Marketing

How to Increase Your Live Chat Response Rate, According to 46 Marketers

From personalizing your initial prompt to asking the right questions, here are some proven ways for improving the response rate from your live chat efforts.

Avatar Dann Albright on January 3, 2019 (last modified on January 5, 2019) • 15 minute read

These days, there’s a lot of competition for that real estate on the bottom right-hand side of any website.

Support. Sales. Marketing–every department wants the ability to chat with potential customers in real time.

And while each department has its own goals and priorities, 52% of respondents from our latest report said generating leads is the top priority for any website or in-app communication.

27% of respondents said sales (booking meetings and/or scheduling demos) was the top priority, while another 21% said offering customer support was.

As you might expect, due to the variety of functions that website chat serves, there are a number of solutions for companies to employ. Some are all-in-one (think HubSpot) while others are more focused on specific functions like Support (think Help Scout.)

We asked respondents to share which tool(s) they were using. (Respondents were instructed to select all tools that apply.)

35% of respondents say they’re using HubSpot’s Conversations tool, while both Intercom and Drift netted 20% of the total number of votes respectively. 

This begged our next question–how many chat tools are companies using?

41% of respondents reported using only one tool, while 30% report using two, 13% report using 3, and 11% report using 5 (or more) chat tools. 

But, no matter how many tools you’re using, what you use them for, or which apps you prefer, you still need to have an effective strategy in order to generate a good response rate and effectively serve your prospects and customers.

We talked with 46 marketers on their approach for maintaining a high response rate for website chat. Here’s what we learned.

*Editor’s note: Drift users, Check out this free template for visualizing your conversations, contacts growth, average response time, and much more, in just minutes.

Personalize Your Prompts

“Personalization is the best way to increase engagement and response rate of a live website chat,” says Intuit‘s Casey Phillips. “Without personalization, users will assume your website chat is another one of those so-called ‘chatbots’ that are annoyingly robotic and relatively useless. Personalizing the conversation based on the specifics of a given user not only makes the chatbot more useful but it boosts confidence and intrigue from the user as well.”

Marketers recommend a few different personalization strategies:

Customize Chat Prompts by Page

Rebecca Graves from Spot On gives this advice:

“Make your chat message relevant to the page it’s on. Instead of the generic ‘Do you have questions? I’m here to help,’ change the message to match the page. If it’s on a pricing page then something as simple as ‘Wondering which package is best for you?’ can be more engaging for the visitor.”

“If you use the same greeting all over [your site],” says Henri Pallonen from Hehku Marketing, “you’re not able to point out how you could help and that isn’t as engaging as specific greetings.”

Dennis Seymour from SeriousMD emphasizes finding the most important pages on your site.

“Determine your most important pages by looking at your stats. In my experience, the homepage isn’t really the best when it comes to performance and engagement even though it gets the bulk of the traffic most of the time,” said Seymour. “For some, it’s the pricing page, for others, it’s the Features or Case Study pages. Once you determine those pages, experiment as to when the message triggers and then A/B test your message.”

Jennifer Noto from Carolinas IT put this advice to work: “To increase the response rate, we have set up tailored messages for each service page so it’s specific to what the prospect is browsing the site for.”

Find the Right Messaging

“If a user is browsing your pricing page, have the chatbot present decision-stage questions or prompt the user to schedule a free demo or trial,” says Kalie Fry from McMahon Marketing. “Not only do you want to tailor the bot’s scripting to the subject of the page, but reduce as much friction as possible for the buyer.”

Edmond Pouilly says Oxygen “realized that having an engaging ‘pop-up’ question directly related to the page the visitor is viewing will help to boost engagement greatly. A good example of this would be if you have a website page about ‘Starting a Business in China’, then your chatbot could say something like ‘Hi! Got a question about doing business in China?'”

“In this example, the question is directly related to the content the visitor is looking at and ‘feels’ almost like someone at a retail store offering to help you with your browsing.”

Track User Behavior

“Most live chat tools give a view into your visitor’s behavior on your website,” says Resolute Technology Solutions‘ Colton De Vos. “Users can see how long visitors have been on the site, how many times they’ve visited, and what pages they go to. Live chat admins can use this data to tailor their outreach to individual visitors for a better response rate. From my own experiences, I find this can increase response rates by up to 30% by only reaching out to the most qualified visitors with a message that is relevant to their interests.”

Hung Nguyen from Smallpdf gives some examples of how you might put this information to use:

“If the user has frequently visited your pricing page or demo page numerous times, ask them if they need help moving along by getting them in touch with your sales rep. Alternatively, if they have bounced multiple times after visiting your platform, or are on your support/FAQ page, focus on supporting them with answering product related questions instead.”

Pepper Inbound‘s Myrna Arroyo also recommends using the source of the visitor traffic to personalize your live chat.

Keep in mind that user behavior isn’t just about the actions people take on your website, but also the ways in which people are most commonly engaging with your website chat already.

“It’s key to have enough data to know what questions are most commonly asked by your visitors so you can build the chatbot to respond consistently to those first,” said Jennifer Lux of LytonWeb. “Then, use data to track those questions through to completion. If visitors end those standard chat sessions with a “thank you” message rather than a request to talk to a live representation, you know your queries are successful.”

Test Your Personalization

Once you’ve started personalizing your chat prompts, it’s time to test the choices you’ve made.

Steve Latronica from SL Development recommends running tests to find the best messaging: “Test starting the chat with prompts that address frequently asked questions, or proof points for buyers considering the product or service.”

Get the Timing and Location Right

“One of the most important aspects of live chat optimization is getting the timing correct,” says SIXGUN‘s David Pagotto. “For example, when they have been sitting on the pricing page for over 3 minutes.”

Ilan Kasan from Exceed.ai says “Popping up the chat window too soon can be intimidating. When you approach somebody it needs to be in the context of where that user is and whether he is ready to talk.”

“Asking timely questions [is important],” says WunderTRE‘s Ryker Taylor. “Whenever we perform an ad campaign to drive traffic to our website, we use Intercom’s ‘Messages’ feature to ask site visitors questions depending on the page(s) they’re viewing. We’ve seen response rate increase more than 2x whenever we have this system in place vs. when we don’t.”

Rick Ramos of HealthJoy says this:

“I think that you need to identify where on your website people have increased response rates and try to understand why. Usually, specific pages have a higher response rate because people are in different sections of the buyer’s journey and learning about your product and service. I think you should focus on those pages with increased responses since its clearly showing you something.”

And CIENCE‘s Eric Quanstrom gives practical advice: “have the chat pop (window expansion) occur where the visitor notices.”

“Active chats that are available, either by a bot or human, will increase response rates dramatically over passive chat clients that require a user to open and begin on their own. Obviously, there are tradeoffs here… As having a chat pop on every page a visitor navigates to will grow old quickly (and will also cause bounces, in addition to chat closures). The sweet spot is combining strategic pops on pages where the visitor is likely to engage.”

Ask Questions to Get Responses

“Always lead with a question,” suggests Andrew McLoughlin from Colibri. “Nothing so vague as a ‘how can I help you today?’ or a ‘have you been enjoying the content?’ but something more dynamic. Maybe ask a visitor’s opinion on the topic of the content. If you’ve got a blog on, say, marketing, maybe ask what other sources a visitor has been researching, or what has brought them your way. Make it clear that, on the other end of the chat, there’s a real person with a real interest, who wants to help forward the conversation.”

“Stand out from the crowd by showing real, genuine interest, and you might just learn something valuable to help improve your site in the process.”

Jonathan Aufray from Growth Hackers agrees:

“To increase the response rate of your live website chat, you need to ask a specific question. I see too many companies finishing a message with words like ‘Thanks’, ‘Cheers’, ‘Looking forward to…’, etc… or with questions that are too vague and not engaging such as ‘How are you today?’, ‘How may I help you?’, etc…”

“Ask a specific question about a problem your visitor might encounter. Your products or services solve a problem. Ask your visitors if they meet this problem.”

Ask Closed Questions

“Conversations should be two-way,” says Hillary Black from Black Ops. “This means, you should frequently ask the user non-open ended questions to keep the conversation flowing while gaining the information you need to assist them. This keeps the user engaged, and they have more fun along the way.”

John Kelleher from ESM Inbound agrees:

“Try asking easy to answer but specific questions. For example ‘Would you like to arrange a demo?’ is a closed question that’s easy to answer. It’s certainly much easier than ‘What questions do you have about our service?'”

Kelleher’s advice seems to be the general consensus of most marketers. Databox’s CEO, Peter Caputa IV, recently polled marketers on Twitter with a similar question. Overwhelmingly, they agreed that asking simpler yes/no questions first increases the likelihood of a response. “Databox uses Intercom.io chat in-app. So, using their A/B testing functionality, we tested these two messages by delivering each of them to a few 100 new signups. The yes/no question received a higher response rate, as my Twitter followers said it would.”

Make The First Move

“We use proactive greetings, so rather than waiting for the customer to begin the conversation with us, we say hello first,” says Casey Tongg of CFR Rinkens.

“Also, if it’s a returning visitor, we acknowledge them by thanking them for returning, and ask if there’s anything we can do to help. We’ve found that by engaging the customer first, we’re able to answer questions they may not have asked to begin with.”

. . . Or Not

Not all marketers agree that asking questions is the best way to go.

After trying multiple methods for increasing the live chat response rate, for example, Jesse Harrison of HopeTree Legal Funding says this:

“I have instructed my chat company to remove all questions. People can just click and start chatting. Having the picture of a human being also helps because it humanizes your website. When people see the face of the person that they’re talking to, they are more likely to feel a connection with that person and initiate and continue the chat.”

Harrison also notes that “website chat should be as unobtrusive as possible. No ‘how can we help?’ pop-ups (let’s just say I learned that the hard way), no floating animation, nothing obtrusive.”

Sandra Chung from Mention also stays away from questions: “We have found that either having ‘chat now’ as a call to action or providing an estimated response time has increased our response rate.”

Have an Engaged, Fast Team

“If someone is chatting your site and you don’t have someone respond in a timely fashion (think 30 seconds) then you’re probably going to lose them,” says demandDrive‘s AJ Alonzo. “The reason people are chatting your site in the first place is to get a quick answer—if they wanted to wait they would have used a traditional contact form instead. On that note—be a human. Not only are people chatting you to get the info they want fast, but they want to hear it from a live person.”

Kaitlyn Adan from G2 Crowd says “[i]ncreasing response rate on live chat can be tough, but we’ve found that chatting proactively really makes a difference. Providing quick and informative responses means your chatter will be less likely to become impatient and end the conversation.”

Adan continues: “It is vitally important that your team is quick to respond to minimize the number of chats closing. The person on the other end should feel as though they are your first and only priority. That being said, the opposite can be true for the person you are talking to. While you must respond quickly, do not be discouraged if they respond slowly. People are typically at work when chatting with us, so there is often a long delay in response because other things enter their mind. Do not close the chat even if this happens. If they see you are still there when they return, they are likely to pick up the conversation and feel grateful for your patience. with them. This, in turn, will create a more powerful and positive interaction.”

STDcheck.com has found an effective way of motivating live chat operators, says Lauren Crain:

“We’ve found that a way to increase [live chat operators’] response rate and (quality of responses) is to incentivize them with bonuses. When our live chat representatives receive good reviews or they make sales, they receive bonuses.”

Be Helpful

“A misused strategy when it comes to a chat service is to hard-sell every person you speak with,” says Ian McClarty of PhoenixNAP. “Not every conversation is an aggressive sales opportunity, and you should treat each person appropriately. Be informative, specific, friendly, and respectful. If a sales opportunity presents itself, treat it as you would in person: pleasantly and welcoming. This could be the first interaction a person has with your business or organization, the last thing you want to do is ruin their impression before you have the opportunity to showcase the company’s strengths.”

“It’s also crucial that your customer service representatives be adequately trained and understand the vision and purpose of the company. Language is important, so the representatives should at no point copy and paste form-fill responses during a chat conversation. This will immediately show a lack of respect and be hurtful to an organization’s reputation.”

Also, being helpful often involves having a servant mentality rather than focusing exclusively on you and your product/service.

Says Sara Pion, growth marketer at Drift, “making our opening question about the customer, not about us” has been most effective at continually improving response rates.

Adds Nick Francis, CEO at Help Scout, it’s all about “adding value, being helpful. Not selling or just saying, ‘HEY TALK TO ME!'”

Automate to Save Time

“One of the most effective ways of increasing the response rate of any website chat is having automated platforms and tools to help you be as assertive and responsive as possible,” says Alejandra from Gray Group International.

“One of the biggest reasons we’ve noticed as a digital marketing agency on why certain brands lose leads is because they are not as responsive as clients would want in the website chat. Consumers want their doubts and questions to be resolved and in they don’t like waiting. So automation is the answer.”

aurity uses Intercom’s templates, says Ivana Veljovic. “In that way, the support doesn’t have to type the same response all over again. With templates, it goes great to have an FAQ page where users will be able to help them self and support to point to the answer.”

Find What Works for Your Customers

Your site visitors aren’t the same as anyone else’s. So you need to figure out what works for your specific customer base.

Text Request, for example, uses a system where live chat replies go to visitors’ cell phones, says Kenneth Burke. “The same number of people start conversations with us, but the response—and conversion—rates are much higher. We’re able to continue the conversation and either provide service or close the sale much better by texting back-and-forth.”

Find the live chat strategy that works for your customers, tweak it, and enjoy increased response and conversion rates on your website.

About the author
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Dann Albright Dann is a freelance writer who helps B2B companies reach their audiences more effectively. With an emphasis on organic traffic and conversion, he takes big ideas and turns them into highly practical content that keeps readers hooked.
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