Three Reasons Live Chat Programs May Be More Trouble Than They’re Worth


The lifeblood of your business is enticing visitors to sample what you’re offering in the hopes that they will convert into clients who continue to see value in purchasing your goods and services.

But how do you do that?

In an amusing post, social media expert Bryan Eisenberg repeated this quote from North Carolina Head Basketball Coach, Roy Williams:

“Speak to the dog, in the language of the dog, about what’s in the heart of the dog.”

In other words, identify what’s important to your target audience, and deliver it.

One of the best ways to do that is to offer conveniences that enhance the visitor’s experience.

A recent trend that’s growing is the use of live chat programs to improve a user’s online experience.

And while live chat certainly has some advantages such as increased customer confidence in your products and services, it also has some drawbacks that are worth considering.

1. Lacks the Human Touch

Many proponents of a live chat program point to the fact that it helps “personalize” a consumer’s experience with an online business.

But let’s take a closer look.

While it’s true that a live chat can answer and assuage a prospective client’s questions or concerns, the entire process is done through keystrokes.

There is no actual verbal communication between representative and client, who calls into question just how “personal” this interaction, can be.

For all its issues, toll-free phone communication allows customers to talk to a live person, who can better express empathy and care through intonation and careful listening.

This is not an option with live chat, and thus, deprives users of the human touch that is crucial to many transactions.

And as marketing and sales strategist David Meerman Scott points out in a recent post, your number one job is to create content that drives people to purchase your products.

Why block that goal by making the buying process impersonal?

2. Takes Up More Time

The time it takes for a live chat rep to type responses, and then to pause and go and look for answers, is greater than it would be on a live phone conversation.

This is especially true if the nature of the customer’s inquiry is complex, necessitating volumes of typed information before a solution is found.

Live chat is most beneficial when customers have simple and direct inquiries that are easily solvable. In most other cases, communication time can mean loss of productivity.

3. Staffing the Chat Costs Money

As a small business owner faced with difficult decisions and a limited budget, do you allocate the handling of your live chat to a team member who already has a full load?

Or do you bite the bullet and hire a live chat specialist, and hope that the convenience of this mode of communication pays off in purchase rates that will offset your costs?

A “hold” message that informs customers on live chat that they should send an inquiry via email because no one is available can drive them to your competitor’s site for better customer service.

Think Twice

There’s no question that live chat has its place in an online business, but you shouldn’t jump on this digital bandwagon until you weigh the benefits versus the drawbacks. The fact that live chat doesn’t offer a live person with whom a customer can communicate means that the human touch is lost.

It also takes time to handle complex inquiries and problems, and the cost of hiring a dedicated team member to handle customers, may make this a communication option a non-starter for your business.

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