Three times just today a client or prospective client called with the same question:  Should I add chat functionality to my site?

My answer to all of them has been the same:

Absolutely! And… No way!

First off, what is chat?

Adding chat to your website allows visitors to instantly connect with you or your staff to get immediate results.  Chat is a two-way protocol that lets visitors on your site connect with your sales or support staff start a discussion.  The topics can be anything and chats can be routed to the appropriate staff member based on topic, but the important part to know is that it is instant communication to your back office much like a text, SMS, or IM.

Why would someone want to use chat?

Chat is an instant way to connect with your sales prospects or your existing clients.  If prospects have a pre-sales question, what better way to show responsiveness than instantly answering their question and providing them instantly with the information that they need?  If a current customer needs sales or support, what better way to show how well you support your products and services than by letting them instantly chat with you to discuss their concerns?

For this reason, we love chat!  In fact, at the bottom of this page there is a chat widget.  If we are online and able to take your chat, the widget will appear.  If it is after hours or we’re otherwise unavailable the widget will not appear.  We want to be accessible, but only when we’re actually accessible.

Why not use chat for your site?

If you look above, you will notice the word instantly and immediately are italicized many times.  When you add a chat widget to your site, you are establishing the expectation that you are instantly and immediately available to help your prospect or customer.  With a traditional contact form, the expectation is that you will reply via email sometime in the future, but with chat the expectation is that the visitor will receive an instant response.

You have only a few seconds to connect to that user before they conclude that your company is inaccessible or unsupportive. Or both.

Do not implement chat if you are not able to staff it and respond instantly.

And remember this without breaks.  If you can lose the visitor within a few seconds, you must be very aware of your actions in the office that will become a distraction from answering the chat.  Phone calls are the biggest distraction because it is difficult to talk to one person and type to another.  (Not only that but you are not giving each conversation your full attention and the caller and website visitor will notice that very quickly which is also sending the wrong message).  But keep in mind the other things that can kill a conversation within a few seconds.  You cannot turn around to chat with someone who swings by your cube.  No quick runs to refresh your tea or coffee.  And if you have had a lot of tea or coffee, you’ll need someone to cover for you for those moments when nature calls.

In my experience, website visitors always seem to know exactly when I have to pee and start a chat two seconds after I walk away from my desk.

Well, what about chat bots?

They suck.

It is harsh, but chat bots really are terrible.  The artificial intelligence for bots has come leaps and bounds but the user experience hasn’t caught up in terms of creating a personal connection and that creates the biggest issue.  There is nothing worse for the website visitor than the experience where they think they’re about to get an instant response from a human, the bubble appears indicating someone is typing…. and then you get a canned response that is clearly from a bot.  Visitors feel duped because they thought they had a live human to help them and found out it’s a crappy script.  And we all know how that ends:  At best the visitor begrudgingly has to make a phone call or enter a support ticket which leaves a bad taste for your products and service and causes the trust factor to plummet, fast. Worse, that prospect is no longer at prospect.  Worst, that customer is no longer a customer.

No chat is better than bad chat.

So no chat?

That is not what I’m saying.  I am saying that chat is an incredibly invaluable tool that will concert visitors to customers quickly.  Chat is also in incredible tool for maintaining and supporting existing customers.

Chat is amazing.

But if – and only if – someone can respond to the chat messages instantly.  Otherwise, it’s a huge liability that could case prospects to end up at your competitor and cause existing customers to throw in the towel.

If you have the capability to handle chat internally with just your staff, by all means go for it!  We’d love to help you get it all configured and start converting visitors into customers!

But if managing chat isn’t possible within your organization, we have something that still may help.

At Glimmernet we have a relationship with accompany that provides a hybrid chat solution.  With this service college-educated, US-based, native English speakers are trained in your specific products and services and how to answer the common questions that are posed by website visitors (without a script!).  Their goal is to answer chat messages quickly, efficiently, and most importantly, personally.  They want to establish the relationship and know that your company is there to support your prospects or customers in whatever way they need.  The chat-takers will not be experts in your products and services to the level that you are, but they can keep the visitor engaged and interested long enough to take the next step that you define.  Maybe that is setting up a sales meeting, maybe it is contacting tech support, maybe it’s saying thanks for being an awesome customer.

I mentioned earlier that this is a hybrid solution, and it can be implemented to cover the time periods that you and your staff are not available.  Maybe that is over lunch, or overnight or weekend or holidays. It can be configured for whatever schedule you need.  They can cover you 24/7 without you ever taking a single chat, if needed.

But of the neatest features – in my opinion – is that you can configure the chat service to answer when you cannot.  So lets say you get up to take that coffee break right before the visitor starts the chat.  If you do not answer within 15-20 seconds (or whatever period you define) then their chat-takers jump in and start the conversation on your behalf, as if they were on your staff! When you are back, they can transfer the conversation to you to take over!

And it’s worth noting that we have a relationship with this specific company, but we don’t get a kickback or a referral fee.  It just happens to be a really nice hybrid solution that allows the best of both worlds – you to interact with your website visitors, and the comfort of knowing that they don’t slip through the cracks for things outside of your control.

If you are up for implementing chat, we would love to discuss the options for how to do it efficiently so that it is not a burden or a liability to your business.  Drop us a line and let us know how we can help grow your business!