Live Chat – the new distribution channel for services?

Simon Leutogi & Elizabeth Norton

In today’s world, with the advent of the digital age we have a consumer society with access to an abundance of information at the end of their fingertips. Online services such as crowd sourcing, legal services and financial services are packing up their offices and choosing to move to the online realm in search of better profits and lower overheads. What this means from a distribution perspective, is that even though in the past we have relied on traditional methods such as pull/push strategies and intensive, selective and exclusive distribution to convey our services to consumers, this no longer is enough. What it means from a customer’s perspective is, “Am I going to get the same financial service online as I was getting face to face?” As marketers we are always expected to think outside the box to satisfy the insatiable needs of the new age savvy consumers. Now…….it’s all about the customer experience and not just a means of product/service distribution and satisfaction.

Ok, so we have an amazing service in where customers walk into a shop and are greeted by the retail assistant, the channel representative of a bricks and mortar store. You view, evaluate, speak with an assistant if necessary and then engage the service.  This is conducted face to face. However, the online marketplace is an entirely different ballgame. Consumers don’t have the ability to walk into a shop front as a means of assessment and we generally rely on “peer reviews” to form an opinion. As far as distribution channels go, online/digital channels are relatively new. Social media, online advertising, SEO & SEM, email marketing etc are identified as common forms of online distribution, but what about customer service? We harp on about the ever changing face of consumerism and the “overall experience” being more important than ever, so why isn’t customer service spoken in the same breath when identifying online distribution channels? CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos is of the same mindset, he reckons, “If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell 6 friends. If you make customers unhappy on the internet, they can each tell 6000.”

Many people believe that online services are too impersonal. That they lack the important personal interaction enabling customer’s questions to be answered effectively to fulfill their needs or solve a problem. Many also believe they will not get the level of customer service they deserve.

Live Chat for many looks to remedy that notion.

If a positive customer experience (which is the end goal for many businesses) is to be achieved, customer service is vital. So which channel representative gives the highest customer satisfaction?

According to eDigital Research it is Live Chat:

live chat satisfaction

It’s nice to have someone typing, “Hi. Can I help you?” It puts the personal touch back into online shopping. It turns website visitors into valued customers and gives customers an emotional attachment to the business. It allows the business to stand out from the competition with their excellent customer service. Live chat may be the best answer to retail assistants as representatives for the online distribution channel.

Live Chat is a relatively new concept introduced to us consumers by businesses; it’s not considered a traditional channel for distribution by any means but why the heck shouldn’t it? Considering that so called “products” in the 21st century are now defined not only by the product itself, but also the purchasing experience associated with aforementioned product. With the fast paced changes today, its what the future of services may look like.  Makes sense to us.

References:

https://econsultancy.com/blog/8001-why-is-multichannel-customer-service-important/

Iacobucci, D 2013, Marketing Management, South-Western Cengage Learning, Mason, USA.

https://www.marketingmag.com.au/news-c/web-chat-the-preferred-customer-service-channel-not-social-media-or-apps/

http://www.smartinsights.com/customer-relationship-management/customer-service-and-support/customerservicechannels/

http://www.thechatshop.com/customer-service-forgotten-marketing-channel/

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29 thoughts on “Live Chat – the new distribution channel for services?

  1. I am a user of live chat services and used it as recently as yesterday. Whilst I am discerning with organisations that I would use live chat with to obtain the service I am looking for, I am a convert particularly for businesses where over the phone service is terrible with customers waiting on the line for a significant amount of time to speak to someone. My most recent experience was with Telstra yesterday, when I used the online chat system to top up my broadband internet service. I was immediately able to get through to someone via live chat, verify my details quickly and have them deliver what I was after in less than 5 minutes. For me it is definitely a distribution channel for a service !!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I often use the live chat option and usually find it very helpful. When browsing a site, if i see there is a live chat option I am usually pleased, as i know that any questions I have during my browsing can be answered – i’m less likely to leave a site if I can ask a few questions.
    Although, I don’t like the ones that start talking to you first – that’s like when a retail assistant hovers over you and asks if you need help with anything, and you reply ‘no just browsing thanks’

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the blog. These days, people are busy here and there, so time is more valuable to them. Live chat services have some pros that the other services don’t have. For example, as CCUNNIN said, phone service might waste the customers a lot of time on waiting to speak to someone. Email serivce has the limitation of replying on time. It might take a couple of days to get the feedback. On the other hand, live chat provides instant reply, and no need to waste any time.

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  4. I definitely use live chat as an option for services. I find that the service can be quite prompt and you can have a solution to any issues in a much shorter time-frame than waiting on the phone or visiting a store. With many services, online banking as an example, I am finding that you can have many of your issues solved without even having to speak to someone!

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  5. I’ve never used it but it sounds like an appealing option for some services. I recently had an experience with a mobile phone provider where I was on the phone for over 50min so this option would have been great. I believe there is also the potential to use Live Chat to gain consumer feedback which would be useful for businesses.

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  6. it is undoubted that live chat brings convenient to users, questions or troublesome can be solved in a short time by someone via live chat. however users who aren’t computer savvy will probably not be too fond of it. people should always offer at least email or phone support in addition to chat support. in addition, not all mobile devices are able to support live chat applications.

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  7. Great blog. I think live chat is a great option for people who are time poor, who can’t get into stores or banks etc during business hours but who have time in the evening or on weekends to get online. I personally have had some great experiences with live chat. Recently I needed to change my home loan to get a greater plan than the one I was on. I had no time to get into the bank so I jumped online started browsing their products, up pops live chat asking if they can help me. I took up the option, they answered all my queries, then had someone call me to discuss more thoroughly and get my details and my personal needs. Before I knew it I had my loan changed to a product that suited me and I didn’t need to step foot inside the bank or make a single call yet I received great customer service and was satisfied with the outcome. This really worked for me, it was excellent.

    Check out this you tube clip by Numero who show just how easy it is to get assistance and answer all your queries.

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  8. Thanks for this interesting blog. To be honest, I have known many companies provide Live Chat option for customers, but I never use it. Whenever, I see Live Chat pop up on my screen, I close it straight away. Personally, I still prefer walk into the store or call customer service. One of my friends did tell me about Live Chat of Telstra. I think I will try it next time when I need help. Because it’s so long time to wait before I could talk to someone regarding my Telstra cable problems.

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  9. I am an enormous advocate for Online Chat services as it addresses that missing component from online shopping, which is personality. Online services may not seek all areas desired, for example when seeking advice on the FairWork website in regards to an issue, some pages may be ambiguous and need clarification. An online chat would work wonders to direct you in the right area. It is one of the specifications that make Apple one of the best retailers in customer service as you don’t need to wait on the phone and you don’t have to scroll aimlessly through the website.

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  10. i usually use the live chat option, it is very useful. Sometimesm, we have no time going to real store to buy something. online marketing channel is a good way to provide customers purchasing. it is quickly and easily, and in precisely the correct format. The great thing about online marketing is it can be extremely targeted, fast and efficient, getting the right message to the right people, in a fast and effective manner.

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  11. Totally agree that the use of Live Chat is an underutilised opportunity – especially for cross-selling and up-selling, as well as developing brand preference (when people are browsing various sites during information search rather than ready to purchase then and there).

    In the examples that were given in the Bunnings v Masters post earlier, perhaps the use of Live Chat in the home improvement / hardware category could be an opportunity to build credibility and diversify the shopping experience from customers going online to repeat purchase products they are familiar with, to assisting with identifying other items / providing recommendations that might suit their needs.

    Personally, I’ve had a couple of experiences with Live Chat in which the reality was pretty underwhelming (airline booking and B2B self service). I think the issue was that when shopping / browsing online, I’m used to discovering the content on my own, so when I have a need for assistance it’s maybe a bit more involved than an online assistant can handle. I also think that the use of automated online chatbots (which then pass off to a live agent) is not a great experience (depending on where in the ‘conversation’ the auto switches over to a live person) and have found that happens a fair bit as well – especially in the travel / tourism sector.

    I have however had a couple of good experiences – but these were service contacts, not sales – where I was transferred to a live agent for a voice call and the chat history and associated information was sent through seamlessly and delivered me a consistent and smooth customer experience.

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  12. Great blog and i totally agree that live chat is a better way to get in touch with the customers.The majority of people browsing one’s web site prefer to use Live Chat and receive immediate assistance rather than waiting in telephone queues or waiting for an email response.Live chat help increases and builds customer trust and confidence in businesses products and services.Live chat help customer support will enable the company to reduce the overall cost of providing customer service via. toll free telephone support lines within your conventional help desk system.
    I personally have used the live chat option in may occasions and found it be very useful no need of waiting and immediate replies for our queries which saves a lot of time.

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  13. Live chat is a great option for businesses, not only would it be less costly to run, but everything can be saved and viewed at a later time if need be. It reduces customer wait time and response can be answer within minutes- consumers can be referred directly to appropriate sites or pages fro further viewing or browsing.

    I however have not had any experiences as of yet of up selling of products, all my experience have simple been a “help” and search method. I can definitely see the advantages of this being used for productive selling of goods to consumers.

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  14. I like the suggestion of live chat as a possible answer to improve the compatibility of products with online sales like hardware. Might have to pitch that to Masters. I am not a convert to live chat. The few experiences I have had I have found unsatisfying and ended up me resorting to the phone. Maybe I just haven’t found a good one. I work in a service organization and we use live chat to help reach those people who have difficulty accessing our office or using the phone – hearing impaired are one such group. From all accounts its well liked by the large numbers of people who use it

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  15. I’m not surprised that consumers like this option of contact. It is more instant than making contact through social media and much much quicker than making contact through email etc.
    I have used it a few times, I think it works well if you have easy access to that level of knowledge quickly for these types of products.
    The only downside is that when the site attempts to initiate chat with me [Picture of smiling lady pops up: “Hi what can I help you with”] is the same as being jumped by a commission-hungry salesperson at a store, when as yet you just want to browse.

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  16. Its a useful mechanism to the customers and I will often look for the chat option if I am confused on the product details or services. Its a time saving option for customers to know in detail of any information.

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  17. I don’t like Live Chats with stores at all! I’ve up to now have never got a person on the other end who is trained and with proper product knowledge. They end up repeating the product description on the website back to me and are not knowledgeable enough to help with purchasing decision between two items

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  18. I’ve never used live chat before ,but I think it’s handy to have when shopping online., However, I’m wondering how effective it is in answering customer queries. Do customers get standard answers like those put under frequently asked questions or are customer queries answered specifically?

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  19. I like live chat and I usually use live chat before, this is because it will bring convenient to me.

    I think the live chat is actually a very good marketing tool, it can be efficiently used for pre-sale and after-sale, so that customers can better contact the company, which can provide customers with convenience. But some people believe that the online service is too impersonal, it lacks important interaction between the company and customers. In my opinion, one of the drawbacks of this is the existence of live chat, it will reduce the customer’s satisfaction. At the same time, with the progress of the Internet age, live chat exist good prospects for development is inevitable.

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  20. Interesting post. Live chatting is a new and well-performed distrubtion channel in some cases. However, I think in order too choose a good distribution channel, focus on the needs of your end-users.
    If users need personalized service, you can utilize a local dealer network or reseller program to provide that service.
    If your users prefer to buy online, you can create an e-commerce website and fulfillment system and sell direct; you can also sell to another online retailer or distributor that can offer your product on their own sites.
    You can build your own specialized sales team to prospect and close deals directly with customers.

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  21. I guess I am pretty old school when it comes to stuff like this but I think it takes the fun out of shopping by doing it online. I do shop online but only for products which don’t need to tried before they are bought as I see the inconvenience of having to return the product as too high. Also by shopping in store you get to see what it ‘really’ looks like and not just an image. I significantly believe the benefits of shopping online do not outweigh the costs and I like the personal touch of talking face to face with the shop assistant, but thats just me.

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  22. This topic is closely related to our nowadays life; people can get many information from the internet. Online Services become very popular and seems like it is necessary for easier life. Some people might think that online services are lack of interaction but some of them think that is conveniences; that’s totally depends on can the customers received the satisfy level of services from it. In my opinion, I think this is a good distribution channel for providing services for customers; it is quick and useful. Of course, this is not a perfect services for all customers; they should think about how to improve their services.

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  23. With liveChatting service, it really save a lot of time calling customer service. And it also solve the lack of interaction when customer is online shopping. The goods can be sold at cheaper cost, save a lot of cost by e-retailing and the customer can buy the good anywhere and get the instant advice without leaving home which is value added to people’s life! Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  24. Online marketing has been increasing since few years which is making customers feel easy to shop. Live chatting has been a upgrade to this online marketing. It is making the customers feel happy in asking the details they require regarding the purchases they do from the place they are. It has reduced the time and cost for the customers by reducing the direct visits to the stores. The customer services provided through online are up to the standards and they provide every information what customers need. Good blog on live chatting. Thanks for the blog.

    Like

  25. Interesting topic.
    Live chat is definitely the best way to boost overall satisfaction with customer services. I think every customer has experienced a small window pops up, saying ‘Hi, you may just be browsing, but we are available to answer your questions’. For me, I enjoy consultants and staffs are being there, and are ready to help. I feel less anxious when I have an opportunity to explain my problem and get a sympathetic response.
    Compared to phone calls, email or social media channels, live chat is more direct and questions can be responded immediately, with accurate, relevant and complete answers, and I believe that in society today, people appear to like the back-and-forth style of a conversation and they don’t have time for patience. If the agent is asking me to repeat myself, or didn’t reply me for over a minute, I will just leave that web page and google the problem myself instead.
    Like enewington mentioned, if they start talking to me first, the whole concept has a different meaning, and I will probably think they are pushing a bit too much. Therefore, it is important for live chat agents to be well trained, with read access to the resources they need to address customer issues. They also have to know when a question is too complex for live chat and would be better turned into a customer service call.

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  26. I find live chat very useful as a consumer so I don’t have to sit on a phone waiting all day. I can usually do this at my desk while working. The main issue I see with this is having to have a person on the chat at all times as consumers could be accessing the system 24 hours a day and if this service isn’t available to them, you may lose a customer

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  27. I really like the idea of live chat. You don’t have to spend your time waiting for the sales representative to talk to you which can take forever. Live chat can give you better understanding of the information too, sometimes people can misspell your name or address when you explain it verbally but with written messages in live chat, it’s very unlikely to have it misspelled. The information can be a lot clearer. You can screen capture the agreement you have with them as your proof too. I really enjoyed the experience with live chat – I had good experience with Telstra and Optus’ live chat. They have a very good live chat service and I strongly recommend to go with this service. They are just very helpful and easy to use.

    There are three reasons why live chat must be considered:
    1. Live chat provides an instant response
    2. Live chat is engaging, interactive and useful
    3. Live chat offers a personalized experience
    http://blog.clientheartbeat.com/live-chat-customer-experience/

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  28. Live chat is indeed a life saver to both the marketers and consumers. Simple example would be , in the non-internet times , there have probably been zillion times when we hung up on those annoying long wait calls to the customer care to get a simple problem fixed. Or may be changed to another brand or product for simple reason being better customer service with the other one. One of the criteria during the age of e-commerce while choosing a product would be the ease with which we get the services .While live chat has pros, there’s always a downside to it , , “what you see is not what you get “, ” will the one at the other end of the live chat be able to understand our requirements correcrly or able to clarify our doubts , if any with the same precision ” , many questions definitely go unanswered.

    Comparing it with the larger benefits, like super fast assistance, quick fixes to problems which otherwise would take days by walking to the store and talking, these cons are too small to be bothered about .

    Live chat is definitely a positive welcome. People might soon start loving the whole new feel of ease !

    This is one of those real life scenarios which we face everyday. So could relate with it more ! Who would have thought , a simple live chat would have lot of it running in the background. Thank you!

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  29. Very Interesting Blog.
    The issue with web shopping is that numerous clients are disengaged from somebody who can answer their inquiries continuously with accuracy. Instead of watching potential clients click far from their e-trade destinations, numerous organizations have been including live visit support. As it just so happens, live talk can give the advantageous answers that clients need, while likewise adding noteworthy advantages to the staff and primary concern of organizations. The key is that clients have somebody who can promptly walk them through a deal on the off chance that they get to be confronted or have a question that can represent the deciding moment a deal. This helps kill ricochets far from retail sites and guarantee that full shopping baskets endure look at. There is a craftsmanship to knowing when to pose a question and when to offer arrangements or extra items.Thank you for the blog !!

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