This is Chapter 5 of the Definitive Guide to Live Chat – you can start at the beginning of the guide here.

Now that we’ve gone over basic and advanced tactics, you can see that it’s possible to get strong results from Live Chat. But how do you define “strong” results?

In order to actually be able to determine the results, you need to know what metrics matter, measure them, and focus on keeping them strong. This section shares what we’ve learned matters based on managing 1,000’s of chats per week for a wide range of customers.

Sales vs. Customer Experience

Although the revenue that Live Chat produces directly is important and should be measured, that’s not the only factor to consider for success.

Positive visitor experiences not only produce revenue for your business, but also creates good will. That may not mean dollars in the bank today, but it is an important metric that leads to future sales, referrals, and word-of-mouth growth for your business.

It is critical to measure the sale as well as the customer experiences generated by Live Chat and focus on improving both areas.

Measuring and Improving Customer Experience

If a visitor has a negative experience when chatting with your team, this not only means a lost sale today, but potential lost sales for the future. People who have negative experiences are much more likely to share those with friends and neighbors, steering them away from your company.

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[Image / date source: http://www.getspokal.com/examples-of-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-of-customer-service-on-social-media/)

Here are the main factors that influence the customer’s experience, and what you can do to improve them.

First Response Time

A few seconds can make a lot of difference. This is truly one of the most important metrics that impacts the experience a visitor will have on your site. It sets the tone for the rest of the experience.

The first response time is the number of seconds a visitor waits before receiving a response to their first chat message in the chat box.

  • When a visitor clicks the chat box and types in a question, your next reply is the “first response”.
  • When a visitor responds to a Live Chat invitation based on their website activity and they ask a question, your reply to their message is the “first response”.

Possibly the worst outcome you can have in Live Chat is for your system to invite a visitor to chat, they reply, and then the chat agent takes too long to respond- or doesn’t respond at all. If your automatic chat invitations are worded well, your visitor will not realize they are automated. This makes it even more frustrating when “you” started the conversation and now you aren’t there to help! That’s not only rude, but it’s a terrible business practice.

You should have a first response time of 5-10 seconds. The absolute maximum should be 20 seconds.

  • Twenty seconds may not seem like a long time, but try this experiment. Stop reading this article, and look at your computer screen while counting out loud to 20 seconds.
  • 20 seconds is not a lifetime, but it’s an awkwardly long time to sit and stare the screen waiting what comes next.
  • If you take more than 20 seconds to respond to a new Live Chat message, your visitor is going to sit there feeling awkward wondering if you’re going to respond – and they’ll eventually leave frustrated.

Chat templates are an effective way to quickly reply to a visitor’s first message before moving on to answer their question.

  • For example: “Thanks! Let me take a look and get you an answer….” or a similar templated comment allows the visitor to see that you’ve received their question and you’re working on it.
  • Create 2 or 3 first response Live Chat templates that you can use, depending on the way their first message is worded. This way your message seems customized and appropriate. For example, if a visitor writes, “What city are you in?” and you use the above reply, “Thanks! Let me take a look and get you an answer….”, it may seem a bit odd. Imagine the scenarios of questions and then base your templates on those.

Overall Helpfulness

A crucial aspect of an online customer experience is that the visitor must feel like they are being well taken care of. They need to know that they are getting the support that they need in order to consider the chat experience helpful.

Of course, in the best-case scenario, the visitor will get complete answers to their questions immediately on Live Chat. However, some questions do require additional research and follow up. In such cases, the visitor should still leave the chat feeling that it was a helpful tool in moving towards a resolution to their question.

Measuring the helpfulness of a chat session can be done two ways, directly and indirectly:

Measuring Helpfulness Directly: Ask visitors to give their experience a score after the chat ends. This can be configured to happen for all chats, or for a random sampling of chats.

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Measuring Helpfulness Indirectly: Conduct manual reviews of chat transcripts after the fact. Observe whether visitors expressed any frustration or difficulty, or if they expressed sincere gratitude (something beyond a cursory “thanks”). You can then assign a score to the chat based on this manual review, similar to the outcome of asking visitors to score chats directly.

You can improve the helpfulness of a chat in a few ways:

  • If you are not able to provide an immediate answer to a complicated question, explain why. For example, maybe you do not have access to in-depth product specifications, but you know who does. Explain to the visitor that you need to contact a specific person to get the answer.
  • Show your commitment by telling them a specific time frame in which they receive the answer. Even if you can’t give them an answer right away, most visitors will appreciate knowing that you are committed to a certain deadline. This makes them feel confident, assuming of course you following through with that committment.
  • Provide answers to questions that you can, right away. Even if you can’t answer in-depth product specification or compatibility questions immediately, be sure to address other general questions that you can, such as shipping time, shipping, cost, etc. This will build trust and confidence with the customer, which gives you some flexibility and time to get answers to their more complex questions.

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