Web Chat Best Practices: Tips and Tricks For Success

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September 15, 2020
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The Only Guide You’ll Ever Need for Excelling at Live Web Chat to Improve Sales and Customer Service

Whether you are shopping from an online retailer, booking a holiday or browsing the web for the best insurance provider, you will have noticed that more and more companies are incorporating web chat (sometimes called live chat) to their websites. This is no surprise - in recent years the use of web chat software has increased drastically, as business owners become more aware of its benefits.

While investing in a chat service is a great idea for many businesses, it needs to be employed with the company's set objectives in mind. Think about your key performance indicators (KPIs), and ask yourself whether implementing web chat will help achieve them in a cost-effective and customer-friendly way.

If the answer is yes, then we are here to provide you with an in-depth web chat guide to help you use your web chat software to best fit your online conversion strategy.


  1. Proactive vs. Reactive Live Web Chat
  2. Setting Up Proactive Live Web Chat
  3. How Do You Display Live Web Chat On Your Website?
  4. What Happens When All Agents Are Offline?
  5. How Do You End a Live Web Chat?
  6. Canned Messages 101
  7. Best Practices For Optimising Live Web Chat
  8. Potential Pitfalls Of Live Web Chat
  9. Measuring Live Web Chat Performance
  10. Ensuring Long-Term Live Web Chat Success

1. Proactive vs. Reactive Live Web Chat

Reactive web chat passively waits for a customer to initiate a chat. Proactive web chat, on the other hand, means that the agent starts a chat conversation with the customer.

Having a web chat feature on your site is a step forward for improving your customers' on-site experience. Implementing web chat on your website allows visitors to make queries regarding your product or service that will be answered quicker than an email.

However, customers are sometimes reluctant to initiate a conversation with an agent, maybe because they don't know what to ask or simply don't consider it as an option. This is where reactive web chat's weakness lies - in leaving it up to the customer to seek for customer contact that should be provided at all times.

In this case, taking the initiative and being proactive can improve the relationship between your brand and customers, while increasing sales conversions. Here are a couple of reasons why you should opt for a proactive web chat:

Lower shopping cart abandonment rates. By following a customer's buying journey, the agent can offer the right kind of help at the right time, without interfering with the website experience. This way they can provide advice and eliminate any concerns that the customer has before making a purchase. With intelligent routing, iterations can be passed through to different agents and departments, to ensure that every customer is engaging with the right person for their needs. Engaging with someone who can provide expertise on the product makes customers much more likely to complete their order, without having to refer to other sources for help.

Customer feedback. Observing the way customers browse your site and making note of how long it takes for them to make a purchase provides an insight into what prevents people from finalizing an order. Getting familiar with your customers' behaviour is always useful when coming up with a new marketing strategy and developing more sophisticated customer service.

Increase number of sales and leads. If you manage to organically implement proactive web chat into your customer service strategy, you will be able to increase customer satisfaction and generate more leads. Plus, being able to approach customers who are on the verge of making a purchase will enable the agents to upsell with offers relevant to the customer's needs.

2. Setting Up Proactive Live Web Chat

Reaching out to the right customers, those who actually need assistance, is essential for effective proactive web chat. The best way to approach these customers is through engagement rules. These particular set of rules determine whether it’s appropriate for a chat to be offered to the customer at a certain given time. Those rules can be based on:

  • Customer’s location
  • The current page they are browsing
  • The number of times they have visited the website
  • The amount of time they have spent on the website
  • Number of times they have reached out to customer support
proactive live chat page rules

The customers most often targeted with engagement rules are:

  • Shoppers who tend to overthink their purchase.
  • Returning clients with an account.
  • Visitors frequently browsing product pages.

Personalise it: The auto invitation you create should appear as friendly and personable, not resembling a spam pop-up window that the customer might close straight away:

This web chat introduction has addressed the customer by name, which instantly creates a sense of engagement and shows that the agent is concerned with her needs.

Don't rush it: Don't reach out to the customer immediately after they have entered the page, and don't send multiple consecutive chat invitations, as this might put them off and negatively affect their experience on the site.

Engagement rules to initiate proactive chat should be used sparingly and at the right times, in order to secure the customers who are valuable to the company in some way or another. Finding the happy balance between being helpful and intrusive is essential for optimising the use of proactive web chat.

3. How Do You Display Live Web Chat On Your Website?

When setting up web chat, it is important to choose a design that is going to fit your website's look and won't interfere with customers' on-site experience. The web chat button should be placed somewhere visible and easy to reach, but it shouldn't be too bright or too big - you may not want it to be your site's main focus.

You have the option of placing your web chat button at the top of your page, so that the visitors are aware they can contact you as soon as they open the website.

Another option is to have it on the bottom of the page. Below is a good example of a button that is noticeable and original but not preventing the customer from browsing the site.

You can also opt for a sliding web chat button, so that the customer doesn't have to scroll all the way to the top/bottom:

sliding web chat button talkative chat widget

The more visible your web chat button is, the better the conversions will be, so choose whichever options you think will fit with your website's design. Just make sure that the customers have no trouble finding it when they want to contact the customer service team.

4. What Happens to Chat If All Agents Are Offline?

It's up to you to decide how to handle queries made outside of your agents' working hours.

A contact form: You can get the chat widget replaced by a contact form for when web chat is inactive, this way if a customer has a query, you will receive an email about it.

live chat inactive widget contact form

Hidden chat widget: Another option is to hide your chat widget or chat window completely so that no one can contact you during an offline period. After all, the purpose of web chat is to offer a real time response to people's questions, so if you can't provide this service at the time, there isn't much point in the feature being present. What's more, it could irritate customers who were expecting to find someone to contact.

Outsourcing: Some companies choose to outsource their web chat to teams of trained, UK based contact agents who can manage your web chats, particularly those which come through out of hours. This is a good way to ensure that web chats are being handled immediately, at any time of day.

5. How Do You End a Live Web Chat?

Ending a web chat might seem a no-brainer but, in fact, it's one of the most crucial points in the correspondence with a customer. The feeling they're left with when leaving your site will most likely determine whether they will be a returning customer. Therefore, a well thought out conversation closer is essential.

A plain 'goodbye' isn't enough: Whether the person has made a purchase or not, whether they were dissatisfied or left positive feedback, every customer deserves your agents' attention and courtesy. Don't end the chat with an abrupt 'goodbye', but make sure that the customer is leaving the site with a good impression of the service and that there aren't any queries left unanswered.

End the chat when the customer's ready: Let the customer set the pace for the conversation and don't end it before making sure that they don't require further assistance. Expressing a genuine concern for your customers' needs and making sure their issues are resolved won't go unnoticed and will help you improve your customer support rate.

Make the customer feel like they matter: Always thank the customer for contacting you and expressing interest in your product or service. Under no circumstances should you make them feel like they are annoying you with their queries or as if their issues are irrelevant. Treating every case with equal respect is the way to build a loyal customer base that will feel personally connected to your brand.

Now that we have covered the main practices for the initial implementation of web chat technology, you need to figure out your brand's language. How do you find the balance between being personal and friendly while providing quick, expert advice containing all the information a customer needs? Through our experience with web chat, we have found that the most efficient way to this is by incorporating canned messages into the web chat communication.

6. Canned Messages 101

What is a canned web chat message? Canned messages are messages that are pre-screened and pre-approved to use in customer care conversations and which can be organized by the nature of the query or the type of product.

Why should I be using canned messages? Canned messages allow you to respond to customers' questions promptly without having to research the answer every time, giving the agents more time to personalize the message for the specific customer. This combination of a pre-scripted response and a customized greeting can boost your customer satisfaction score.

How should I implement them into web chat? Canned messages need to sound genuine. Even though they are scripted, canned messages shouldn't sound unnatural or make the customer question if they are communicating with a real person.

Match them to your brand's voice. You want to make sure they sound similar to the Facebook posts, tweets or newsletters you are posting. This will establish a higher level of customer trust and satisfaction with the communication.

Customisation is key. In order to get the optimal use out of your canned responses, it is crucial that they are personalized to each customer or issue, ensuring the best possible user experience.

The scripted part of the response is at the foundation of the canned message, but what really makes for great customer service is the way in which those responses are altered to fit the needs of each user.

7. Best Practices For Optimising Live Web Chat

Now that you know how to set up and implement web chat to best fit your business model, what you should think about is how best to optimise the service through planning, tracking and tweaking the variables on which your customer service performance depends:

Have a clear goal. As we mentioned in the beginning of this guide, to reap the potential benefits of web chat software, you need to be aware of whether or not the technology is suitable for your business objectives. Is web chat going to help your company meet the key performance indicators (KPI) that have been set?

To optimise its use, it's best to directly align web chat with a defined objective, which could be:

  • Increasing conversion rates
  • Decreasing shopping cart abandonment rates
  • Reducing the average handle time of an interaction
  • Improving the customer satisfaction rates

The improvements made in any of those aspects will signify that your web chat is working in favour of your business.

Train your agents properly. How well your web chat performs depends to a large extent on how skillful your agents are. Providing them with adequate training and the necessary tools to handle customers is an efficient way of optimising the way web chat influences your brand's customer satisfaction rates. Not only should agents possess soft skills so that they can relate to your customers' issues and reassure them, but they should also have enough knowledge on the way the software works, in order to confidently use it.

How many chat sessions should one agent be handling? Apart from the proper training, in order to perform well, agents need to be handling the right amount of concurrent web chat sessions. Too little would mean that they are inefficient in providing good customer service, but if they are assigned with too many, their response times could increase, which leads to customer dissatisfaction.

The best way to determine the right amount of chats per agent is through trial and error. Test what works best for your employees by tracking the customer satisfaction rates and the agents' ratings. That's how you'll know when to make the necessary adjustments to the number of sessions compared to number of agents.

Some agents will be better at multi-tasking than others. CustomerThink suggests most agents should be able to handle two or three chat sessions at a time.

Understand the customers' needs. Collecting data from web chat interactions and taking into consideration customer feedback is a good way of finding out what your clients value and what they wish was improved in the customer service they receive.

Knowing if customers would like to receive quicker responses, or if they wish staff were more friendly and approachable will help you decide on the adjustments that need to be made to increase customer satisfaction.

Be consistent. Providing consistent web chat support will ensure that all of your agents are working up to the same standard. It is important to offer the same high-quality customer support that reflects the standards of the company to every customer. Creating scripts that can be employed at multiple stages of the web chat will guarantee that agents will use the brand's tone and language in every interaction with customers. There could be a couple of different scripts for different types of customers and issues to provide clients with the most essential product information in an efficient and concise way.

8. Potential Live Web Chat Pitfalls

We’ve already established that web chat can be a great resource to accomplish your business objectives. However, it can only give results if its implementation into the company’s customer service strategy has been done thoughtfully and with purpose. Here are a couple of practices that you should avoid:

Beware of coming off as intrusive. As great as proactive web chat is, you shouldn’t appear too insisting or invasive of the customer’s on-site experience. The last thing you would want is for them to feel pressured into buying something and then leaving the site for a competitor. What you want to achieve through web chat service is a quality customer-agent interaction that would build a sense of trust in your brand.

Employing phone agents as web chat agents without training. Even if they are great communicators and skillful salespeople, avoid reassigning agents from your company’s call center directly to your web chat service without adequate training. As with any customer service position, specific training is required if you want to have an excellent performing team that can handle a large amounts of queries at the same time.

Use canned messages with caution. As efficient and time saving as they are, it’s easy for canned messages to appear artificial and generic to customers. People are able to tell when they are chatting with a real person and when they are being fed some scripted phrases. Your best bet is to stick to genuine, human interaction while still incorporating canned responses when appropriate.

Don't leave customers hanging. Immediate communication between customers and clients is at the essence of the web chat service, and research has shown that 53% of clients would abandon their purchase unless their queries are quickly answered.

Therefore, your response time should be no longer than 15 seconds. If you fail to provide an instantaneous response to queries, there would be no point in using web chat technology instead of email correspondence.

Be wary of breaches of customer data. It goes without saying that your customers’ security should be a main priority when setting up a web chat service on your website. In order to ensure that their privacy won’t be compromised, require your visitors to log-in (if applicable) in order to chat and advise your agents to verify the data collected by the chat system with the customer records.

9. Measuring Live Web Chat Performance

So, you’ve got your web chat software up and running. Customers are using it, your agents receive positive customer service feedback, but you are unsure whether the efforts and resources invested into the technology are paying off in terms of increased sales and conversion rates. How do you know for sure that you are getting the most out of web chat, and when is it time to make the necessary improvements?

Data is your friend: The data gathered by the web chat’s analytics gives you an insight into your customer support’s weaknesses and strengths, as well as into your agents’ performance. Analysing this information will let you know about:

  • Your user’s location
  • The pages the user is browsing
  • Whether the user has been contacting the website’s support
  • The average time they spend on your website

Using the data as a guide, you can make continuous improvements to your support team and customer service strategy and determine which are the most efficient practices for generating more leads and increasing revenue.

Web chat volume: Volume is a good indicator that gives you information about how efficient your agents are in answering customers’ queries. Additionally, you can compare your web chat volume to the number of visitors, to accurately determine how many web chat agents you need at certain periods of time and to forecast sales.

Agents’ performance: Your web chat customer support depends on the skills and competency of your agents. A good web chat agent must reply instantaneously to customers’ queries while providing exhaustive and accurate information about your product. Their role is not only to be a good communicator, but also to create an opportunity for an up-sell or a cross-sell, mainly by asking the right questions and uncovering the customers’ needs.

To determine which of your agents are performing well and which are in need of additional training, you can track the customers’ feedback on the interactions they’ve had with the support team

First Contact Resolution (FCR) rate: The higher the amount of customers whose issues have been resolved immediately so that they don’t need to make a second query leads to higher customer satisfaction levels and increased sales. In 2017, FCR has become more important than speed, as reports have showed that the companies with highest customer satisfaction have increased their handle times at the expense of their response speed. Therefore, this is a metric that you need to keep in mind.

Web chat conversion rates: The amount of chats that result in sales gives you a good indication of your agents’ ability to bring in sales by offering the customers the best personal experience. People using web chat are reportedly 7.5 times more likely to make a purchase, so your agents need to be properly trained in order to be able to turn visitors into paying customers.

Customer Satisfaction: web chat surpasses all other forms of customer service with a 73% customer satisfaction rate, which is why it’s important to keep track of whether the customers are happy with the service by letting them rate their experience before leaving the website. Satisfied visitors are more likely to convert into regular buyers, so every customer needs to be given equal attention.

10. Ensuring Long-Term Live Web Chat Success

In order to turn web chat into a viable aspect of your customer service strategy and to ensure that your sales experience steady growth, there are several factors that you should monitor. Keep in mind that the key to a good web chat practice is continuous improvement within all of these areas.

Regularly tracking and measuring web chat interactions and making the necessary alterations will increase your company’s revenue while bringing down the cost per customer.

Integrate chat conversations into your CRM. The information about customers that you receive through web chat communication can be used by agents to better understand the nature of the queries and to provide a more personal and satisfactory customer service. This information can include the client’s purchase history, previous buying preferences or shared personal details.

Implement a cobrowsing solution or a video call option. In addition to your web chat software, cobrowsing and voice/video calling can help you to improve customer engagement and will enable you to track your customers’ buying journey, giving you a valuable insight into the way they interact with the site and their purchasing habits.

Improving agents’ performance. The feedback gathered from web chat interactions can be used to measure agents’ performance against your KPIs, and to identify the areas where they need training. Combined with the average handle time (AHT) and first contact resolution (FCR) metrics, it gives web chat users an understanding of the impact each agent has on the customer experience.

All in all, both the statistics and the customers’ experience data show us that web chat can be the solution to businesses struggling to identify their customers’ pain points, needs and preferences. However, web chat is not a one-size-fits-all technology, and when implementing it you should make the necessary adjustments to it in order to serve the needs and purposes of your business. If done correctly, web chat software has the potential to elevate your company’s customer satisfaction and engagement rates, to improve the customer-brand relationship and boost sales.

Simply put, optimising web chat revolves around tracking the metrics, comparing the results and making the necessary adjustments to your customer service strategy. The data provided by web chat takes the guessing work out of determining whether a certain approach is successful in engaging customers or increasing lead generation and lets the website owners concentrate on the areas that need improvement.

Constant monitoring, evaluation and improvement is really the best practice when it comes to web chat.

There is no magic trick that will help you achieve your business objectives overnight. It’s all about being consistent and paying attention to what the data tells you.

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