Live chat software is a service that enables immediate customer support. It operates as an instant messenger that online consumers can use to communicate with companies in real-time. How? Well, by clicking on a live chat button or a chat widget; which is usually placed at the lower right corner of the website. Businesses utilize the tool to; support existing customers, interact with potential clients, and initiate conversations with first-time website visitors by proactively inviting them to chat.
The history of live chat support
With the rise of the internet; businesses have gone through a number of significant changes to catch up with the technology and growing consumer demands. As customer service had to evolve accordingly, online chat for business emerged as a new support channel. Thus, letting consumers reach companies directly and avoid the inconvenience of the phone (waiting on hold, interrupted calls, etc.). Some of the first chat software providers came about in the early 2000s.
The early chat providers simply offered a basic one to one live chat platform. The concept however was slow to gain attention among companies. It was commonly considered unnecessary and not worth the investment. Most consumers were still more accustomed to picking up the phone to get their questions answered and issues resolved. Modern chat software systems have become more sophisticated and include much more advanced functionality.
Over recent years, the popularity of live chat support software got a rapid increase. Thus, it became no longer an option; as more and more consumers prefer to purchase products and services online and demand support on the go. The global live chat software market was valued at $590 million in 2016. It is projected to reach $997 million by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 7.5% from 2017 to 2023; according to a report published by Allied Market Research.
The major industries using live chat software today are;
retail and e-commerce
travel and hospitality
IT and consulting
telecommunication and pharmaceutical
The first three sectors are seen as the top three users of the chat solutions. Retail and e-commerce are the fastest-growing segments for live chat software.
Key live chat support statistics
44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person during an online purchase; is one of the most important features a website can offer. (Forrester Research)
63% of customers are more likely to return to a website that offers live chat as opposed to one that doesn’t. (Forrester Research)
60% of consumers ages 18 – 34 regularly use live chat for customer service. This is in comparison to 45% across all age groups and 32% of consumers ages 55+. (Microsoft’s State of Global Customer Service Report)
53% of customers would prefer to use online chat before calling a company for support. (Harris Research)
63% of millennials prefer to have their basic customer support questions answered by chat versus traditional channels. (Software Advice)
Live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel with 73%; compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone. (eConsultancy)
Proactive chat: to initiate conversations with website visitors that might not have otherwise opened a chat and offer instant help.
Real-time traffic monitoring: providing live chat for business, also means deeper insights into visitors’ behavior. Thus, you can understand where they came from and how they are using the website.
Chat distribution: to transfer chats to free operators or automatically route customers to agents who had previous communications with them.
Canned responses: to enable support agents to speed up response time; by using predefined snippets of text that are frequently used in chats.
File transfer: to share files between chat operators and website visitors.
Offline forms:to allow visitors to send messages through a contact form even if chat operators are not online.
Post chat survey: to receive feedback from customers and measure customer satisfaction by allowing them to rate chat conversations.
Major factors to consider when choosing a chat software provider
With the numerous live chat providers available on the market, it might be challenging to select one. Therefore, we’ve written down the most critical factors to consider when choosing a chat provider;
Cloud-based vs. Self-hosted. Self-hosted software is hosted on an organization’s own technical infrastructure. A cloud-hosted software resides on a third-party server and has; regular updates, accessibility anytime and anywhere, security, data backups and recovery, 24/7 support. Some providers offer both options.
Third-party software integrations. You can integrate most modern live chat solutions with third-party apps. Such as social media, e-commerce platforms, email marketing, CRM, and CMS tools which may be critical for a business.
Easy onboarding and customization. The ease of installation and a user-friendly interface, as well as a range of available customization options; are important factors to take into account. Such as personalizing languages, styles, fonts and colors of the chat widget, etc.
Mobile support. With a huge number of consumers accessing websites from their smartphones; having a mobile-optimized chat tool available for all platforms and mobile devices might be a necessity, especially for e-commerce businesses.
Advanced features. While having basic live chat features are usually enough for small businesses, large organizations would need a more advanced set of live chat software features. Most vendors offer free trials allowing to test either all or only basic live chat features.
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