Does your business offer live chat? UK still lagging behind US

Does your business offer live chat? Howard Williams (pictured), marketing director for WhosOn/Parker Software, explores the sector, which he says has room to grow further in the UK.

The opinion piece comes after SanDisk announced a new $40 live SSD installation video chat service.

Studies have revealed live chat to be the number one preferred method of communication for customers, but with just 20 to 30 per cent of UK businesses on board, compared to around 70 per cent in the US, it’s far from being the preferred standard for customer care.

95 per cent of people who contact us think of live chat simply as a text box on their site that allows customers to engage with an agent. That’s a key part of what live chat does, but it’s only really scratching the surface of its full potential.

A cursory glance at modern forms of communication between businesses and their customers reveals that we’re increasingly moving away from the telephone towards the digital world. This can take the form of email, text messaging or social media, but the demand for instant response is driving live chat as the only one of these that is truly real time.

2015 is all about building relationships. Companies investing in live chat are seeking a competitive edge, not just in terms of sales and conversions but in the way that they can engage with their customers.

Businesses that are using these tools are able to not only fulfil this need but also gain valuable insights, get customer feedback, discover what people are browsing for on a website, what issues they might be having and how visible the solutions are.

And it’s not just for customers – many businesses are now using live chat internally to provide an efficient link between departments to help resolve issues and maintain standards.

Live chat is far more efficient in terms of customer service management than both telephone and email. A well trained live chat agent is capable of handling six to eight customer dialogs at once, allowing companies to free up resources in their telephony centres at the same time as providing a support network that’s comprehensive and effective.

In addition, a well featured live chat suite can become an important marketing tool, allowing companies to identify common issues with a website, product or service and gain valuable insights into customer activity through reports and statistics.

But despite these advantages live chat has been relatively slow to take off in the UK. Potentially there’s nervousness around pushing large amounts of call centre volume towards it, or getting staff properly trained in how to use it.

A lot of our growth as a business over the last two years has been through the use of our professional services that involve experts being sent out to do just that, and as more businesses gain confidence and start to realise the real benefits of live chat we can expect it to become the new standard for customer care. 

About the author

Howard Williams, marketing director for live chat and digital engagement solution WhosOn.

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