What is Live Chat? Your Complete Guide

What is Live Chat? Your Complete Guide

Live chat is a chat window where people can interact in real-time. It is a type of messaging software that lets two or more people interact by entering text.

Live Chat

Tiago Youssef

Tiago Youssef

May 16, 2022

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Live chat software is a popular way to deliver better customer service, fantastic online events and get more leads for the sales team. There are multiple live chat apps on the market and each one is suited for different needs. You’re about to learn how live chat works, the key features of live chat, and the key benefits of live chat for companies.

What Is Live Chat

How does live chat work?

In simple terms, live chat provides a chat window where people can interact in real-time. It is a type of messaging software that lets two or more people interact by entering text. For example, customers can ask questions about a product they are interested in or check on the status of their report. Live chat is particularly popular for customer support and sales teams but it can also be used to enhance online events.

The specific benefits of live chat software depend on the type of technology you use and the features you select. The best chat messaging apps are lightweight and run quickly on your website. For example, some live chat apps have chat feed management tools which come in handy when you have a chat room with many participants. Learn more about the core features of chat apps in the section below on live chat core features. 

To really understand how live chat technology works, it is helpful to understand the two main types of chat technology. One type uses automated chat agents to handle simple questions while the other is focused on building human relationships. Both types of chat apps have their role to play.

The two types of chat technology

The world of chat services can be summarized into two broad categories: automated services that use automatic responses and live chat for people. 

Also known as automated chatbots or messenger chatbots, these services are helpful in cases where there are standard questions and answers (e.g. what is the status of my order). Artificial intelligence is often able to manage these types of basic customer conversations effectively. For example, many of your customers may call to ask about store hours, the status of a shipment and other basic questions. With canned responses, it is easy to use chatbots to respond to these questions. Use these tools to deliver standardized conversations at scale with customers. While this category of chat tools is helpful, it is important to recognize its limitations. 

Automated chatbots are usually not effective at complex real-time support. In addition, the lack of a real chat operator means there is no empathy. If a customer is upset or displeased, relying on automatic responses is not enough. Your business systems need to have the flexibility to use a chat app staffed by real people.

Cloud-based live chat software like Arena takes a different approach. Instead of restricting people to interact with chat agents, the Arena chat solution is focused on bringing groups together. For example, Rogers Media uses Arena Live Chat to bring sports fans together. In addition, Arena Live Chat makes communication between individuals easier. 

The downside to live chat software that focuses on people instead of bots is the staffing effort. Take the use case of an online event where you plan to announce a new product to your audience. You may have a MC to act as the host of the event and a few influencer guests to drive excitement. In addition, you might also have a small support team to handle technical or product questions when running larger events.

While AI-powered chatbots have their value, there is another type of chat platform you need. Chat services like Arena are designed to offer an engaging experience for customers. They are designed to bring together a group of people – like sports fans supporting their favorite team in a major competition.  

The top 4 live chat benefits 

Adding live chat to your website benefits your company in four powerful ways.

1. Deliver real-time customer support

Customers hate to wait for support when they have a problem. The days of making customers way in phone queues are over. With live chat for customer support, your chat agents can quickly ask a few questions and solve the majority of customer questions. 

For even greater efficiency, some managers review live chat transcripts to find out the most common questions. Mining live chat data for insights means you can develop better answers and scripts to help your customer support staff provide even better support.

2. Increase sales and conversions

A live chat solution can boost the bottom line directly! For example, you can present a chat window to customers when they visit certain pages or take certain actions (e.g. viewing multiple product description pages). By converting more of your online visitors into leads, your sales lead will have more opportunities to spend their time with warm leads.

3. Boost customer loyalty

Delivering faster high-quality support to customers is one of the keys to unlocking higher customer lifetime value. When your customers are able to get their questions answered and problems solved, they are more likely to keep buying from your company. 

4. Increase advertising revenue

The way to raise ad revenue with live chat is simple. You need a way to convince your website visitors to stay on your website longer. Regularly offering engaging online events is a great way to keep visitors engaged for an hour or more at a time. The longer visitors stay on your website, the more ads you can display. 

As you host more online events with Arena Live Chat, you can use the customer data platform to find out which content and experiences your audience likes the most. Use these insights to create even better events in the future. 

As you implement live chat more thoroughly, there are even more benefits available. Find out more in our comprehensive guide: Top 40 Live Chat Benefits You Need to Know.

Live chat core features

Sorting through all of the chat app options on the market is tough. To save you time, here are some of the most important chat features most companies consider essential. The specific chat capabilities you need will vary depending on a few factors including your company size and whether online events are an important part of your business model. 

  • Easy To Use Chat User Interface

To maintain high customer satisfaction, the chat vendor must provide a simple and easy chat experience. At a minimum, the chat user interface should be fast and run in most web browsers. Without a fast and lightweight user interface, the real-time conversation will slow down and become less interesting. 

The best way to assess if a chat platform is easy to use is to take the platform for a spin! Click here to test Arena for free. As a starting point, you may want to hold a question and answer session with your management team and your employees. This type of chat event is a good way to take live chat for a test drive.

  • Chat Widgets

Support for chat widgets is critical! Chat widgets mean that the website can be installed on your website using a chat plugin. By making your chat accessible to all of your online visitors, it will be easier to get people using the chat app to interact with you. Chat widgets on a website are powerful because the end-user does not have to install anything – there is no app to download. 

  • Chat Analytics

When you add a chat to your business model, it should be easy to gather data. For example, you may want to measure customer satisfaction or engagement. Some chat providers like Arena also offer a customer data platform (CDP) which gives you advanced analytics capabilities.

  • Chat Feed Management

As more users join a chat window, keeping up with the chat feed gets more difficult. The best chat website software, like Arena, has features to help users navigate conversations using threads, private messages, and 1:1 messages. 

Without these chat capabilities, it may be impossible to host large online events with your chat app. The chat feed can easily become overwhelming when you have hundreds or thousands of people in the chat room. With one and one messaging and Q&A support, it is far easier to keep the session focused.

  • Chat Emojis

Emojis are a popular way to add fun and variety to chat interactions. As emojis have increased in popularity, support for emojis is an important feature in chat apps. Without this feature, your audience may become disengaged as they are used to using this feature on social media platforms. Arena Live Chat includes support for emojis so you can keep your audience fully engaged.

  • Chat Transcript Support

The ability to export a chat transcript (or conversation history) is a valuable chat option. In terms of customer experience, your customer may want the option to review details (e.g. verify a charge has been removed from their credit card) of the discussion. 

From a company standpoint, reviewing a chat transcript is a valuable training and development tool. For example, your customer service agents may struggle to answer a certain type of question like questions about out-of-stock products or customization requests. Regularly reviewing the top questions in chat sessions means you can keep your finger on the pulse of your customers. Reviewing chat in combination with call recordings is a powerful way to empower managers to deliver better coaching to their employees.
 

  • Moderation Features

What happens when you have a large number of people in your chat channel? If the chat channel is open to the public, you may face struggles with profanity and other unacceptable comments. To solve this problem, Arena Chat functionality includes a profanity feature and the ability to quietly remove disruptive users. 

  • Integration With Existing Business Systems

Adding chat conversations to your business should be easy. You can add Arena chat software to your website in less than 10 minutes. Also, Arena is built to integrate with popular platforms like WordPress. That means you can set up fast and start your first online chat easily. 

  • Flexible Plans For Chat Pricing

Flexible plans are the final important feature to consider in a chat vendor. Many chat vendors offer standardized plans like a business plan or enterprise plan. Also, you can sometimes find a free limited plan like Arena. Finally, check to see if the chat service offers custom plans which are helpful if you have a large volume of chat users and need advanced features.

The top live chat use cases

Knowing the most popular chat software trends and use cases gives you a starting point to develop your chat team and chat strategy. 

Live Chat For Customer Support

Thousands of companies are using live chat for support instead of customer service email. In this use case, customers ask their questions directly to a chat operator. As a communication channel, live chat for support is great because you don’t have to worry about critical information (e.g. order number, account number, address, etc) being misunderstood. By reducing the potential for confusion, your chat support agents will have more capacity to focus on solving the customer’s main problem.

Chat staffing can become a challenge in some cases. For example, some retailers face a large number of chat requests during the holiday season. This challenge can be mitigated by developing scripts with canned responses to the most common questions. Of course, canned responses are just one part of delivering great customer service. You may also want to consider scheduling regular lunch & learn sessions to share best practices internally in chat support.

Fundamentally, modern customer service needs to offer multiple digital channels. Equipping customer service teams with live chat, an email address, and a phone number has become table stakes for many companies. 

While chat customer service is a well-known way to use live chat, it is just one of the use cases that companies are leveraging today. 

Live Chat For Sales and Marketing

Don’t forget about your sales team! With the right technology and design, a sales chat window can fill the sales funnel. For example, you might set up your website to display a chat box when a customer visits certain pages like a checkout page. To provide the best response time, many companies use pre-chat forms to gather basic information like name, contact information, and an overview of the problem. 

For sales reps, capturing leads through live chat is an effective way to grow leads. Incoming chats are usually a good sign that the person is very interested in learning more. If the chat volume becomes too high, you may need to divert some chat app users to other channels like calling your sales team instead.

Live Chat For Events

To gain a competitive edge, you need to give your prospects and online visitors a reason to keep coming back to your website. That’s where organizing virtual events with live gives you an edge to stand out. In virtual events and hybrid events, a chat window gives your audience the chance to have a real-time conversation without disrupting the flow of the event. 

Adding a live chat app to your events is a smart way to deepen your engagement. For example, colleges and universities like Coventry University in the UK and California State University, Northridge have used live chat to engage new students, deepen relationships and grow admissions. Live chat is a key part of offering personalized services to students in higher education.

It’s not just colleges and universities that are turning to online events either. Companies are turning to online events like online events for internal meetings to lift employee engagement and online events for hiring to attract talent.

Live Chat Is Your Path To More Engaged Customers 

Adding live chat to your company’s website used to be solely as a strategy to improve customer service. Today’s live chat solutions are much more powerful. You can use Arena Live Chat to power online events which means more opportunities for conversions. For publishers focused on advertising, live chat is powerful because keeping your audience on your website longer.

To see for yourself how Live Chat works, take Arena for a test drive. You can test Arena for free for two weeks to see if it helps you get more customers. Installing Arena Live Chat usually takes less than thirty minutes – often less time than that – so you can easily get the app installed and deepen engagement with your customers.

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