As a growing local business, building connections with your existing and potential customers is of the utmost importance. If you do not build these connections with the people who support you, they may feel as if they do not matter to you and may stop giving you their business. There are various ways that you can both begin and continue to build connections with your customers including phone calls, social media posts, and online chat.

While we begin to recover from the effects of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, online chat has become as important as ever. Even as businesses open for regular hours, many are still hesitant to visit them because of this huge change in our way of life. If you get the feeling that your customers are apprehensive about coming into your business, it is best to utilize an online chat service that still allows you to communicate with them.

Online chat integration

If you do not have any experience with online chat, it may seem a bit complicated at first. But, it is actually quite simple to get started. You will have to choose a chat service provider (detailed below) and integrate a chat function into your website. This will make customers want to reach out to your more often than if you simply had your phone number or a contact form.

A key to offering online chat service is having it available all the time. Customers may have questions outside of your normal business hours and they will be much happier if they can get a quick answer. They will only want to chat for a few minutes at most per session, so it is important to be ready to answer questions all the time. You can also incorporate a chatbot, which responds to a customer’s questions automatically. They can be very effective for after hours chat and frequently asked questions. Several of the options discussed below include chatbot functionality.     

Online chat options

With all the options available, it may be overwhelming to choose an online chat service. At Focused Engagement, we recommend using the chat service provided by SharpSpring. This service also comes with a complete marketing automation system as well as a built-in chatbot. Other online chat options include Drift, Capterra, Zendesk, and more. Some of these are free and some are paid, so make sure to investigate them more before deciding on one. Customers can also chat with you through your Google My Business listing, so fully optimize it.   

Benefits of online chat services

Competitive advantages

You may buy into the fact that online chat can help build better relationships with customers, but you may not be sold on its competitive advantage potential. The main competitive advantage that online chat services provide is that not a lot of companies currently utilize them.

Many industries have been slow to adapt this online chat option, so you could gain a large advantage in your industry by offering it. Customers may visit your site and chat with you much more frequently than they will give other businesses a phone call. Younger audiences especially enjoy online chat, so make sure that you incorporate it if you are looking at a younger target audience.

Reduces expenses

Until the 21st century, phone calls dominated communication between customers and businesses. But with all of the technological advancements that we see, other methods such as online chat have become cheaper and more effective than the traditional phone call. In fact, research done by Forrester has found that live chat is at least 17-30% cheaper than a phone call. That alone should convince you to switch over to the more effective and business-friendly online chat service option.

Improved customer satisfaction

Most of us have faced the irritating task of having to call a company and speak with a representative if we want to get something done. This task takes quite a bit of time and severely lowers satisfaction rates. It is a fact that customers enjoy online chat because of the ease of getting quick answers and not having to go through a potentially long phone call.

By installing an online live chat option on your website, you instill confidence in your customers that they can get the answers they need if they need your help. This will build loyalty and trust, making for a smoother overall experience for the business and the customers.

Faster problem resolution

Have you ever had to have someone walk you through at technical problem over the phone? This process can be very tedious and frustrating. But with online chat services, the representative can send relevant and helpful information and files directly to you rather than explain where to find them over the phone. This goes to show that online chat makes the experience better for both sides.

Easily trackable            

We live in a data-driven world, so it is always helpful to look at statistics. By utilizing online chat services, you can generate helpful information and assess how the interaction went much easier than having to listen to a recorded phone call. Many online chat software options include a basic report generation tool, which is very helpful to track visitor data and interactions.