Live chat feels out of reach for many small businesses because:
- You think it requires hiring more agents,
- It seems like a high cost, low reward endeavor, and
- Your customers aren’t explicitly asking for it.
We’ll address all these assumptions and breakdown why—with the right software—every business (yes, even yours!) can benefit from live chat support.
Five years ago, you didn’t need to offer live chat. At least, that’s what I argued to my founder at the time.
We didn’t have the manpower. Bug reports couldn’t be solved immediately anyway. We were building a self-service knowledge base in hopes of reducing support volume—live chat would surely increase it. It just didn’t make sense.
Five years, six iPhone releases, one global pandemic, and a 44% increase in online retail growth later… I’m making the opposite argument.
The entire game has changed. Live chat is no longer an optional resource. It’s a must for any emerging business.
But, the good news is, live chat software has adapted accordingly. What used to be clunky, third-party apps that required handholding by a number of agents is now seamless software that basically runs itself.
We just released the easiest live chat software ever here at Groove, if you want to check it out—start your free trial now.
This article breaks down the basics of live chat support and how to choose the best live chat software for your business.
What is live chat software?
Live chat software empowers businesses to support and engage with their customers through an online messenger in real-time. Live chat software can be either free or paid, tied to a help desk or a stand-alone app.
Customer support teams use live chat to answer FAQs, quickly solve problems, and respond faster to complex issues. Sales, customer success, or e-commerce stores can also engage with website visitors via live chat to increase conversion rates.
Types of live chat software
Branching out from the top, live chat solutions break down into two main categories: An all-in-one help desk with live chat and a stand-alone app for live chat.
In general, the less tools you need, the better. But let’s look at how these two types differ and what pros and cons each type holds for its users.
All-in-one help desk with live chat
If you’re already using a help desk for customer service, the easiest option is to start using live chat through the same platform. Up until recently, however, many help desks didn’t include live chat.
Thus, buying a stand-alone app from a different provider made sense. Hopefully your two platforms played nice together and you could integrate your live chat tool with your help desk.
Now though, most customer support platforms include live chat as a feature or additional product as part of their ticketing and shared inbox software. This makes it incredibly easy for agents to stay in one platform while providing omni-channel support.
Stand-alone live chat app
Individual messenger tools typically offer more versatility and more robust features for pure chat specifically. You can purchase a live chat tool that will work for your particular industry or use case.
Stand-alone live chat apps are more commonly used for sales and marketing. You can chat with a lead the second they land on your website. Encourage them to try your products or offer purchasing assistance.
For companies who don’t have a dedicated customer service team, these stand-alone messengers can help you engage with customers without needing to purchase a proper help desk.
Live chat features
Once you decide the type of software that’s best for you, live chat features are fairly standard across the board. Most platforms offer some version of these five features.
Chatbots rely on pre-set rules or programming to talk to customers on your behalf. Often these include greeting messages or automated responses based on certain parameters.
AI (Artificial Intelligence)
Live chat software may use AI to suggest articles based on a customer’s browsing history or line of questioning. They can automatically detect a user’s intent before they even reach out.
For example: You’re on an e-commerce website and see an item is sold out. An AI chatbot pops up letting you know when this item will be back in stock.
CRM (customer relationship management)
To really offer the best live chat experience, you’ll need to have some context before jumping into a conversation. Live chat software that includes some sort of CRM—even a simple panel with basic customer data, browsing history, or online status—helps agents resolve issues faster.
Ideally, your live chat tools connect to your larger sales funnel. You can collect emails for leads, encourage upsells, or set up demos to further move potential customers down the sales funnel.
Especially for live chat software tied to a help desk, make the most of incorporating your other customer service tools to guide customers into the appropriate support funnel. Present your knowledge base as a first stop to customers before engaging in live chat. Or offer a contact form for those who prefer email to live chat.
10 reasons to add live chat support to your website
Still not sure if your business could benefit from live chat? Adding new software to your workflow feels daunting, no matter the situation. The key is to see the sun beyond the clouds—in this case, we’re talking ROI.
These ten reasons breakdown why it’s important to add live chat to your website in 2021.
1. Increase sales with live chat
Proactively chatting with your customers leads to an estimated 40% higher conversion rate.
For e-commerce stores, this gives you the ability to present a retail associate in live chat form. Agents can recommend products, suggest solutions, or just build rapport with leads to encourage sales.
B2B and DTC companies alike can use live chat to capitalize on buyer persona and intent. Track behaviors to predict which web pages lead to the most conversions and put your sales team on the front line with a live chat tool.
2. Respond faster with instant messaging
The typical response time for live chat is a few minutes. Compared to several hours over email, this significantly reduces the wait time for customer support.
Live chat mimics text and messaging apps to interact with customers in a more conversational way. This is a plus for customers and businesses alike.
You can detect and resolve issues sooner—work with a customer in real-time to gather information about a technical glitch or bug. Or save a customer by instantly addressing a concern before they go to a competitor.
3. Provide better quality support
Every customer service representative has encountered the dreaded “I have a problem” email. That’s it. That’s the email.
No further information. No context clues. Nothing to go on. You’re forced to send a follow-up asking for more information. Hopefully they respond.
With live chat, you’ve got the customer right where you want them. Groove’s chatbots gather information before an agent even steps in—so you have their email address and reason for reaching out already on hand. Plus, our side panel displays browser information and webpage history so you can narrow in on the problem.
Best of all, the customer is right there! You’re more likely to get a response from live chat and actually solve their problem rather than losing customers in the great email void.
4. Save time with chatbots
Chatbots embody the kind of low maintenance, high reward pseudo-employee that managers dream of. Think of chatbots like personal assistants that don’t require much training or upkeep.
They do the necessary admin work—compiling information and presenting customer data in a consistent way—so your team can get down to business quicker.
At Groove, our live chat bots assist with welcome messaging, email info gathering, alerting customers of office hours, expected response times, and more.
5. Deflect common questions with knowledge base integrations
For many reasons, I highly recommend building a knowledge base before dipping into the live chat waters. One such reason is to deflect common questions so your team doesn’t end up spending time answering FAQs through live chat.
Groove’s Live Chat widget stands alongside our knowledge base widget and contact form widget. You can choose to surface all three options on the widget start screen and let your customers decide which resource to use. Or show the knowledge base first to encourage customers to find their own answers before engaging in live chat.
Even better, we make our knowledge base easily accessible from the live chat dashboard. This allows agents to reference articles while chatting or insert one directly into a chat.
6. High ROI with low cost tools
Investment in live chat tools is relatively low—both in terms of price and effort (at least, if you pick the right software). For small businesses in particular, you want a tool that’s low cost, low effort, and high return.
We focused on this while building Groove’s new live chat system. If you’ve used our shared inbox or knowledge base before, you’ll find live chat to be just as simple. Most teams are up and running within five minutes.
From the very first interaction, you’ll see the benefits. Agents move quicker. Customer satisfaction improves. And you’re able to get a real-time pulse on your customers’ needs.
7. Enrich customer conversations
Think of your typical email. It’s relatively formal. You spend a decent amount of time drafting it. Black text, white background. White noise in an already often-ignored inbox.
Now, think of a text message: Casual. Emojis. YouTube clips and Twitter shares. There’s more color. More life.
The benefits of live chat in a nutshell. The best live chat software will include many of the same elements you love to use in personal text, enabling you to enrich customer conversations and build stronger relationships.
8. Omni-channel and holistic support
Add live chat to the ever-growing list of omni-channel mediums. You’re expected to engage with customers on social media, email, phone calls, in-person, and now, live chat.
The list keeps growing, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. Growing businesses are expected to keep up and provide a throughline for every channel your customers should wish to engage.
The best live chat tools include a built-in CRM panel showing past conversations, customer data, and company information so you can provide holistic support no matter how they contact you.
Groove’s Live Chat software also takes into account seamless omni-channel transitions. If your customer goes offline and misses a message, we automatically turn that message into an email. They can continue the conversation either by replying to the email or simply re-opening the page with your chat.
9. Scale using AI (without hiring more agents)
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a funny thing in the customer service industry. At first, it scared us. Now, we love it.
For small businesses especially, AI allows you to scale without hiring more agents. People are often shocked at how few customer support team members we have at Groove, but it’s because we rely on automations to supercharge our workflow.
Live chat AI enables you to prioritize chats without lifting a finger using round robin assignments and automatic team load balancing based on availability. Set limits on the number of conversations your agents can handle at once. When they reach capacity, it’ll automatically show no agents online.
Smart automations also detect offline agents. If you (accidentally) leave a customer hanging, it’ll automatically mark the conversation “unassigned” so another team member can pick it up.
If all agents are offline, Groove’s live chat AI automatically turns off live chat and displays your standard contact form widget and/or your knowledge base widget.
10. Enhance brand personality
Live chat is the fun younger sister of email. Get creative with it and fully embrace all the branding opportunities it holds. Choose live chat software that offers plenty of customization options to keep your brand front and center.
With Groove, all colors and wording on the widget can be completely customized to match your brand and language, including adding your company logo.
Even better, you can choose which sound to play and what wording appears in the browser tab to notify your customers of a new message.
How to choose the best live chat software for your business
It all comes down to choosing the best live chat software for you. You’ll never reap the benefits of live chat if you can’t figure out your software.
When evaluating tools, consider these five questions to ensure you’re making the best decision.
What’s my industry?
Not exactly a brain teaser, but still, a crucial part of identifying your ideal software. E-commerce companies will have different needs than SaaS.
Look at the software company’s customer list or ask for a demo to make sure their live chat software is tailored to your industry’s needs.
How many customers do I talk to each day?
Start with your email or phone support volume to gauge this number. Live chat volume will vary depending on how actively you present it.
In a way, you have more control over live chat volume than email or phone. You can surface your knowledge base and encourage customers to find answers themselves before starting a chat.
In my experience, live chat volume was much lower than email. But you’ll want to go into your software search with this number in mind in case the plan starting price or type depends on it.
Why do I want live chat?
Think of your use cases for live chat. Are you planning to use it for customer support, customer success, or sales support? What’s your top priority? How can it help you solve current problems?
The answers to these questions will help determine the best software for your team. You can start a free plan or go into a demo with a particular use case in mind. Evaluate the software’s ability to enhance your current workflow, rather than disrupting it.
How many agents will use the software?
Again, this is a number you’ll want in mind for pricing or plan type. Decide if you’ll have every customer service team member on live chat or just dedicate a few. Maybe you’ll only want certain customer success or sales agents manning live chat.
It can definitely be a time-consuming job. Especially if you’re actively working on enhancing the customer experience through a live chat solution. Someone will need to spend time testing proactive measures and new tactics to improve engagement.
Think this through before purchasing software—and involve the team members who will be using the software in your decision.
Which tools do we use the most?
Consider all the tools your team uses to solve customer problems right now. This might include your help desk, an admin tool, social media integrations, an e-commerce platform, mobile app capabilities, and so on.
Live chat software should easily integrate with these tools. It’s true for all customer interactions, but with live chat in particular—every second matters. Make sure your team can quickly access the tools they need to resolve issues.
The best help desk live chat software for small businesses and startups
It’s a mouthful—but if you’re looking for a help desk with live chat tailored to growing businesses, we believe we’ve created the best option here at Groove.
We built it from the ground up to empower small growing businesses to deliver fast, high-quality support in real-time—without overwhelming your team.
Our customers already love our world-class contact widget and knowledge base widget. Using them as a foundation, we incorporated chatbots and real-time message handling into a powerful new live chat widget.
We pride ourselves on building products for lean and mighty teams. Simply add one little code snippet to your website to embed the live chat widget anywhere on your site—no technical skills required. Keep your engineers focused on your product.
Customization options abound enabling you to keep your brand front and center—a must for growing brands. Our automations take the place of at least five agents—meaning you can successfully scale customer support without needing to hire more people.
Take it for a test drive today with a free trial—no credit card required.