Should Small Businesses Be Using Live Chat?

Here’s the truth… despite the number of websites that are now using live chat and the amount of articles we’ve read boasting the benefits, we just aren’t onboard 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?”.

Why don’t we love live chat?

It can be a bit deceptive.

When you see a live chat box, you expect to chat live, right then and there, with a person. Right? You type in a question and you are expecting a response – which happens in most cases when chatting with larger corporations (Verizon, Amazon, etc.).

Almost all of the ones we’ve encountered in the past six months have been more for show than used to actually assist customers. Especially on smaller, lower budget, websites.

We’ve tested them, just out of curiosity. And 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? Or are you going to email me?

Queue confusion. And now my message seems to be lost to the internet.

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 messengers 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. Understand 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 contact you OR 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.

And if your website is broken or out of date, don’t try to fix those issues by adding a live chat to it (I believe that’s called putting lipstick on a pig). Hire a professional to help.