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Live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73%, compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone. 

I can see why as live chat combines the best of phone and email, and avoids the pain of hanging on the line listening to muzak. 

The stats come from eDigital's Customer Service Benchmark which surveyed 2,000 consumers on their experiences of various customer service channels. 

Here, I've taken a closer look at the stats, and the value of providing live chat for customers...

The stats in brief

Live chat currently has the highest satisfaction levels. There are only a smaller number of customers using this method (just 24% said they have used live chat in the past year), 73% of those that have are pretty happy with their experience. 

Phone and SMS are currently the lowest rated customer service touch points, with 44% and 41% respectively. Premium rate numbers, automated answering systems and long waiting times are the main sources of frustration for phone users.

Unsurprisingly, email and phone are the most frequent ways to make contact.

Customers also choose channels based on the nature of the query. The phone is the preferred channel for general queries, though less popular for bookings and feedback. 

The benefits of live chat

There are plenty of other stats which echo the findings of this report. For example, BoldChat found that 31% of online shoppers from both the US and UK saying they would be more likely to purchase after a live chat.

People appreciate live chat for a number of reasons, and time is a key factor. Of those who prefer live chat, 79% said they did so because they get their questions answered quickly and 46% agreed it was the most efficient communication method.

Why live chat is preferred

It works too, and can be offered pro-actively while customers are browsing, or used tactically at various key points of the purchase journey, during checkout being the obvious example. 

Schuh offers live chat proactively if you linger on the page, though it's easy enough to close down if you aren't ready to chat. 

I thought I'd try it out, though I was surprised that it wanted access to my webcam and microphone, as I was expecting the normal text chat.

That said, I can see that some people would prefer the face to face experience, and I'd be interested to know how it compares to the more common text-only chat. 

Not wanting to disturb Mark too much, I refused the webcam access and chose text instead. I asked him about the last delivery dates before Christmas and received a prompt and accurate respsonse. 

Unlike some call centres, the response was almost instant, and the nature of the medium means responses are nice and clear. 

The eDigital survey found that customers appreciated the speed of response, though many said that they expect a response within a minute, so best practice may be to only show the option if staff are available, as O2 does. 

Given that customers appreciate it, and it has shown to be helpful as a sales driver, I can see the use of live chat becoming more popular. I'd certainly prefer it to call queues, while email customer service is hampered by the slow responses that are typical. 

You can register to receive eDigital's Customer Service Benchmark here (good report, annoying download form). 

Graham Charlton

Published 25 November, 2013 by Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton is the former Editor-in-Chief at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter or connect via Linkedin or Google+

2565 more posts from this author

Comments (20)

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Stuart McMillan

Stuart McMillan, Deputy Head of Ecommerce at Schuh

Hi Graham, thanks for trying schuh live-help!

To answer your question, interactions like you had where the operative is on the webcam and the customer is typing is the most common, and is a really productive conversion assist. If you compare the video chat with the text chat, the video drives higher conversion rates.

It's also worth pointing out that pretty much all the video chats are about pre-sales enquiries, they aren't post-sale. This is unlike other customer service contact methods.

We have cases where the CS operatives run off to the warehouse to grab a pair of shoes to show the customer on the camera.

Customers also seem to love it, here's a couple of comments:
"I love shopping at schuh! The live help is extremely useful and staff are always friendly. They have always dealt with any queries I had quickly and efficiently. Delivery is also done in super time even when it is standard delivery. Returns are also easy and the 365 day return is awesome! Thank you Schuh! =) "

"Website is easy and fast to use, especially with the live help option as I wasn't 100% sure whether or not I could order my shoes on a Thursday and collect them the Saturday. "

You can read more at:
http://www.schuh.co.uk/help/customer-testimonial.aspx

over 2 years ago

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Philip Thorman

Thanks Graham for this - a helpful synopsis from a very good report.

I couldn't get your download link to work - it states "Sorry, this survey is not currently available."

However I found this link on their website that works:

https://ecustomeropinions.com/survey/survey.php?sid=686673539

It took about 5 min's for the email to arrive, but as is my previous experience with eDigital Research, it's of a high quality and visually very well presented.

over 2 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

Thanks Philip, I've amended the link.

over 2 years ago

Martin White

Martin White, Senior User Experience Manager at Sainsbury's

Graham, do you have any insight about how the popularity of method of communication varies depending on the device the customer is using? For example, is chat still popular on a phone?

over 2 years ago

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Louis Rix

Hi Graham,

We've been toying with he idea of implementing live chat on our finance based website for some time now.

This article has certainly provided the fuel for me to get this done before the year is out. I'll be sharing this with the team now.

Thanks for the insight and stats.

I'd be interested to hear from other clients reading this what their experience with live chat has been and whether it does improve on-site conversions.

over 2 years ago

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Axel

Hi,

We've been recently trying web chat as an additional contact method in our omni-channel world.

How have you guys approached the measurement of incrementality i.e what financial value web chat delviers?

Thanks

A

over 2 years ago

Graham Charlton

Graham Charlton, Editor in Chief at ClickZ Global

@Martin - that's an interesting point. I suspect live chat, at least as done by Schuh, to be tricky on a phone.

I'll see what we have on this.

over 2 years ago

John Waghorn

John Waghorn, Content Marketer at Koozai Ltd

I’d have to agree with the majority here – live chat allows you to sort out any issues straight away instead of waiting for someone to respond to an email or be held up on the phone waiting patiently.

It’s still one of those formats that not everyone utilises, although I’ve had a few customer service experiences in the past where live chat has worked extremely well. It’s definitely one that more companies should use to improve their service overall and it also means that businesses will be available to speak to via different formats.

over 2 years ago

Ross Furlong

Ross Furlong, CEO at BlogStar

Great article on live chat as both a customer service and sales conversion tool.

Research elsewhere corroborates the importance of speed in answering questions – 76 seconds* is the average time an online customer will wait for help before exiting and email and phone can’t usually handle that time window.

Martin’s question on mobile chat – we know at least that mobile conversion rates are rising** and mobile chat is available, usually in the form of superimposing a transparent chat screen over the top of a mobile website so when the customer asks for help via their phone it operates like a familiar text window. This must be important in the future as increasing numbers shop on mobile.

On the financials (Axel and Louis) I’ve seen case studies where order values have increased by 30% using live engagement. I can try and get some to you if you're interested.

*http://www.liveperson.com/connected-customer/posts/How-to-Lose-a-Customer-in-76-Seconds-or-Less

**http://www.chatonomics.co.uk/retail-conversion-rates-on-mobile-rise-says-uk-survey/#more-3412

over 2 years ago

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Simon Poyser

Very useful article. After considering the pros and cons, we are implementing live chat on a number of client sites, as a means to improve support and increase sales conversions. The article and the report contain some useful pointer for our clients and us.

over 2 years ago

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Axel

@ Ross.

Thanks I see you've attached a few URLs if you have any further information that will be greatly appreciated.
Thanks

A

over 2 years ago

Ross Furlong

Ross Furlong, CEO at BlogStar

@ Alex

I have 4 case studies I can send you, if you email me via my profile I'll send by return.

There's also some useful video info here:

http://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFA154C31635EE0F3

over 2 years ago

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Adam methew

Customer services support really good for your website. When somebody visit website live chat support team answer all client questions.

over 2 years ago

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Zoey Richardson, Information Technologist at Private

Great article! Talking about live chat, I accidentally came across inside, and after looking through their site http://www.inside.tm/, it morphs a business website into a virtual storefront so business personnel can see and help their site visitors in real-time using chat.

about 2 years ago

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zain ali, Marketing Executive at LiveAdmins JLT

Actually live chat is a source of direct communication that`s why consumer prefers it for customer services. By the approach of latest software, you can easily judge your customer`s satisfaction level and monitor him that helps you in providing the accurate services to your customer. The information provided by you is really useful and nice.

about 2 years ago

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kevin davies, Developer at Software

Live chat is not just help to provide online customer support but also save the time of both user and customer. I am using eAssistance Pro live chat software on out real estate website and that help me a lot to save money and time.

over 1 year ago

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Daniel Jones, Digital Marketing consultant at Online/Digital Marketing

Surely, live chat on website now has become a mandate if paramount customer support and ever increasing online sales is what drives your online business. One such live chat solution is live2support.com which has been serving websites since 2003. WIth its easy to use interfaces, availability of native applications for smartphones and several other value added features it surely is your goto solution if you are in immediate need of enhancing your website performance by extracting more number of sales/sales leads through it along with serving all your online customers with optimum support.

12 months ago

Steve Pannett

Steve Pannett, Senior Designer at three sixty

What does the paper form icon mean in the four charts showing communication channel in relation to the type of query being made? The other three I can guess (phone, face-to-face and email) but can't figure that one (pinkish background) out.

11 months ago

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jordan hazel, Business Improvement manager at barclays bank

Abandonment levels
I'm keen to understand what is deemed as effective in terms of the % of chats which are abandoned by a customer
My operation is currently at 14%; it would be interesting to get a comparison or understand if there is an industry/channel standard!?

11 months ago

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Rick Symonds, Consultant at Ardoria Ltd

We're in the process of migrating our Chat Solution at the moment, although within the Telco sector. Our PCA% tends to run in the high 90's though it is always a trade-off between Button Availablity/Invite Rate and abandonment in queue.

10 months ago

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