Should You Have Live Chat on Your Website?

Live chat windows are becoming an ever more present feature of web browsing. As they become more widespread, business owners inevitably ask themselves, ‘should I have live chat on my website?’

Virtual sales assistant

Having live chat integrated with your website is like introducing a virtual sales assistant. It provides a simple, direct and instant way for your potential customer to ask any questions they have, without the need to email or pick up the phone. This ease of use could well be the difference between making a sale and not, particularly if you have a good operator at the other end of the chat window.

The other main advantage of having live chat is the wealth of analytics data that comes with it, particularly in real time. Although this is primarily intended for operator use (in deciding whether a visitor would be open to a chat for example) it can also provide valuable insights into user behaviour that you don’t get in your standard analytics package.

Cost-benefit analysis

Of course, there are drawbacks. As with any other investment decision, a thorough cost-benefit analysis should be undertaken before implementing live chat as part of your web development. Major considerations are:

Cost of implementation (software, development)
Cost of maintenance (subscription charges, operator costs)
Suitability — do your traffic levels justify live chat? How would live chat affect your sales funnel?

The first two considerations are fairly easy; numbers on a spreadsheet calculations. The last is a more difficult question. As a general rule, live chat is used for sales assistance and technical support. If your site isn’t selling anything directly, or require much technical support (either for the site itself or the products you sell) then it probably isn’t for you.

Doing it right

If you do decide live chat is for you, it’s important to do it right. Or more accurately, it’s easy to get wrong.

Just as pushy sales assistants in a shop can put you off as a customer, if your operators try to open a chat within seconds of a visitor arriving on-site, you’re probably doing more harm than good.

The key is availability. Having the option is great, and perhaps gently inquiring if a visitor would like any help after they’ve been on-site for a few minutes, but no more. After all, you don’t want anyone distracting users from your carefully constructed sales funnel, especially if they work for you.

Remote working

If you have a website that’s truly global and requires client contact 24/7 across different time zones, you’ll find remote working and live chat go hand in hand.

For example, you could have operators in different countries and even continents across the world who can simply log in to your web-based chat software.

It can be off-putting for a potential customer who has an enquiry to arrive on your site and see the live chat status is set as ‘offline’ or ‘unavailable’.

Live chat software is nothing new, but if you’ve never used it on your site before you might want to consider a trial run and analyse the data to see if it’s worth making it a permanent fixture.

Jamie Graham writes regular blog posts on many aspects of small business web development and SEO.