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What is live web chat? Your in-depth explainer

Alia Paavola
minute read
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In today's fast-paced business landscape, meeting evolving communication expectations is crucial for delivering top-notch customer experiences. Customers now demand real-time interactions from brands, making traditional phone and email support insufficient. 

Businesses are turning to live chat as a valuable addition to their customer service arsenal. But what exactly is live chat, and how can businesses make the most of it?

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<h2 id="What">What is live chat?</h2>

Live chat allows customers or website visitors to communicate with human support representatives in real-time. It enables users to reach customer service representatives by simply typing a message. 

Live chat has emerged as a viable alternative to traditional phone or email support, providing customers with immediate assistance and enhanced experiences. Businesses often integrate live chat into their website’s homepage or dedicated customer service page.

How do different businesses use live chat?

While many industries can benefit from adding live chat to their websites, let’s delve into some typical use cases.

Ecommerce. Online retailers often use live chat to answer product inquiries, provide order details, facilitate returns, and answer customer questions.

SaaS companies. Many software companies add live chat to their contact page to help address customer inquiries, offer technical troubleshooting, and handle complaints. 

Home service. Companies in the home service sector assist customers in obtaining pricing quotes and checking availability through live chat.

Financial institutions. Banking and other financial sectors employ live chat support to address account-related inquiries, transaction issues, and general assistance.

Hospitality. Live chat support assists with bookings, itinerary changes, and real-time quotes.

Car dealerships. Auto dealerships often use live chat to schedule test drives and promptly respond to customer questions.

Healthcare. Integrating live chat on healthcare websites helps address potential patients’ questions about insurance coverage, services, and appointment availability.

Live chat vs. web chat

While “live chat” and “web chat” are often used interchangeably, it's essential to understand the distinction between them.

  • Live chat: Live chat refers to real-time communication between a website visitor and a human agent. It typically involves messaging through a chat box embedded on a business’s website, ensuring a human-to-human interaction.

  • Web chat: Web chat is a broader term encompassing various types of chat-based communication on a website or internet browser. Web chats can include support given both by human agents and chatbots, making it a more versatile term.

Live chat vs. chatbot graphic

Live chat vs. chatbot

Let’s look at a few differences between live chat and chatbots. 

Live chat Chatbot
Involves conversations with human agents Uses AI technologies to simulate human conversations
Supports varying business hours Offers 24/7 support
Can handle several requests at once Can handle large volumes of requests at once
Can handle complex inquiries Can handle more basic inquiries
Best for: Solving complex problems, troubleshooting errors, and building more personal relationships Best for: Answering general questions, generating leads, and giving rapid responses

<h2 id="How">How web live chat works</h2>

Live web chats are seamlessly integrated into a company’s website, typically as a popup widget. They can be added to the website by embedding a specific code. This approach eliminates visitors needing to download a separate application to engage with your company. From the widget, users can initiate conversations with your support team by typing their queries directly into a message box.

An example of an embedded live web chat.

<h2 id="Benefits">7 benefits of live chat</h2>

There’s a reason more businesses are turning to live chat. Let’s dive into some key benefits.

  1. Improved customer satisfaction. Research suggests customers prefer live chat because they can skip the frustrating wait times associated with phone support. In fact, 92 percent of customers report high satisfaction after a live chat support session, surpassing voice support at 88 percent.
  2. Increased sales and conversions. Adding live chat to a website has been shown to boost conversion rates. On average, live chat enhances the likelihood of conversion by 8 to 20 percent. Customers value quick answers to product questions, and live chat provides a seamless solution.
  3. Improved support KPIs. Live chat assists support teams in achieving essential key performance indicators (KPIs), like reducing first response time, average reply time, and the number of resolved tickets. Live chat is quicker than phone calls, enabling support agents to handle multiple inquiries simultaneously.
  4. Cost-effective support channel. Forrester's research found that live chat is 17 to 30 percent more cost-effective than traditional phone support.

  5. Real-time problem resolution. Customers expect real-time assistance when they encounter issues. Live chat facilitates swift problem resolution by allowing support agents to respond quickly and even share helpful videos for troubleshooting.
  6. Competitive edge. Offering live chat can set your business apart from competitors. Customers often choose products from companies that provide faster responses to their questions. Furthermore, customers prefer live chat, giving your business a competitive advantage.

  7. Reduced repetition. The best live chat software retains conversation history, reducing repetition for customers and support agents. This valuable context enables support agents to efficiently resolve issues, regardless of which agent is handles the conversation.

<h2 id="Challenges">Common live chat challenges and their solutions</h2>

Every communication channel comes with its own set of challenges. Let’s explore some of the primary challenges of live chat and potential solutions. 

  • Keeping customers on the page. One major challenge with live chat is the risk of customers getting disconnected if they leave the website. For customers on the go, this can be frustrating. To overcome this, look for live chat software that seamlessly transitions to SMS if a customer gets disconnected. This ensures customers can still have their issues resolved, even if they step away from the computer.

  • Handling high chat volumes. Customers prefer reaching out via live chat, which can result in a surge of messages for your support team. One effective solution is incorporating artificial intelligence. Program your live chat software to start with frequently asked questions (FAQs) and connect the customer to a live support agent if an answer isn't available. Creating a set of canned responses can help agents respond to common questions more quickly.
  • Dealing with difficult customers. In customer service, it’s not uncommon to encounter unhappy customers. To de-escalate these situations, remaining calm and empathetic is essential while acknowledging their frustration. Taking responsibility and offering a solution is crucial in managing these challenging interactions.
  • Ensuring data security and privacy. Data security and privacy are paramount in today’s landscape, especially regarding live chat. Choose a live chat software and vendor with security verification certifications, such as GDPR, HIPAA, SOC 2, and Privacy Shield, to safeguard your customers and their data.
  • Syncing with other support channels. Synchronizing live chat support with other channels can be a challenge. Choose a platform with SMS, email, and phone integrations to provide an omnichannel experience.

<h2 id="Implementing">Implementing live chat on your website</h2>

Here are some practical steps for implementing live chat on your website. This process involves choosing the right live chat software, adding it to your site, and defining your service hours.

1. Choose live chat software

Selecting the right live chat software is the initial step in integrating live chat into your communication flow. To make an informed choice, consider these factors:

  • Features: Understand the features that best align with your business's needs. This may include canned response templates, photo-sharing capabilities, and CRM integrations.

  • User-friendliness: Ensure that the chosen software is user-friendly for both your support team and customers. The ease of use can significantly impact the adoption and effectiveness of live chat.

  • Scalability: Consider whether the software can grow with your business and accommodate increased chat volumes as your customer base expands.

2. Add it to your website

The next step is to add the live chat widget to your website. This typically involves embedding a code onto the webpage. Here are some key considerations:

  • Widget placement: Decide in advance which page or pages on your website will feature the chat widget. Common choices include the customer service page or the homepage. Make sure the widget is easily accessible and mobile-friendly.

3. Set your service hours

For live chat, sharing your support hours with your customers is crucial. This ensures they know when to expect a response from a live agent. Providing transparency about your availability sets clear expectations and helps manage customer satisfaction.

<h2 id="Best">Best practices for live chat</h2>

Remember these best practices to get the best results from live chat.

  • Train your support team. Since live chat is a human-to-human interaction, invest in training your support team to use the software effectively and handle common customer issues. The team should know how and when to transition a live chat support inquiry to phone or email for more complex situations.
  • Craft canned responses. Develop a set of canned responses to assist your support team. To create effective message templates, consider some of the top questions customers ask and how you want to respond to them.

    Pro tip:  If you commonly need to look up an order number to help customers, create a canned response that asks them to provide it.

  • Balance auto responses and human interactions. Striking the right balance between automated responses and human interactions is essential. While automation can enhance response times, maintaining a human touch in your chats is crucial for building personal relationships.
  • Keep response time low. Responding promptly is a key expectation of live chat. Use canned responses and automation to maintain quick response times, ensuring that customers don't have to wait for extended periods.

    Pro tip:  If a customer has been waiting for several minutes, have an automated chat fire off that says a representative will be with them in a few moments.

  • Personalize your messages. Customers expect personalized experiences, including on live chat. Use their first names and consider their preferences and history to create a tailored interaction.

  • Monitor and analyze performance. Choose a live chat platform that allows you to monitor team performance. Track metrics like response time and number of messages until resolution to help you set goals and improve support efforts.
  • Maintain professionalism. Whether dealing with routine inquiries or complex issues, always maintain professionalism in your live chat interactions.  Use warm greetings, avoid confusing jargon, and keep responses to the point.

<h2 id="Trends">Current and future web chat trends</h2>

The world of web chat is continually evolving. Here are some emerging trends that can shape the future of business communication:

  • AI, chatbots, and self-service options. Artificial intelligence is becoming more sophisticated, and businesses are exploring its use in customer service. Many organizations use AI web chat technology to handle routine customer inquiries and empower users to find answers independently.

  • Omnichannel communication. Customers expect consistent and accessible communication with businesses. Companies are meeting these expectations by offering customers more ways to get in touch, including social media, web, chat, SMS, email, and phone. 
  • Proactive chat functions. Predictive analytics are now triggering proactive chats, offering assistance to customers before they even initiate a chat. This can lead to more timely and helpful customer support that can help companies provide assistance at the right time.
  • Mobile-friendly chat. With the increasing use of mobile devices, businesses prioritize mobile-friendly live web chat to cater to users who browse the internet on their smartphones.

Elevate your customer experience with live chat

Integrating live web chat can elevate the customer experience, boosting conversions and satisfaction.

Exciting news: Textline will soon unveil a live web chat and SMS hybrid solution, enabling seamless transitions from website chats to SMS. 

Be among the first to access this innovative solution! Sign up to become a Textline user today and try our platform free for 14 days.

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