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Should you be using Live Chat on your website?

Here’s the truth… despite the number of websites that are now using live chat and the number of articles we’ve read boasting the benefits, we aren’t quite on board with the whole idea.

When we say live chat, we’re talking about the little chat boxes that have rapidly been popping up at the bottom of most websites. They can typically be found in the right hand corner and feature an icon or some text that says “Message us” or “Have a question?”.

Hello, is anyone there?

When you see a live chat box, you expect to live chat, right then and there, with a person. Right? You type in a question and should receive a response, relatively quickly.

Here’s the problem, on small, low budget websites the live chats are more for show.

We’ve tested quite a few, just out of curiosity. Most of the time we get a quick response that says something like, “Thanks for your message, we’ll get back to you soon.”…

What? How soon is “soon”? And how exactly are you going to “get back to me”? Do I need to sit here and wait for a reply? Are you going to email me?

Queue confusion. And now my message seems to be lost to the internet (along with my Myspace page, Xanga blog… and everything else from the early 2000s).

Are you being misleading?

We are firm believers in practicality over trendiness. Just because larger companies are implementing strategies such as live chat to promote growth, doesn’t mean that the same strategies will work for smaller businesses.

Most small businesses don’t have the capacity to answer every single chat message that may be coming through on any given day, because they are busy running their businesses and not sitting in front of their live chats. The timeliness of your response will affect the messenger’s perspective of you and your business – and they are expecting a response even faster than email.

If you (or one of your employees) aren’t readily available to manage the chat at least during normal business hours, it’s not truly a “live” chat and is misleading your customers.

What’s the alternative to live chat?

Knowing your customers.

And understanding why they are coming to your website in the first place.

In most cases, it’s to find out information about your business…

What are your hours? What’s on your lunch menu? How much do your services cost? Who are you as a company? How can I get in touch with you quickly?

Website’s should be strategic. Your contact info – phone number, email address, physical address – need to be either right in view or easily found when a potential customer lands on your page.

The alternative to live chat is simply making it easy for your customers to find the information they are there for in the first place.

Don’t add another step into the equation and another task on your shoulders if you really don’t need to.

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