It goes without saying that today’s customer service tools are not one-size-fits-all. Different communication channels—social, phone, email, chat–offer different benefits to the company and to the customer. When it comes to offering highly personalized, on-demand customer service, live chat and the phone are the most obvious options. Both allow for a close agent-customer connection and both let customers explain a problem or ask a question and receive an immediate response. There are a few key differences between these channels, however, that can impact your team, your customers, and your business.
One notable difference between live chat vs. phone support is timing. Whereas phone support is typically reactive (a customer initiates the conversation) online chat can be deployed as a proactive support channel. As such it may be the difference between a customer browsing your site and then leaving without buying anything or finalizing a decision and checking out with a purchase. With live chat, agents can gently nudge customers toward a purchase, and/or answer a question that’s keeping them from clicking “Buy”—something agents simply can’t do over the phone.
Another key difference between live chat and phone support? Recording and reviewing customer conversations. Conversations stored by text are much easier to search and can clearly expose critical information about when customers need help and why. Live chat analytics provide insight regarding referral links (what brought them to your site) operating system and device (how customers want to reach you), active or idle status, time spent on your site, number of visits, number of chats, and location.
When agents assist repeat customers, live chat transcripts are invaluable. Instead of the customer wasting time rehashing a problem, the agent can simply look at the previous chat and pick up the conversation where it left off. Customers can also obtain a copy of a chat conversation for his or her own records, something that’s much more difficult with phone transcripts.
With an etiquette all its own, live chat offers companies and customers increased flexibility. For agents or customers who are uncomfortable in conversation due to language issues or their personality, chat exchanges flow easily. Customer service agents who are very good at solving customer problems but lack the right energy or tone for customer service phone support can excel at managing customer issues via live chat.
Finally, consider the financial impact of each platform when comparing live chat vs. phone support. Phone support hotlines cost money, especially when customers are put on hold for long periods of time. Live chat, on the other hand, is free to the customer. Given that time is money, customers also save with chat because of how quickly their questions are addressed. On the company side, chat gives a bump to the bottom line with increased ticket deflections. When conversations migrate from the call center to the chat widget, customer service teams can help many customers at a time, reducing resolution and wait times, as well as costs.