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Choosing a live chat tool

Once you’ve determined your live chat goals and considered staffing, it’s time to find the right tool for the job. First, make a list of the features you’d like — we’ll share some ideas in the next section — and write down a general idea of how you imagine it working.

Choosing a live chat tool

Then, as you take a look at the options, consider the following questions to help narrow them down to the one that fits your needs best:

  • Does it have features you need? If a few are missing, are they essential? Try not to compromise so much here that you’ll be disappointed and looking for a new tool a few months down the road.
  • Will the chat tool integrate with your existing tools? For example, if you use Slack, is there a way to receive chat notifications there? Try to avoid a tool requiring a frustrating workaround and look for one that does what you need with little effort.
  • How easy will it be for your team to start using the tool? Are there workshops they can attend or documentation they can read to get started? How much effort will it take for everyone to understand how it works and be comfortable chatting?
  • Is the price right? Can you afford the tool even if your team grows, requiring a higher plan level or more purchased seats?

What features to look for?

As you look for the right chat tool for your team, consider the following features and whether or not you need them:

  • Customer Account Information. Does the dashboard include detailed customer information that would be useful for your agents? Knowing the important data about a customer will make any conversation go more smoothly for both the agent and the user.
  • Set Operating Hours. Can you set open and close hours ? Is this easy to change as needed?
  • Ability to Customize Chat by Page. Is it possible to change how and when live chat appears depending on which page a customer is on? Can the greeting be changed based on if the chat originates from a sales page or a support area?
  • Stored Canned Responses. Ability to store canned responses. As discussed earlier, these can be a huge help in assisting agents in getting through more chats in less time and are a great resource for crafting consistent replies.
  • Ability to Add Internal Notes. Can agents add internal notes for each other about a customer or particular chat session? This helps to provide context if a customer needs to be transferred, or comes back for more help another day.
  • Customer Satisfaction Ratings. A way to measure customer satisfaction of the agent and the support received. This is useful for assessing how things are going and making adjustments as needed. Plus, management can follow up on chats that receive a negative rating.
  • Ticket Creation for Offline Messages. Ticket creation for offline messages. What happens when a customer tries to start a chat while you’re away? Can their message be sent to your inbox so you can email a reply once you’re back? Or does your tool allow you to reply to offline messages from the same dashboard and have that reply forwarded to the customer’s email address?
  • Queue Capabilities. What happens if all of your agents are busy while chat is open? Will customers end up in a queue or sent to the offline message?
  • Tracking of Visitors on a Webpage. Does it track visitors on a page ? How much information does it share with the chat agent?
  • Proactive Chat Option. Once you’ve spotted someone on a page, can you start a chat with them? If you plan to do sales-focused chats, this is especially important.
  • App or Mobile Option for Monitoring Live Chat Operations. Does the chat tool have an app or mobile option for monitoring chats while away from a computer? This is especially important if you’re a small team or likely to be on-the-go when chat might need you to jump in.
  • Ability to Block or Ban Abusive Users. Ability to block or ban an abusive user. This is hopefully not an issue, but it’s better to be prepared and it’s important to protect your support team.
  • Transcripts of Chats. Email transcripts of chats. These are especially useful for reviewing the work of your agents, plus a great reference for customers to review directions they received in chat.
  • Method for Organizing Chats. Ability to sort chats or organize them using tags or keywords to help identify common questions and issues. This data can be used by your product team for future updates and also help your support team determine when to add an article to your knowledgebase.
  • Ability to Transfer Chats Between Agents. Is there a way to transfer chats between agents ? Whether a transfer is needed because an agent is signing off or the customer needs to talk to someone else, make sure you’re prepared to handle it.
  • Option to Insert Links, Images, or Emoji in a Chat. Ability to include links, images, or emoji in a chat. Think about what your team needs and make sure the tool can handle it. Emoji can be great for adding friendly flair.
  • Multilingual Support. Do you offer support in more than one language? Some chat tools have built-in customizations to make it easier.
  • Integrations. Does the chat tool integrate with the software you require? It’s important to make sure the tools you use will work well together.
  • Customization Options. Can you customize the greeting text or look of the chat tool? Is it possible to change the greeting or details shared by page, or is it all the same across your whole website?

To chat bot or not to chat bot?

By now you’re clear on what live chat is and when to use it, but what about chatbots? A chatbot is an automated communication with users within your live chat tool. So, should you use one? Let’s consider the pros and cons.

The pros:

  • Bots never need a break. Unlike live chat which requires an agent to be present and chatting, a bot can reply anytime you’ve got it turned on, whether a human is there or not.
  • They’re fast and accurate. You customize them to do what you want and contain the correct information, so they’ll perform as expected and do it right away.
  • They can collect user information. Do your agents need the same basic information at the start of every chat? A bot can do the legwork to collect it and pass the chat off to an agent once the customer is moving into the stage where a human is needed.

The cons:

  • Limited in function. Chatbots have come a long way and are always improving, but they definitely can’t replace the need for humans in live chat yet if you want anything beyond the basics.
  • Customers might get frustrated. When a customer doesn’t realize they’re chatting with a bot, they can become frustrated quickly thinking it’s a human who’s so limited in how they help or providing information that something isn’t quite right.
  • Not for every business. If your product or service is robust or expensive, a bot might not be a good fit. When people are spending a lot of money or trying to configure a highly technical tool, human power is best.

The best approach to using a chatbot is to use it alongside live chat powered by people. Use Chatra’s bot to welcome visitors and collect their contact details. Once a customer sends their first message, the bot will greet them and ask for the information you’ve set it up to request, before passing the chat off to an agent.