Live chat: the good and the bad.

Outstanding customer service shines through the details. The chime when a visitor opens the front door, the number of rings before the phone gets answered, the words an agent uses to greet someone, the penmanship of a handwritten thank-you note—these are the kinds of small touches customer-centric companies obsess over. (How do I know? Because we’ve had long conversations about all of the above here at Ruby.)

As customer service moves further into online channels, the details matter more than ever. A funny tweet, a thoughtful response to a Yelp review, or a half-second shaved off your website’s loading time can boost your business significantly. Every element of your online presence makes a difference.

Especially chat. 

Does your website offer live chat? If not, you’re missing out on valuable opportunities to convert prospects into customers and reach existing customers. 

Not having a live chat function on your website is like not having a front desk in your physical office space. 

That’s a pretty big detail to overlook, if you ask me.

But as with a front desk, it’s not enough to merely have a chat window on your site. There needs to be a friendly, responsive representative at that desk or on the other side of the chat exchange to capably welcome visitors, answer questions, and provide a great experience. Here again, the details matter. The chat operator who responds, how quickly they respond, the kind of assistance they offer, and the words they use (and don’t use) all impact customer service success.

What this means is that there’s a right way and a wrong way to do live chat. Do it right and you’ll delight visitors and win more business online. Do it wrong and you could frustrate and alienate the people you’re hoping to serve. 

What does effective live chat look like? Let’s dig into some positive examples and a few less-positive ones.

The good: when chat makes life easier for customers.

Did you know that chat is many people’s preferred communication channel? 

According to one survey, which assessed thousands of customer service interactions, 73% of consumers were satisfied with their experiences on live chat—the highest level of any channel in the study. For contrast, 61% of the same group were satisfied with email communication and only 44% got what they wanted from phone calls. 

People in the survey rated chat highly because it helped them get their questions answered immediately, access information faster, and multitask while having a customer service conversation.

Learn more eye-opening statistics about live chat.

The bad: when chat makes life more difficult.

Unfortunately, not every live chat solution helps customers save time or get what they need easier. When improperly designed or implemented, chat can create its own problems and headaches.

Consider this example from Reddit user /u/ecpnw, who took to social media to complain about their experience trying to cancel a subscription. According to the user, the company in question allows them to “manage all aspects of my account online without assistance… except canceling my subscription.” Instead of simply clicking a button to cancel, their only option was to start a chat—and once they did, they learned that 400 people were ahead of them.

Definitely not convenient, fast, or user-friendly.

The good: when personal connections via chat increase revenue.

This one comes directly from one of our customers. Kellam Mechanical has been using Ruby’s live chat for years, and has sustained high rates of service bookings online as a result. The secret is Ruby’s ability to create personal, meaningful connections with every customer.

According to office manager and marketing director Sarah Kellam (emphasis added): “Our closing rate has been 75% higher with Ruby compared to when we were using another company that only offered a chatbot.” 

Read the full case study.

The bad: when chatbots fail.

Oh, chatbots. While automated answering can be an effective component of a chat setup (we make use of it at Ruby), it’s clear that bots aren’t ready to fully replace human agents any time soon.

The internet is full of examples of chatbot screwups—bots glitching out and repeating themselves, bots refusing to follow basic instructions, bots that aren’t built for human interaction, and so on and so on

Here’s one of my “favorite” examples, via augmented reality and virtual reality company Jasoren:

That’s right—this chatbot doesn’t understand the word “do.” It does not.

The good: when chat helps businesses make better decisions.

Here’s another example from a Ruby customer. Prero Orthodontics has leveraged our live chat services to not just boost business but also better understand their customers—allowing the company to make smarter, data-driven decisions.

“As soon as we started using [Ruby’s live chat], we started getting referrals,” said Dr. Dovi Prero. “We got the actual transcript of every chat, showing us exactly what people were concerned about or what their questions were. The transcript would also give us a visitor’s IP address and the link they clicked on to find our website. We could see if they were coming from Instagram, Google, Yelp, and so on. That has been very helpful in honing in on where our marketing resources go.”

Download the case study.

The bad: when chat specialists don’t do their job.

Business Insider has the story of a customer who used a major retail company’s chat function hoping he could talk through a possible case of identity theft. Rather than helping him, however, the chat specialist only exacerbated the customer’s frustration:

Williams told Hacker News he spent nearly an hour with “Farah,” trying to explain the problem. At no point did “Farah” show any understanding of what Williams wanted: She variously suggested deleting his own email account, resetting his password, and offering to delete his account for him. At one point “Farah” began addressing Williams as “maam,” even though he is a man.”

Here’s an excerpt from the conversation:

You can read the full story here.

The huh?!

One more example from Reddit, just because it made me laugh. This one isn’t good, but I’m not sure it falls into the “bad” category either:

Must be a busy minute.

The good: live chat with Ruby.

Convert your website visitors into customers with the leading live chat service on the market. Businesses love Ruby’s chat services because we embed value, personality, and humanity in every last detail. 

We act as an extension of your team, building connections and ensuring your customers receive the service they deserve—while saving you time and providing you with the information you need to make better decisions about your online presence.


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*Ruby is delighted to offer a money-back guarantee to first time users of both our virtual receptionist service and our chat service. To cancel your service and obtain a full refund for the canceled service (less any multi-service discount), please notify us of the service you wish to cancel either within 21 days of your purchase of that service or before your usage exceeds 500 receptionist minutes/50 billable chats, as applicable, whichever occurs sooner. Some restrictions may apply.