How Consumers Use Live Chat for Customer Service [New Data]

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Alana Chinn
Alana Chinn


If you're anything like me, you've had many customer service experiences over live chat — the good, the bad, and the ugly. And you've probably developed a preference or two for how you'd like those interactions to go in the future. I know I have.

But how do my preferences compare to other people's preferences? To answer this question, I decided to dig deeper into live chat consumer behavior to see if other consumers are, in fact, anything like me.

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We'll dig into the results of my deep dive in a bit. To start, let's take a step back and define what live chat consumer behavior really means.

What does 'live chat consumer behavior' mean?

To define live chat consumer behavior, let's break it down into its component parts: live chat and consumer behavior.

Live chat is a service tool that connects customers with support representatives using instant messaging software. Customers typically visit a company's website or app, open the chat functionality, and type in their inquiry or request.

In some cases, there's a human rep on the other end chatting with the customer in real time. In others, there's an automated or virtual assistant handling the conversation.

Consumer behavior is a collection of buyer habits including purchase patterns, brand interactions, and frequency trends.

Understanding consumer behavior can help you uncover what motivates your customers to become brand advocates and determine how to better meet their needs across the customer journey.

To put it all together: Live chat consumer behavior helps explain the habits and preferences that customers have related to live chat as a customer service tool.

Let's look at some of those habits and preferences next.

Live Chat Consumer Behavior: New Data

When looking at the survey data in terms of live chat preferences by age, the majority of respondents were in the 25 to 34 age group.

Here's the full breakdown:

  • 14% of respondents were age 18 to 24
  • 23% of respondents were age 25 to 34
  • 15% of respondents were age 35 to 44
  • 18% of respondents were age 45 to 54
  • 16% of respondents were age 55 to 64
  • 13% of respondents were age 65 and over

Now, onto the results.

1. Live Chat vs. Other Contact Methods

Consumers prefer making initial contact with customer service via phone, followed by email and live chat.

The below image provides a breakdown of how consumers prefer to make initial contact with a company's customer service team.

live chat consumer behavior: live chat vs. other contact methodsOut of the options presented, phone, email, and live chat made the top three:

  • 57% of respondents prefer calling a company by phone.
  • 37% of respondents prefer emailing a company.
  • 26% of respondents prefer using the live chat tool on the company's website.

Call centers have long been the primary method of communication between customers and support reps. And based on this survey, that still holds true.

But in today's world, customers also want omni-channel experiences. That means consumers want access to a company's products and services on all channels and devices.

Live chat can be a great addition to any customer service strategy. Customers can typically expect to receive a quicker response from live chat than they would from picking up the phone or sending an email.

This can also help save time for your support reps who would be responding to those phone calls and emails.

But it's clear that live chat shouldn't be the only option. Based on the data, businesses should try to prioritize making these three contact options available to consumers.

2. Virtual vs. Human Responses

Consumers strongly prefer human interactions but are willing to use automated chat services.

The following image showcases consumer preferences for talking to virtual or automated customer service representatives vs. human customer service representatives.

live chat consumer behavior: virtual vs. human responsesAccording to the survey, 59% of respondents say they only want to interact with human representatives.

It's also worth noting that 30% of respondents say they prefer to talk to human representatives, but will chat with virtual or automated reps if they need to.

When it comes to live chat, the human element reigns supreme. So if you're looking into implementing virtual or automated live chat services for your business, humanize the conversation.

For starters, make sure customers feel like they're connected to a real agent on the other end. Try to make the conversation prompts and responses a little less 'robotic' and a little more relatable.

As an example, virtually greet your customers with a 'hello' and close the conversation off with a 'see you later' or 'have a nice day'.

Also, try to tailor the automated experience to your customers' needs. Are customers usually coming to your site with product questions? Or shipping and return requests?

Check with your support team to understand what types of customer requests they receive the most. Then, customize your virtual chat menu accordingly.

Another way to make things human is to literally let customers talk to a human. Give them the option to call or email an actual rep if they can't find what they need through virtual means. Look at that — the beauty of omni-channel.

3. Time Till Response

Consumers expect a live chat response in five minutes or less.

The below image outlines how fast consumers think customer service reps should reply to them on a live chat or direct messaging program.

live chat consumer behavior: time till responseThat's right — 66% of respondents are expecting a response from your customer service team within five minutes.

If I had to pick one, this was probably the least surprising of my findings. Customers want answers, fast. And this is actually an area where virtual and automated live chat services could come into play.

Many businesses use automated tools as the first line of defense for customer questions.

For quick and easy requests, customers can click a few prompts, find the answer to their question immediately, and go on their way. And if the question is more complicated, customers can opt to chat with a real representative after a little back and forth with your instant virtual assistant.

As an added bonus, this level of automation also buys your service reps some breathing room if they're experiencing a high volume of inquiries.

Either way, it's important to make sure the customer receives a timely response no matter the situation. Speed and attentiveness go a long way in preventing churn at your company.

Creating the Ideal Customer Service Live Chat Experience

When asked about the ideal customer service experience, one of the survey respondents said, "It's quick and easy, and the rep is nice and knowledgeable."

Another said, "The representative is responsive, helpful, and knows how to help me."

The bottom line is: Buyers are looking for exceptional customer service experiences regardless of the channel or platform they use. And now that you know how customers tend to behave when it comes to live chat, you can ensure your chat-based customer service strategy is aligned with consumer expectations.

Oh, and with the exception of live chat vs. other contact methods (I'm a live chat lover), I have to say the responses are pretty in line with my personal preferences. You know, just in case you were wondering.

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Topics: Chatbots

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