Live chat has been an up and coming technology for a number of years now, but its importance was driven home when we saw new research from the online help desk buyers’ research firm Software Advice. They found that regardless of the nature of the question, 56% of millennials preferred live chat over the phone, and 49% of all respondents preferred live chat to answer questions when online-shopping. We wanted to learn more, so we sent the researcher, Craig Borowski, some questions on his findings.
Q: What were some of the most surprising results from your survey?
Mainly we were surprised at the fairly even distribution of high-frequency usage across demographics. We already knew that live chat is very popular among Millennials, but we didn’t expect to see comparable levels of use among older generations.
Usage of Live Chat, by Age
Q: Why do you suspect that live chat is so popular with all demographics?
Live chat accomplishes something that companies have been trying to get phone service to do for decades: provide fast, convenient service and support. The problem with phone service is that each phone call requires an agent’s full attention. But agents are a big expense on the company payroll and so companies try to balance the number of agents they hire with the volume of calls the company receives. The end result is that during periods of high call volume customers need to wait on hold to get help.
Online Shopping Queries: Preferences for Live Chat vs. Phone by Age
Live chat changes this at a fundamental level. Live chat support agents can engage anywhere from 2 to a dozen conversations simultaneously. They’re typically much quicker to respond to inquiries and, for customers, there’s rarely any waiting required before getting connected. So that’s one big reason for live chat’s popularity across demographics: it’s faster and easier than a phone call.
Q: In your survey you find millennials in particular enjoy live chat. Do you think this preference will continue to trend with younger generations?
Not necessarily. In fact, it’s more likely that the preference for live chat will become even more evenly distributed across age brackets.
When it began, live chat was a new technology, but one with clear similarities to other forms of communication, like the social chat tool MSN Messenger. Tools like this were already more popular with younger generations and so they were the first to really embrace live chat. Now that live chat has become a mainstream offering and more and more older generations are aware of it, and finding they prefer it, their numbers are catching up.
Q: Which area is live chat of the most use, Sales or Customer Service?
Customer service leads by the numbers, but it’s not really a fair race. More companies have a need for customer service communications than they do for sales communications. Plus, live chat first took root as a customer service and help desk tool. But now that so many ecommerce companies are finding the value of live chat as a sales tool (more sales, fewer abandoned carts, more add-on purchases) it’s definitely catching up.
Q: What are some metrics a business should track after implementing live chat?
They should track metrics that measure performance of live chat from both the customer’s point of view and from the management’s point of view. Look at chat satisfaction, response times and resolution rates for the first category and volume per agent, conversation rates, and average chat length for the second. These are just some basic starting suggestions though and companies usually change the metrics they track as their use of the channel matures.
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