Ecommerce opens up an entire world of new products — quite literally — and lets you do your shopping from the comfort of your own home. This convenience comes at a cost, though; for years, early ecommerce sites lost the ability to directly communicate with shoppers… and by extension, they also lost the human connection so valuable in sales.

But over the last few years, the tech industry has been working on the solution: ecommerce live chat. This practical site addition opens up direct interaction between customer and brand, going beyond just answering questions and bringing back human contact. The results have been overwhelmingly positive:

Demand for live chat grew by 43.41% in 2016.64% of consumers expect companies to respond and interact with them in real-time.87% of B2B companies cite “immediate response” as a major influence in their loyalty.60% of consumers aged 18-34 use ecommerce to take advantage of live chat when shopping.79% of all customers prefer the immediacy of live chat.

Whereas a couple years ago just having live chat on your site was enough, today the trend has blossomed, meaning it takes more than just an idle window to impress customers. The more widespread live chat becomes, the more expectations your shoppers bring in with them.

And that’s what today’s article is about. Below, we list 9 of the most up-to-date best practices for live chat, so you not only meet your shoppers’ expectations, you surpass them.

1. Make the First Move

One of the clearest signs of live chat’s current progression is the sudden rise of the representative speaking first. Here is an ecommerce trend that appeared suddenly and has quickly caught on. Now, every other site has a live chat that speaks first.

If you’ve already implemented live chat on your site, take it to the next level by automatically starting the conversation. Try asking visitors a question, even something broad like, “What brings you to our site today?” This not only notifies shoppers that live chat exists on your site and where to find it (especially when coupled with a sound alert), but it also increases engagement. You can even prevent bouncing from visitors too shy, distracted, or proud to bring their questions to you first.

Are you worried about bothering shoppers? Don’t be — they want you to make the first move. 94% of customers who were proactively invited to chat were either somewhat or very satisfied by their customer service experience in the end.

2. Minimize Response Times

Ecommerce live chat is all about immediacy. That’s the difference between a real-time chat rather than leaving a message and waiting until the next day for a response.

For this reason, you want to streamline response times as much as possible. As a bare minimum, you want to be attentive and not miss any messages... but satisfactory customer service goes beyond the bare minimum.

One of the best shortcuts for speedy responses is using prewritten “canned answers” to frequently asked questions. Chances are, certain questions will crop up more than others. Copying and pasting a standard response saves time and ensures the question is handled in the best possible way each and every time.

3. Communicate Delays If You Need Time to Research

On the other hand, some questions will catch you by surprise, and you may not necessarily know the answer off the top of your head. But there’s no need to panic. All you have to do is explain that you need a little time.

Being honest about a delay is far better than ignoring it. If you need a few minutes (or longer) to research the answer or contact the right specialist, simply communicate that so your customer knows what’s going on. Your first instinct may be to say nothing for fear of annoying the shopper — after all no one likes being told to wait — however, given those two options, being open about delays will annoy them less.

4. Be Personable

What do we mean by “personable”? Well, the first step in being personable is to be an actual person. Having a human behind the keyboard is the best use of live chat, much more effective than an automated chat bot. And your customers can always tell when they’re talking to another of their species.

Taking it further, you should always use real photos and names. Nothing says “real person” better than seeing the person’s face and having a name to attach to it. This is the straightest route to developing bonds with your customers, and makes the conversation feel more like a true conversation.

On top of that, you want to talk casually. It’s easy to fall into the trap of responding robotically, addressing customer concerns as systematically as they appear. But your shoppers don’t want to talk to a robot, they want to talk to a person. Be friendly, casual, and above all human; genuinely sympathize with your shoppers, don’t just recite the right words. A charismatic live chat rep can turn a question into a sale just as easily as an in-person sales rep can.

5. The Right Team

On that note about live chat reps influencing a sale, you want to make sure you both have the best staff and train them the best way.

For starters, make sure you hire the right people for the job. Aside from a friendly and helpful personality, an ideal live chat rep will also have the ability to:

- multi-task (for tackling several chats at once)

- empathize with and understand customer emotions

- diffuse conflicts and calm frustrations

- correctly type without spelling or grammar mistakes (more on this later)

- convey knowledge of the industry (or demonstrate a willingness to learn)

Moreover, once you’ve gathered your live chat dream team, you want to train them so they’re all on the same page. Make sure everyone uses the same language and tone for the sake of consistency — it won’t do to have one rep be excessively formal while another cracks jokes and uses emoji. This is doubly important if you’re outsourcing your live chat overseas, where English may not be your rep’s first language.

6. Bottom-Right Corner

One of the foundations of ecommerce UX is to make every step as easy and brainless as possible. When it comes to popular ecommerce trends like live chat, this involves knowing when to yield to conventions.

At this point, live chat is widely established enough that it has its own common patterns. One such pattern is its location: almost always in the bottom-right corner. This means that the average ecommerce shopper will have seen live chat in the bottom-right corner many times before, and so when they arrive on a new site, they’ll look for it there first. Don’t disappoint them.

Feel free to showcase your own individual identity elsewhere on the site, but when it comes to the location of your live chat, don’t confuse the user by placing it somewhere they have to search for it. The bottom-right corner is likely the first place they’ll look when they need it.

7. Live Chat on Every Page

On a related note, having your live chat on every page of your site ensures the shopper never has to look too hard to find it. The idea is that it’s always within reach whenever the shopper needs it, but since you can’t predict when they’ll need it, it’s best to always have it present.

This may seem obvious, but it’s worth mentioning in case you consider axing it on some pages to conserve space. If your live chat is taking up too much room, try turning it into an icon that only expands when clicked.

8. Proofread Responses

Some people don’t mind typos and grammar mistakes… but everyone else does! Customer service is about making the customer feel comfortable, and for a lot of people that means flawless use of the language.

Mistakes and typos are unprofessional. They suggest that, if the company is not competent enough to type properly, they’re probably incompetent in other areas as well. It’s best to avoid this misunderstanding altogether by ensuring your correspondences are error-free before sending them out.

Train your reps to develop the habit of proofreading everything they say before sending it. Even experts slip up every now and then, so a quick read-through before sending a message can catch any accidental mistakes.

9. End on a High Note

As with many things in life, how something ends can leave a lasting impression that, at times, overshadows the rest of the experience. That’s why you want to take extra measures to ensure your live chat ends positively.

You want to avoid abrupt goodbyes altogether, even if you’ve completely answered the customer’s questions. Whenever you can, wait for the customer to initiate the end of the conversation — it will leave a bad taste in their mouth if they feel like you’ve dismissed them.

Asking follow-up questions like, “Is there anything else I can help you with?” is a good way to show your continued willingness to help them, not to mention provide additional assistance if they need it.

Conclusion

Is there anything else we can help you with? The above live chat principles are not just parroted advice — we follow them all ourselves on our own site. See that live chat icon in the bottom-right corner of your screen? Feel free to click it and see our own live chat in action. Our personable reps will be happy to answer any questions you have. Until next time, have a great day!

Matt Ellis

Freelance Content Creator
Matt is a freelance online content creator, specializing in eCommerce, content marketing, and web design. For over a decade he’s been sharing his industry knowledge through ebooks, website copy, and blog articles, just like this one.
Matt is a freelance online content creator, specializing in eCommerce, content marketing, and web design. For over a decade he’s been sharing his industry knowledge through ebooks, website copy, and blog articles, just like this one.