If you are hunting for a live chat provider, no doubt you have already heard of the rising popularity of live chat. Although the current usage is not that high, only 24% of consumers said they have used live chat in the past year, the 73% satisfaction rate, the highest among all the other customer service channels, drives extra attention to this tool.
Choosing a live chat provider that would suit your company needs and would meet the budget can be a time consuming task. Often you will find totally different sets of features and diverse service models hiding behind similar marketing messages and service ads.
How do you find the right vendor quickly?
There are a few most important things to research about a potential live chat provider before making a decision to sign up for their trial. If you know what you are looking for and ask a vendor these questions upfront, it will save you a lot of time in testing different solutions just to find out later that they are not a fit.
1. Is it a hosted saas (software as a service) solution or can I host it on my own server?
Some providers offer both of these models, however most of them offer only one. You need to carefully consider which one would work for you best and narrow down your search to the list of providers who offer the model that you are looking for.
Each option has its own advantages and disadvantages. If it is a saas model, it would usually mean that payment is subscription based and there is no one-off price. It may seem more expensive at first glance, but if all costs involved with setup and maintenance are considered, it often turns out that buying a cloud service is much cheaper. It is not surprising, because saas companies serve many clients and their costs for server support and maintenance are divided between multiple service users.
2. Do you provide staffing?
Some vendors will provide you just the software, while others will also supply people to manage it. Are you looking to offer in-house support and just rent a software suit, or are you looking to outsource the workforce too? The costs will differ greatly in each case.
Make sure to this question during the preliminary evaluation and cast aside the companies that fall out of your target category.
3. How easy is it to install the software? What kind of integrations do you offer?
The ease of installation is an important factor, because if a software does not have a friendly user interface, setting everything up may eat up a lot of your time. In some cases, you will need to engage a webmaster to get everything running, which will add up to your bottom line.
If you are going for a hosted solution, ask what kind of supporting documentation they provide for you to be able to manage installation on your own. If you are evaluating a saas solution, ask what steps you will need to take to implement live chat on your website. If you are using a content management system, find out if a provider offers any plugins or extensions for your CMS.
4. What kind of support do you provide to your clients?
You don’t want to be left on your own with a new tool, especially if it is not intuitive enough to get it running in a few minutes. Ask a potential live chat provider what communication channels are available to you if you have a question and what is their availability. Do they offer 24/7 in case you are based in a different time zone from them? Some will even extend their support to the level of implementing the solution into your environment at no additional cost. Wouldn’t that be great for you?
If a company does not offer 24/7 support, ask what kind of self-service options will be available to you. Is there a user manual, a forum, a helpdesk etc.?
5. What operating systems and mobile devices do you support?
If you work on a Mac or Linux computer, make sure that your potential vendor does not limit your options only to a Windows client. Are you a frequent traveler and plan to monitor your chat support channel while on the go? In this case, you will need to ask if your mobile device is supported or if there is a browser-based access to the software.
6. What kind of customization possibilities are available to me?
If you care about your brand image and how your website and all supporting tools come across in the eyes of your customers, then this is an important question to ask. Some vendors offer very limited customization options, some offer it “as is”. If you are looking to add your company logo, upload a custom theme for the chat messenger or translate the tool into a different language, you may be disappointed and will have to discard the vendor even if they meet all of the above requirements.
7. Can I use the software on more than one website?
If you are running several websites, it is natural that you would like to add chat support to all of them without extra cost. Find out if it is possible with your provider. Some will require you to purchase an additional license (if it is a cloud-based service), some will have customization limitations for placing live chat on different sites.
8. How secure is your software?
Depending on what industry you are operating in, having a secure live chat may be a crucial feature for you. This will mostly apply if you are researching a service-based software. How do they ensure encryption of your chat conversations, what records are being stored, where and how you can access them are all important questions to ask, especially if you are providing financial or legal services to your clients. Additionally, find out if there are any extra costs involved with having a secure channel.
9. What is your uptime record?
Again, this question applies only if you are evaluating saas vendors. You surely don’t want to provide a lousy service to your customers. Ask a potential provider about the location of their servers and if they have a redundancy plan in place. Frequent unavailability or disconnects will discourage your clients from using the channel and may lead to distrust of your company.
10. What are the payment/refund/cancellation terms?
If you are purchasing a product to be hosted on your own server, it is pretty simple. Usually there is a one-off free that you will have to pay. If you are entering into an agreement with a service provider, there may be things to watch out for. Ask upfront what would be the consequences of your terminating a contact prematurely. Do they offer refunds, how are those calculated? What would happen if you decided to upgrade or downgrade your subscription? Finally, are there any discounts for long-term plans? Make sure to negotiate the best deal for yourself.
If you are satisfied with the answers to all of the above questions, it is a good sign that you may move on to the next stage of evaluation and sign up for trial. This way you will ensure that a few precious minutes of your time will not be wasted.
As always, the best way to evaluate a live chat vendor is to start a chat with them and see the service in action. This will not only give you a feel of the software, but also of the company, its culture, the level of support they offer to their clients.
If you are still in search for your live chat provider match, we are ready to answer all of the above questions and more. You can start a chat with us at any time and we’ll see how our tool can help your business.