and then respond to you from their mobile phone.
- CON: Normally works based on “agent availability” meaning that if agents are maxed out or not available, chat is removed, and you are asked to leave a message. Or worse, the website hides chat completely.
- CON: Missed/dropped chats immediately stop a conversation and require everyone to start over.
How to Modernize Live Chat
With the introduction of smartphones, app-based communication shifted customer expectations. They could open an app, click “contact support”, and start a conversation, but didn’t have to wait around for a reply. When a reply did come, they’d get a notification to check it and keep the conversation going. This allowed customers to move freely from a desktop to their mobile app if they needed to get up and grab a coffee, for example. The ease of use across any device led to a natural shift from the need to be “live” to customers becoming accustomed to asynchronous messaging within third-party apps.
Asynchronous Messaging App: Pros and Cons
- PRO: Customers can start a chat from their computer and finish it from their smartphone.
- PRO: The app is always available as a means to collect and store customer issues while “offline”, which agents can follow up on later.
- PRO: Past chat conversations can be stored and replied to for context.
- PRO: Customers don’t expect instant replies.
- CON: Conversations are never “closed”, making it hard to measure agents on that metric.
- CON: Conversations with customers are dragged out over a longer period of time, slowing down resolution times.
- CON: Customers can always reply to old conversations, which can make it harder to follow up and provide timely or quality support.
While asynchronous messaging has become more popular, there are some great concepts that underlie live chat functionality, like using agent availability to set expectations. Instead of completely removing the experience of chat from your site when agents aren’t available, you can collect customers’ info and issue, and then pass them to another channel for follow-up — setting the expectation that a reply will not be live.
“According to Kustomer’s recent consumer research, customers rank live chat as the second most popular channel or tactic for contacting customer service, right below phone”
Modern Chat Gives You the Best of Both Worlds
Ideally, you can bridge the gap between these kinds of synchronous and asynchronous messaging by providing the customer with both live chat solutions: the ability to chat live with an agent, but also maintain an asynchronous state when agents are not available or over-capacity by shifting the conversation to channels like email or text messaging or setting expectations about your reply times.
Customers need a fast response to get an answer or complete a sale — like asking about clothing sizes on a retail site — but you can’t always provide 24/7 communication. That’s why your chat tool needs to evolve to combine the best features of synchronous live chat and an asynchronous messaging app.
Kustomer chat is always on, allowing you to set business hours so that customers have the right expectations. That makes it easy to provide synchronous chat when agents are available, and asynchronous when they’re not. The history of every conversation is saved across platforms, so it’s easy for agents and customers to move from platform to platform to fully reap all the live chat benefits.
Kustomer Chat includes the option to “End Chats”. Now agents can permanently close a chat conversation once it’s over. This will happen when an agent marks a conversation as done — locking the ability for a customer to type a reply back to the chat (they can always open a new chat, of course).
This also adds an “end chat” button to the customer experience, allowing the customer to end a conversation when they are done communicating and notifying the agent. In addition, it sets customer expectations regarding agent availability, so customers aren’t replying to chat messages when agents are not available.
The option to close conversations makes chat support more efficient and easier to manage and measure, and because everything is tied to the customer, agents have all the necessary information when they start a new one. Modern chat solutions meet the expectations of your customers and the needs of your business — and with Kustomer chat, you can deliver the best possible chat and messaging experience.
Kustomer Chat is always evolving:
- Conversational Assistant: a pre-conversational feature that helps your team collect information from customers automatically, before reaching the agent.
- Chat Availability: a feature that incorporates Business Hours into the chat experience, allowing admins to determine what the after-hours experience will be for chat users.
- Chat Deflection: helps to set proper expectations for your customers with estimated reply times, and diverts traffic when your Chat team doesn’t respond by directing your customers to other channels.
- Chat SDKs: provide customization, performance and stability for both web-based and mobile chat experiences
Looking for live chat solutions for your company? Kustomer’s chat makes it easy to deliver customer experience that’s right for your team and organization. To learn more about our latest CRM offerings, start your 14-day free trial today.