Every time a user initiates a live chat on your website, an alarm should go off in your office. The website and/or your product just failed.*
Please remember this — Live chat equals failure.
But also remember that failure is okay. It’s part of the game.
- Inaction following failure stagnates and kills.
- Change following failure breeds growth and increases the probability of success.
How to Use Live Chat Effectively
Remember that the reason your website visitors turned to live chat is because your website and/or product failed them. They came to your site to learn or do something specific. Live chat was appealing because the user hoped that it would provide a better pathway. Marketers use funnel visualizations and similar tools to determine when overwhelming friction is causing users to abandon ship before accomplishing their original goal (e.g., completing their checkout, signing up for a webinar, etc.). Many times, engaging with chat should be viewed similarly; an abandonment on you website funnel in the face of friction.
It also may be that a user is so conditioned by their previous experiences with terrible websites that they feel that live chat is the most expeditious way to accomplish what they’ve set out to do. That’s not as bad, but still not great.
Live Chat is A Gold Mine
Because of this, live chat is a gold mine. Possibly one of the most valuable tools in your website optimization toolbox.
Every question or issue raised in a chat session should be logged and thought of from that “website breakdown” perspective. As your list of, “Things Our Website Failed to Do”, grows you should simultaneously begin working to resolve those issues one by one. Prioritize based on the recurrence of similar questions.
Chat is Not a Website Feature
It feels like everyone wants to jump on the live chat bandwagon these days. Live chat may fall by the wayside to be overtaken by “smart” chat bots that pose as AI, but the lesson remains. Chat is a fallback at best.
Adding a chat plugin to your website does not increase its value; it provides insurance for when things fall apart in a user’s journey. Don’t let chat become the crutch that allows you to limp along with an ineffective website for much too long.
Chat Doesn’t Scale, But Optimization Does
Note that unless you’re going the full-on “smart”, pseudo-AI route maintaining chat as your business grows is not going to be scalable. If you have a choice between pulling in more human operators to manage your live chat or actually taking the time to optimize your website, do the latter.
Just say no to live chat. It’s a last resort. Don’t pretend it’s a feature.
Counter-arguments? Sound off in the comments.
* Note: This post does not apply to a service or product where digital interactions with another human is the offering.