The Small Business Guide to Live Chat

What you need to know to start capturing leads with live chat!

Everything seems to be on-demand these days: you can binge-watch six seasons of your favorite television show in one sitting, have adorable puppies delivered to your house by a car service, and even outsource your to-do list from your mobile phone. In an age of instant access, many consumers are no longer willing to wait or go out of their way to obtain information, products, or services. As a small business owner, the thought of trying to keep up with this kind of constant demand can be incredibly daunting. But thanks to live chat software, you’ve got the tools you need to give customers what they want right at your fingertips (literally).

What is live chat?

Website Live Chat

This might appear to be an unnecessary question—after all, you’re reading this guide so you’re probably at least somewhat familiar with the idea of live chat—but let’s just make sure we’re all on the same (web)page. Live chat software is a real-time communication tool for websites that’s convenient for all parties, familiar to your customers, and, perhaps most importantly, human. No one wants to wait three days to receive a canned, impersonal email or struggle for 30 minutes to navigate an automated phone system. Live chat helps customers connect with your brand in a new—and better—way.

How can live chat software help my business?

What do your customers want? Assistance! When do they want it? Now! Ok, so maybe no one’s going to picket your business with handwritten signs and annoyingly catchy chants. But, as social media and marketing consultant Brian Honigman explains in this The Next Web (TNW) article, “If your business doesn’t put the customer in charge, then you’re not likely to succeed in the future.” It’s important to remember that when your customers are ready to buy, they are ready to buy now—not when it’s most convenient for you—and if you miss the chance to lock in their business at the right time, it may be gone forever. But offering instantaneous support to your customers is just one benefit of using live chat. Let’s take a look at several more advantages:

Improve Page Rank

Leads drive your business, but to increase your number of leads you need to drive more traffic your website traffic—and live chat can help you do that. Dwell time—the time it takes the user to return back to search results—plays a role in how search engines (like Google, Bing, and Yahoo) determine page rank. Engaging your customers via live chat can keep them on your website longer, increasing dwell time—and over time, your page rank.

Turn Leads into Customers

What do you do once you’ve got all those leads? You capture them by engaging with those visitors by using live chat software. According to a 2014 Website Magazine study, consumers who use live chat software “are more likely to buy and less likely to abandon their sessions.” Plus, live chat gives you a great opportunity to upsell customers by offering a current discount code or plugging complementary products and services. Cha-ching.

Improve Conversion Rates

Say you’re at a restaurant and have a tough time picking an entree. What do you do? If you’re like us, you ask the waiter for a recommendation. But what if you can’t physically be there for your customers? That’s where live chat comes into play. Using live chat on product or check-out pages (or any page with a high exit rate) to engage these indecisive customers works so well that, according to a survey referenced in this Conversion Scientist article, “‘Around 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a Web site can offer.’’ When your customers can’t decide between a few different products or services, live chat can help.

Increase Buyer Confidence

Direct and personal interaction via live chat tells customers that you care about them. Perhaps that’s why customers who use chat are three times more likely to buy—and buy more than they intended. Remember the TNW article from earlier? Honigman asserts that live chat “often increases the average order value of customer purchases since many of these customers are getting helpful advice and insights on what to shop for matched with their interests, as well as answers to any product questions they might have.” That means more revenue, happier customers, and fewer refunds (and negative online reviews).

Differentiate Your Business

How many other small businesses in your market use live chat? If the answer is “not many,” then live chat software could help you stand out from your competitors in a competitive market. Not only does live chat improve the customer experience for the customers who actually use the chat, but the data you gather from using chat can help you improve the customer service for all your website visitors. (Psst—this also helps with customer retention.)

Why wait? Get started with Pure Chat for free today!

What should I look for in live chat software?

Great live chat software isn’t just about helping you provide customer support; it also is about helping you better engage with current—and future—customers to improve your bottom line. Here are some key features to look for when selecting the right live chat software for your small business:

Weekly Scheduling

Like Frank Sinatra once sang, the Internet never sleeps—or maybe that was New York City. Regardless, it’s true. However, small business owners aren’t robots (or vampires), so you can’t possibly be there for you customers 24/7/365—or can you? With live chat scheduling, your customers can see when you’re available to talk. The rest of the time (or when you don’t have the time or staff size to accept every chat that comes your way), simply switch your live chat box into an automated email capture form to ensure you don’t miss out on leads.

Multi-Platform Mobile Apps

Tired of being chained to your desk to answer the phone or emails? Don’t get stuck there with live chat, either. A great live chat software is mobile-friendly, so you can you connect with customers from anywhere.

Chat Box Customization

Make sure you look for software that allows you to customize your chat box—including widget colors, animations, images, and text—to match your brand. Oh, and give your customers the ability to customize, too. Changing the font size or color may make more of a positive impact on their experience than you realize. And don’t forget to include the option for customers to request transcript copies, as well.

Team Reporting

You can’t improve your use of live chat if you can’t accurately measure how you’re currently using it, so metrics tracking and transcript recording and storage are two reporting features you won’t want to live without. Analyzing your customer interactions will help you keep tabs on each chat, track staff performance and trends, and identify what communication strategies works best for your customers.

The Right Value

Live chat is simple to use, which means you won’t waste precious time installing or learning to use it. Plus, live chat software doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg, either. While most companies offer free trials, others (cough—Pure Chat—cough) offer live chat software with a maximum number of free chats in a given time period.

Join the thousands of businesses signed on with Pure Chat.

How do I implement live chat software?

If you use live chat, it becomes part of your customer service strategy—and that means it’s crucial you get it right. While live chat offers your small business an incredible opportunity to connect with customers, implementing it poorly is a surefire way to lose that opportunity altogether. So, let’s discuss some live chat best practices:

Staff Training

This NewVoiceMedia infographic indicates that 29% of US consumers switch to a competitor because they are annoyed by a lack of staff knowledge. Don’t let that happen to you. Make sure your team understands your customers needs as well as your products or services. If you can’t fully train your whole staff, be sure only the most knowledgeable folks are allowed to chat to ensure you make a good impression. Furthermore, train your staff on how to appropriately communicate with customers via chat—but understand that not everyone is suited for chat.

Here’s an extra tip: don’t ask for your customers’ names, phone numbers, and email addresses right at the start of the conversation. Of course, you want all these details, but save your information hunting and gathering for the right moment.

Team Empowerment

Did you know that approximately 25% of consumers switch to a competitor solely for being kept on hold? While a delay in your chat response isn’t technically keeping customers “on hold,” the principle—and loss of revenue—is the same. That’s why your team should have what it needs to provide immediate customer service. Make sure everyone understands what decisions they can or can’t make, how to communicate with other departments, and what tools they have at their disposal—including live chat. A good live chat software will allow you to invite one or more staff members to a customer chat, or let your staff converse among themselves to help get the job done.

Maximize Conversations

Even if you have to option to switch your chat box to an email form, you should try to have someone from your team at the ready to chat during business hours to maximize your opportunity to chat. Depending on the size of your team (and marketing budget), you could try taking shifts, taking advantage of mobile features, or hiring dedicated live chat staff.

Limit Multitasking

One advantage of live chat is the ability for one person to connect with multiple customers at once, but don’t go overboard. Live chat should be instant—so make sure you and your employees don’t take on so many chat conversations (or too many other tasks) at one time that your responsiveness suffers. Research from NewVoiceMedia revealed that “53% [of consumers] are irritated if they don’t speak to a real person right away.” Don’t waste the goodwill you’ve garnered by offering live chat with slow response times.

Go Offline (When Necessary)

There’s a time and a place for live chat; and in most cases, it’s an excellent tool. But keep in mind that live chat—like other forms of written communication—can’t account for tone, voice, or body language. While using emoticons can help convey tone and reduce misunderstandings, if you’re still having a tough time communicating with a customer or prospect via chat, it might be time to pick up the phone.

Whether your small business gets a lot or only a little web traffic (at the moment, anyway), capturing every possible lead is mission critical, and live chat software can be the tool you need to rocket your revenue sky-high. Ready to explore more ways live chat can help your small business? Check out our other guides and our blog. Oh, and if you have questions for us, be sure to hit us up using the live chat box. (It’s kinda our thing.)

Ready to Win Customers and Influence Website Traffic?

Not ready to sign up? Have questions? Shoot us an email at