Research has repeatedly shown that selling to existing customers is significantly cheaper and more likely than selling to new ones. For this reason, maximising customer retention is vital, which is why businesses invest so heavily in customer service training and aim to provide the sort of positive customer experiences that generate loyalty.

From a customer perspective, convenience is paramount and today’s consumers expect to be able to contact reps almost instantly, no matter where they are. The rise of portable technology like laptops, tablets and smartphones has helped to fundamentally transform customer service, and live chat is at the very heart of that transformation.

Demand For Live Chat Support

The importance of meeting customer demands was highlighted in an Accenture survey, which found that 66 percent of customers have switched brands due to poor customer service. Increasingly, these demands include rapid responses through digital platforms like social media and live chat; especially when dealing with retail companies.

In fact, Forrester Research found that 63 percent of customers are more likely to return to a website that offers live chat than a website that does not. This can perhaps be explained by the fact that 83 percent of customers regularly need some form of support when making purchases online, according to LivePerson.

Such high demand for live chat also reflects a general sense of frustration at telephone-based customer service. A Harris Interactive survey found that 75 percent of people believe it takes too long to talk to a live agent, while phrases like “Your call is important to us, please hold” regularly rank near the top of customer pet peeves.

A New Generation of Customers

Studies show that millennials are significantly more likely to turn to live chat compared to baby boomers and generation X, suggesting demand will continue to increase in the coming years. One survey, carried out by Kelton Global, found that 35 percent of millennials immediately look for a live chat function if they need technical support.

Today’s generation of younger customers tend to view telephone conversations with strangers as a last resort – which represents a significant change in expectations – and catering to these demands requires different customer service skills than those that were needed in the past. Polite telephone manners and the ability to stay calm have been replaced by a need for in-depth product knowledge and good written communication skills.

Although there is a clear generational divide, it is worth noting that the use of live chat features is also on the rise among older people. In fact, Kelton Global’s survey found that a staggering 80 percent of all consumers between the ages of 18 and 65 now see calling traditional customer service telephone lines as an inconvenience.

Customer Service Transformation

Modern living and new technology have led to increased frustration among customers using traditional customer service channels, because they view them as needlessly time-consuming. However, while customers may now be more demanding, businesses must respond to the changing world of customer service, or risk being left behind.

Concepts like live chat actually offer a great opportunity to businesses. After all, Forrester found that 45 percent of shoppers who need help will abandon a purchase if they do not receive a swift response. Having a fully functional live chat service in place can guarantee fast responses, turning these lost sales into completed transactions.

The primary challenge for businesses is keeping their finger on the pulse. Already, we have seen live chat evolve beyond simple text-based communications, with companies like Amazon providing live video chat services. It is, therefore, important that companies invest in up-to-date customer service training programmes that will add value to their proposition. Not all new digital customer service solutions will fit with your business but; if the adoption of one format has the potential to generate more sales, leads or repeat purchases; it is key to plan testing and implementation as part of the wider customer service strategy.

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