Live chat support, or assistance through instant messaging is slowly becoming a very important method of providing customer care services.
Live chat support lies somewhere between telephone conversation and emails or written communication, in terms of speed and effectiveness of interaction. Many companies and organizations have started providing options on their web-sites for their customers to engage in live chats with their company representatives or customer care executives.
Live chats, usually facilitated through instant messaging applications, can be used for the following:
- To receive or provide technical support services for products of various kinds, such as games, toys, electronic goods and even cars! Organizations providing services related to functions such as recruitment, marketing, travel, and even home delivered meals have realized the need to provide this method of communication. Typically, information is sought on operating instructions and their interpretation. Helpdesk service for complaints management and troubleshooting is also common through this method.
- Clarification of doubts, asking for further information, providing user feedback, making suggestions for improvement, and recording observations are some of the reasons for live chats.
Some of the advantages of live chat support:
- It is real-time interaction between the concerned parties. It is actually a form of ‘written conversation’, offering both sides more time to reflect and respond than normal telephonic or face-to-face conversation.
- Though less formal than the e-mail or letter, live chats can be recorded or saved and used as a point of reference later, if needed.
- Cultural barriers such as accent and differences in pronunciation of words are less likely to be impediments to effective communication.
- Live chats usually do not cost anything extra to the participants. Phone calls, especially long distance calls, can be much more expensive in comparison.
- Online chats are less personal and intimidating than normal conversation to many people, especially those of a timid nature. Where problems or issues are of a personal nature, chats may be preferred by many to telephone conversation.
There are however, a few disadvantages as well:
- Facial expressions cannot be seen and tone of voice is difficult to sense through live chats.
- Sometimes abbreviations used to increase speed are difficult to understand.
- A customer may find it difficult to make a full statement of the problem through live chat.
- Solutions suggested and advice given may be easily misinterpreted leading to confusion and further problems.
- Very often, people offering live chat support are not technical experts and may not be able to provide relevant advice or answers quickly. This, of course, can be said of telephonic support as well.
These reasons make live chat support another way to communicate between customers and service providers, but usually not the only way. It really cannot replace the spontaneity of direct conversation or the formal nature of written communication for technical and other types of support. However, it is quick and interactive and certainly here to stay!