Online experience is very much based on self-service. Part of what defines a well designed website is the facility with which visitors can access the information they need. The website’s architecture, design and the ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ section play an important role in enabling visitors to self-serve and be as autonomous as possible. Although visitors enjoy this independence, there are situations in which more personalized and interactive support is expected.

Meet customer expectations and go beyond….

The pressure on websites to meet customer expectations in terms of service and experience are undoubtedly growing. This is particularly true online as a disappointed customer can so easily leave one website for another. Never has the customer been more aware of the vast amount of different options available. Therefore, keeping the customer on your website and happy is an increasingly difficult challenge. You not only need to meet customer expectations to succeed; you need to ensure that their experience is fantastic. Only then, will your customers consider sharing that experience with their family and friends.
But what kind of customer service do customers expect online? Research carried out by eDigitalResearch and IMRG showed that, although user satisfaction reached an all-time high between July 2012 and January 2013, 40% of respondents believe that their customer service contact could have been improved with a live chat facility or a freephone contact number. 17% felt that a quicker response to their queries would help during their purchase journeys. In other words, they want it fast and free and there is still a lot companies can do to ensure they provide this customer support. Customers do not like waiting, nothing new there, be it online of off; they want real-time customer service.

Why customers like it live…

Real-time customer service is about giving your customers or website visitors instant satisfaction by providing them with the information they need straight away. This facilitates their purchase process and gives them the fast and free customer support they expect.
Although the telephone is still the most popular communication channel, online channels such as live chat, click to call and video chat are increasingly popular. Online shoppers enjoy live chat because its free and easy to use and they get a response straight away. Customers want to speak to a real person, and appreciate it when they can tell that a customer support agent is making that extra effort to personalise responses. Furthermore, the fact that this communication channel does not require the visitor to switch to another communication mediam, the ability to quit a chat conversation easily and the fact that it’s less intrusive than the telephone is also appreciated by customers. Live chat has found the right balance giving customers the human contact they need and the flexibility they are used to on the web. 85% of visitors who receive support via live chat say they are satisfied or very satisfied with the service.

Interact with the right customers in the right way…

So does this mean you should give all your website visitors the option of live chat support all the time? The answer to this question partly depends on your resources and how many support agents will be handling your chat contacts. On average, a chat agent can handle 3 simultaneous chats and the average handle time for a conversation is 9 minutes. So a chat agent can handle roughly 18 contacts an hour. It’s probably not feasible for you to be offering real-time support to all your visitors on each page of your website and it’s definitely not strategic.
You want to be making sure that you connect with visitors in the right places and at the right time, when they really need you. Some websites choose to implement a fixed live chat button on their Contact page which is visible to all visitors. Behavioural targeting enables you to implement chat buttons at key stages of the checkout process. This way, you intervene when visitors are hesitating about completing their purchase, because they’re lacking specific information. This can be compared to similar situations in a high street shop. It’s best not to rush up to a customer as soon as they walk in. Give them time to browse, think about what they want, and when they think they know but are not quite 100% sure, that’s when you step in to give them the support they need to complete their order. This approach not only improves customer satisfaction but also increases the conversion rate and the average basket value of customers who receive real-time support. On The Kooples website, the average basket value of customers who chatted with a personal shopper via live chat increased by 25%.

Real-time customer service online is the closest customers can get to the offline shopping experience. It’s direct, free, simple and is based on human contact. With a behavioural targeting strategy, you can echo the sales strategy you implement in shops by giving your customer the perfect combination of space and service.

Author: Miranda Hobbs is Communication Manager for the UK at iAdvize. The company is specialised in real-time online customer service and provides a live chat, click to call and video chat solution. Combined with a behavioural targeting engine, these tools can increase conversion rates and optimise customer satisfaction and loyalty. Founded in 2010, more than 1000 clients throughout Europe use iAdvize today in order to improve their real-time online customer service. Clients are from a wide range of industries, including ecommerce, banking and insurance. iAdvize is the leader for live chat in France where its headquarters are based and has recently launched in Germany and in the UK

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