How to Implement Live Chat for Customer Support

The modern customer expects instant support from a real person—can you provide that? 

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The modern customer expects instant support from a real person—can you provide that? Use this guide to learn how to implement a successful live chat customer support program.

Why offer live chat for customer support

Today’s consumers expect companies to provide personalized, seamless customer support across all channels. They also want the ability to multitask. Often times, they are working on something else while also trying to get the help they need from a service agent. And being on the phone, stuck on hold, listening to elevator music from the ’80s, is simply not an option for them—customers want instant support from a real person.

This shift in expectations isn’t surprising given the rise of smartphones and internet chat. As a result, consumers are increasingly inclined to using live chat to interact with companies.  

“At GetFeedback, we noticed that our customers preferred to get in touch with us via text-based channels, such as email. This is a cultural shift. In a world full of smartphones and instant gratification, people want immediate support. People are requesting live chat—it gives them the support they need.”

—Kimberly Powell, director of customer experience and support, GetFeedback

Because of these preferences, there are huge business benefits to live chat. Below are five reasons why this tool is worth implementing.

Customers prefer live chat over other support tools  

According to Harris Research, more than half of all customers prefer chatting with someone in real time via live chat rather than calling a customer support line. As a result of this preference, live chat is expected to grow as much as 87% in the next 12-18 months.

Live chat has a positive ROI

According to Kayako, 79% of businesses believe that implementing live chat has had a positive effect on sales, revenue, and customer loyalty.

Live chat is a great CX nurturing tool

According to research from Forrester, there is a 10% increase in average order value, a 48% increase in revenue per chat hour, and a 40% conversion rate for customers that use live chat prior to making a purchase.

Live chat captures leads

Many companies use live chat to capture website visitors, converting them from casual viewers into leads. Believe it or not, chat actually brings people back, as well. According to Emarketer, 63% of customers were more likely to return to a website that offers live chat.

Live chat is scalable

Live chat allows you to scale your customer support efforts so that you can provide better service to more people. Unlike the phone, your team can field multiple chats from different customers.

“Offering live chat as a support channel gave us an edge over the competition. Being able to respond to our customer’s needs in real time allowed us to solve our customers’ problems immediately.”

Eric Keating, vice president of marketing, Zaius 

5 elements to implement live chat successfully

Launching a live chat program is a large undertaking. You want to ensure there is a smooth rollout that doesn’t interfere with the service you offer. And you must provide your team with the right tools to create a delightful experience for customers. We’ve gathered insight from our own GetFeedback customer support experts as well as other industry leaders to come up with the following five elements necessary to successfully launch live chat.  

Plan your implementation before rolling out live chat

Although it may be tempting to turn live chat on and see what happens, it’s essential to plan your implementation ahead of time as much as possible. That means you must determine your rollout schedule (so that your agents aren’t overwhelmed). You must also decide where you’ll use live chat: will it be implemented on the home page, on support pages, or elsewhere?

As part of this process, you must determine which tool you’ll be using to implement live chat and measure/track customer engagement. The best bet is to choose a tool that integrates with existing systems, such as Salesforce.

In addition, it’s important to emphasize the immediacy of live chat. If you can’t guarantee someone is available to reply immediately, don’t opt for live chat just yet. Instead, stick with optimizing email or other support channels.

“Users aren’t coming to you to via chat to drop a line and hang aroundthey want to speak to someone right there in the moment. If you can’t deliver this, then you’ve already failed the customer before you’ve even had a chance to help them.”

—Tami Titheridge, Former Head of Customer Operations at RateIt

At GetFeedback, we took a step back to think big picture about live chat. We came up with a game plan of who we were going to open this up to, how much time it was going to take for some of the support people out of the queue, and what the problems were that we were trying to solve for. This prior planning allowed us to roll out live chat in a seamless fashion.

Move slowly and test along the way

If you’re a large organization with a high volume of support queries, it’s essential to move slowly with your implementation and test along the way. We recommend creating a “sandbox,” which is a small testing ground. Perhaps you only open live chat up to a small subset of customers, or on one page.

“When we implemented live chat, we had about one to two weeks of testing. During this time, we would do a lot of mock chats with each other to remind ourselves how to respond and escalate certain queries. This helped us ensure our support team was really comfortable using chat.”

—Kimberly Powell, director of customer experience and support, GetFeedback

Once you’ve experimented in your sandbox, you can begin rolling live chat out to different audiences. Be sure to keep testing along the way and take your time. At GetFeedback, our live chat implementation went very smoothly because we moved slowly and tested as we went.

Testing also means checking and rechecking with agents about their experience with live chat, confirming all third-party integrations are working properly, verifying chat logs are being stored in the right place, and finalizing workflows and rules.

Prepare and educate team members

You want to ensure team members are prepared to answer and escalate queries appropriately. You also need the rest of your organization to understand that the change is afoot. It’s on you to prioritize internal communication so all teams are educated and on board.

You need to ensure you have:

  • A proper staffing schedule based on a realistic analysis of support capacity

  • Thorough agent training so that your team is up to speed on how to use the channel

  • Clearly documented best practices, workflows, and escalation processes

“We’ve trained the entire live chat team on our company narrative. We’ve explained our story, and how they should share it. We’ve also explained how to answer certain tough questions. We’ve done a good jobour team is rock solid on how to respond on chat.”

Eric Keating, vice president of marketing, Zaius 

At GetFeedback, in order to provide top service to our customers, we make sure each agent only has two people in the queue. So if an agent is busy, they can press a button and easily hand off a query to the next person without that customer being interrupted or having any idea of what is happening behind the scenes.

Set expectations with customers

The last thing you want to do is open up live chat to customers and have it be a poor experience. You also don’t want your agents to burn out or have chats go unanswered.

Just as you need to set expectations with your team, you also need to set expectations with customers. This is especially true if you won’t be offering live chat 24/7 or if agents might take a bit longer to investigate an issue. Put those warnings in place far ahead of time. You could make live chat automatically disappear as a support option during “off hours” so that there’s no confusion. You could also state your live chat hours in your customer support page—see below for how we do this at GetFeedback.

This is also why it’s best to roll live chat out to a small group first. Once you’ve tested to ensure quality with the small group, you can roll it out to a larger group.

Track performance over time

Implementation isn’t over once live chat is on your site. It’s an ongoing process. As you move forward, you need to check in to make sure live chat is performing in the ways you’d hoped.

This is a time to assess whether live chat is truly meeting your goals. Tami Tethridge, former head of customer operations at RateIt, found that the team was unable to offer exemplary support via live chat. As a result, the company decided to stop offering it.

To track performance, make sure you’re keeping transcripts and creating cases to track agent time and learnings for future use. You should also add a post-chat survey to collect feedback on chat quality, agent performance, and customer effort scores.

How to deliver a great live chat customer experience

A great live chat customer experience means there are three things in place: Well-trained agents, an omnichannel approach to support, and post-chat feedback collection and analytics.  

Best practices for agents

Your agents are the frontlines of your support program, so make sure they understand how to interact on live chat. Here are some best practices to keep in mind.

Always greet the customer: No matter what, your agents should always greet the customer and say hello. This can be done in a number of ways and it provides a better, personalized experience for the customer.

Jump right into the problem: Customers don’t want to repeat the same information over and again. Agents can use metadata and information from their live chat client to identify his or her question or pain point whenever possible. That way, they can jump right into problem-solving mode instead of prolonging the process by asking additional questions.

Reduce complexity by focusing: When a customer has a complex inquiry with many different issues, agents should address one issue at a time. By focusing in this manner, they’ll be able to keep the customer on track as they solve their problems.

Keep the customer in the loop if you need time: If your agent doesn’t have the answer and needs to check with another agent or look something up, they should let the customer know. Simply saying “Give me a few minutes to research that” will set customers’ expectations.

Omnichannel approach

Be sure to offer other avenues for customers who don’t have access to computers or simply prefer other channels. Make sure cases from all channels are logged in the same place, so the customer record tells one cohesive story. This allows agents to reference the customer’s case history at a glance and pick up where the last agent left off.

At the end of each conversation, ask customers for feedback on their support experience. The Customer Satisfaction question and Customer Effort Score question both work well because you can measure them across channels, regions, customer types, and more. 

If you’re a Salesforce customer, you can use GetFeedback for Salesforce Chat to distribute a customer support survey right in the chat window, map survey results onto the customer record and close the loop with workflows. Be sure to check out our guide “Using Omnichannel Feedback to Elevate Service Quality” to learn how to optimize feedback and deliver a better customer experience.

If you’re looking for a simple and efficient way to measure post-chat customer feedback, consider GetFeedback for Salesforce Chat—it allows for you to seamlessly integrate elegant surveys at the end of your live chat conversations, helping you collect real-time, contextual customer feedback. 

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