More and more companies are adding live chat apps to their websites to help customers easily start a conversation. But should you be adding one too?
Here some pros and cons to consider before you go ahead…
The Pros of Live Chat
Leads & Enquiries
This is the main advantage and the big reason to add live chat to your website.
And, in most cases, if you add a live chat app you really will get more enquiries. You’ll also get more customer contact details. Even if you’re offline people still tend to leave their emails, so that you can get back to them when you have more time on your hands.
It’s a pretty compelling reason to get going but you need to bear in mind some of the disadvantages that are coming later in the post.
Live chat improves the number of enquiries but it also improves the percentage of people who convert.
Google it and you’ll find pages-and-pages of studies backing this up, like this research from Forrester, which found that site visitors who start a web chat are 2.8x more likely to convert than those who don’t. Customers seem to want to chat to someone before buying a thing or taking a decision.
This just goes to show that while real ‘chat’ between people can often be habitual small talk, that goes nowhere. The chat that happens on websites seems to be making an impact.
Expense & Ease
Not only will you get more and better enquiries but adding a live chat is also pretty easy – especially if your website is on a platform with a lot of developer support like WordPress or Shopify.
The expense is no barrier either. Quite a few apps use freemium plans so that if you’re only chatting with a small number of customers, or operating within reasonable limits, then you don’t pay anything at all.
This means that if you’re a small company it’s affordable. And if you’re a major brand – with a lot of website traffic – then the relatively small monthly investment is usually more than matched by increased enquiries anyway.
Pain-points & Content
Add a live chat app to your website and you’ll start to gain a far better picture of what’s going on between people and your product.
A happy by-product of this is that live chat can be a great way to fuel content ideas. This isn’t so strange: if you can understand customers’ concerns and questions then that’s an accurate starting point for developing helpful blog posts, improving landing pages, and even informing ads. Not only that, it saves a lot of time using the plethora of online tools that serve the same purpose.
Still, remember not everything people say on live chat is insightful, or even sane. See the disadvantages a little later in the post for a bit more on this.
Culture & Experience
Companies should speak to visitors to their website in a language that they understand, using technology they expect. We think so anyway!
As such, live chat rides the zeitgeist. When people’s patience and spare time would seem to be going down – and more plainly when customers just expect to have a live chat – having a chat app is a great way to meet expectations. Compared to a contact form, it can also reinforce the human side to the business by connecting people.
This connection develops enquiries, mentioned earlier, but also just improves the user experience, maybe even brand advocacy. And if competitors are still lagging behind and using creaky old contact forms then even better.
The Cons of Live Chat
Noise & Nonsense
Ideally, every live chat started would be the first stage of a valuable enquiry or booking. In reality, more than half of all live chats can be mundane questions about half-related topics – or even completely bemusing questions about unrelated topics.
Here’s a sample of three live chats that recently came through for a travel client of ours.
- Hello, my family is staying in town this weekend and I would like to visit them but I can’t remember there (sic) address is there any why you can help me?
- Hi, I’m just looking for a nice vegetarian restaurant or café to eat at today
- Hi Rob, how are you? (there’s nobody called Rob working at the company)
To add to that noise, live chats can also give current customers an easy way to get in touch about all manner of issues that can then drain resources, which brings us onto…
Time & Resources
Lots of live chats require lots of resources to react to the chatter. And if you can’t react then you could lose that enquiry and leave a bad impression. If you’re operating across multiple markets in many different time zones then an already complicated situation can become even trickier to get to grips with.
Most live chat apps do allow various team members to be added, as well as apps for Android and iOS. However, going back to the earlier point on expense, you might have to fork out for a paid plan to add a lot of people.
Whatever your setup, there is usually a settling in period and then it becomes easier to manage. The more visitors you have to your website, the more difficult it can be. But be prepared to have a team in place to handle the influx of chats to an established website.
Abuse & Anger
With the rise of trolling and Internet unpleasantness, online conversations have become far from polite.
You wouldn’t expect a live chat conversation to become as aggressive as a YouTube comments stream or an antagonistic as a Twitter debate. And this is normally the case but we have seen a fair amount of abuse come through live chats to our clients.
This can come from angry customers, impatient prospective customers, time-wasting competitors, or even just from the same anonymous, abusive mindset that sometimes taints the rest of the Internet.
So, be prepared to have a thick skin and occasionally deal with abuse. Make sure staff expect the odd torrent of expletives. And don’t feed the trolls!
Data & Analytics
This is a bit of technical issue but live chats can potentially lose you a lot of data because they still don’t link so well with analytics packages like Google Analytics. This is because it’s not simple to setup chat interactions as goals and events.
What this means is that it’s difficult to work out where live chats have come from – and assess the ROI of marketing channels like Google Adwords, or even content marketing. Compared to contact forms, it’s hard to track live chats.
Things are changing, though. Quite a few apps, like Olark and Drift, have added Analytics integration – and more apps are now including this integration as standard.
If you’re one the many companies or consultants that wants data on your live chats, we recommend checking the integration features first before selecting a system.
An important aside here is to remember that Google is stopping support for older versions of Google Analytics from July 2023 – and moving to GA4. That in mind, GA4 integration is what you should look for.
Speed & Performance
Having a fast website is great for the user experience and it’s also a factor that Google considers when deciding which pages to rank in its results. If you have a faster website, you could have higher rankings in search engines.
So it’s somewhat sad news then, that adding a Live Chat to your website can slow down your pages, sometimes severely so.
The better news is that your website’s speed doesn’t have to be so sloth-like – there are some fixes. Firstly, some live chat plugins are more lightweight and speedy than others, so do a bit of research and choose a chat that won’t impact performance so much. Checking online reviews can be a way to figure this out.
There are a load of other page speed tools available for WordPress and other popular CMSs that can also help. But remember working with a good developer is going to be helpful here too.
Ready to use Live Chat?
Consider the disadvantages we’ve mentioned but if you’re in the mood to try, here are a few of our recommended Apps…
- Drift: free for up to 100 active contacts and easily added to WordPress – reliable, slick, and pretty affordable. Decent integration with Google Analytics too. On the negative side, it’s one of the chats that can impact site speed before edits to the setup.
- Olark: Another widely used paid app – pay per operator, per month, with simple integration with Google Analytics via event tracking.
- Tidio: another popular and slick live chat app with a generous freemium plan. It easily integrates with most popular CMSs, like Shopify, WordPress and Wix.
- Tawk.to: this one claims to be 100% free although we confess to not trying it yet. It does seem to get some good reviews though and it’s fair to say we feel a certain affinity with the company’s parrot-based branding.