The Online Chat: Does Your Brand Offer This Form of Customer Engagement?

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Everyone knows what it is, but not every site offers it. I’m talking about the online chat function. You may think your site offers every conceivable form of customer engagement with email addresses and telephone numbers for every department, but the truth is, without the online chat button and accompanying pop-up screen, your brand just isn’t interactive enough to survive in today’s social era.

online chatWith staggering statistics that 70% of brands don’t respond to complaints via social media, it is critical for all brands that want to survive to add online chat functions to their websites. According to Wikipedia, “online chat may refer to any kind of communication over the Internet that offers a real-time transmission of text messages from sender to receiver.” Here’s a recent example as to why online chats are so important.

A few weeks ago, a family member was experiencing some issues with a Samsung smartphone. Since it was a weekend evening, I thought our only option was to research the Samsung website and obtain a toll-free number to call the following Monday. But to my surprise, there was an online chat button on the site. So, while my family member tried to access the help book on the actual phone, I sat at my computer, hit the “chat” button, and wondered what would happen.

Immediately, an agent appeared. She introduced herself as “Margaret” and said she was located at the Samsung Customer Center in India. She then provided a case number for our conversation and asked for the purpose of my chat. I explained that the phone was getting hot too quickly. Margaret asked several questions – I answered them – and then she provided some reasons why this might be happening. She also provided a toll-free number for my carrier as well as details about the phone’s warranty – in the case that the phone was defective.

Since this was only the second time I had ever used an online chat, I was pleasantly surprised. First, despite the day of the week (Saturday) and the time of day (8pm my time), the chat function was accessible. Second, the agent introduced herself and provided a reference number for the chat, so I could follow-up and/or reference the chat in the future. Third, the agent listened to details of my issues as well as my answers to her questions (well, listened isn’t the correct word, it should actually be read) so that she could provide value to me.

There is no doubt that I would give this agent a positive review. She was friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable. She provided answers to all of my questions. She responded in real time, quickly, and succinctly. And, above all, she was a good representative of the Samsung brand.

As you strive to add value to your brand so that you stand out from your competitors, consider the following questions. What can a brand provide with an online chat that it cannot provide with other forms of customer engagement? Does an enthusiastic brand advocate result after just one experience with live chat, or are repeated uses of the online chat function necessary? How can you improve your brand’s customer experience with online chat?

The lesson from this experience is simple: The next time you redesign your website, make sure to include an online chat option.

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Debbie Laskey
Debbie Laskey has 15 years of marketing experience and an MBA Degree. She developed her marketing expertise while working in the high-tech industry, the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France, the non-profit arena, and the insurance industry. Her expertise includes brand marketing, social media, employee engagement, leadership development, and customer experience marketing. Currently, Debbie is the Director of Marketing and Communications for the Exceptional Children's Foundation in Los Angeles. Since 2002, Debbie has served as a judge for the Web Marketing Association’s annual web award competition and has also been recognized as one of the "Top 100 Branding Experts" to follow on Twitter.
Debbie Laskey
Debbie Laskey
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  1. Well said Debbie. Any form of customer service where the brands listens or reads is right on in my book. Brands worry so much about new customers that I never understand why they don't take care of the ones they already have.

    • Thanks for chiming in, David. You always bring a well-versed "brand" voice to all conversations. Have you ever experienced amazing online chats? If yes, please share the brands and what happened with your experiences.

  2. I have experienced positive online chats on the front-end of the customer cycle. The ability to obtain answers quickly is a great tool. I can't recall a specific brand or experience that sticks out in my mind, usually it is the extreme cases (positive of negative) that are memorable.

  3. Great post. I do have a chat on my website too! It works perfectly for building client list. They can come to the site and I'm there answering all their questions. Works like a charm!

  4. Appreciate your comments, David, and also Monika, for chiming in. Sorry for not speaking Polish, so I'm not sure where the chat tool is on your website, but kudos for adding it!
    My recent post Does Your Business Have a Chief Customer Officer?

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