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  1. #1
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    Live Chat (support, help) services & software?
    I'm seeking any feedback or experiences with "live chat" software and services, especially on e-commerce sites (retailers of tangible products).

    A client asked me to do some "quick research" on live-chat software (to identify features/options and pricing), and after a few hours it's clear that "quick" research isn't going to be useful, so I'm now allocating about 10 hours to the project.

    So far, I've identified 30 companies offering live-chat solutions; I don't want to list them here (GAN's announcement of LivePerson appears to be the only paid ABW announcement in this niche.) If anyone wants, I'd be happy to email you my list of vendors - email me your request.

    I've found a couple of "somewhat useful" resources (top ten reviews has a writeup and feature grid for 10 vendors, and there is another "live chat comparison" web site with a marginally-useful PDF report on 6 vendors). Alas, I've already identified important features and pricing issues that these sites don't discuss, and of course those omit many vendors.

    While I'm doing my research, I'd definitely appreciate any feedback from ABW members, especially if you have used "live-chat" software on an e-commerce site, and especially if you can identify features that you consider "absolutely necessary" or problems you've had with any vendors. If you're not comfortable posting your comments here, feel free to email me (mark welch at mark welch dot com).

    I am absolutely aware that live-chat is more useful if integrated with a more robust CRM solution, so I am certainly paying attention to those features, but the client is not yet willing to invest in a full CRM solution.

    (FYI, I am looking for "real" live-chat service, not a fake-live-chat service.)
    Last edited by markwelch; July 10th, 2009 at 12:34 PM.

  2. #2
    Affiliate Manager Steven.C's Avatar
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    On our website (service provider) we currently use Kayako's SupportSuite, which nicely integrates their live chat application with their feature packed helpdesk solution.

    We've discovered far too many costly issues with the chat system though. Such as pending chats not popping up for certain operators, chat timeouts, etc. After an extensive amount of research and testing we've decided that we will be shortly moving to www.ProvideSupport.com.

    My 2 cents. Good luck with the research.

  3. #3
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    The issues of "getting chat request notifications" and "routing incoming chat requests" seem pretty important. It seems to me that a purely browser-based solution would be risky; a desktop client seems like a better alternative (theoretically). Another issue would be notifications via IM or text-message for operators who might stray away from their workstations, and perhaps even iPhone or other cell-phone access for agents to use when necessary.

    And the issue of "what to display on the web site when there are no live agents available" turns out to be more complex than I initially thought: Should your web site just not display anything about chat? Should the web site say "Agent not available"? Should there be a "leave message" or "request a callback" option that uses the chat solution, or should folks be directed to send an email?

    And what should be required from users before they enter chat mode: name? email address? order number? address? SSN? register for a user account and password? or absolutely nothing?

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador phillyburbs's Avatar
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    Mark:

    We used LivePerson and had a pretty good experience.

    We are soon going to start using Goober, especially in our classified vertical sections. So far, seems like a good product, but we'll need to see it live before drawing conclusions.

    On your last question - I'd say they shouldn't have to enter anything, except maybe a first name.

  5. #5
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    phillyburbs wrote: > "We are soon going to start using Goober" <

    Looking at their web site, it almost seems like vaporware: very sketchy information, no pricing.

    It seems to be an Instant Messaging client, which must be downloaded and installed, which isn't acceptable for pre-sale customer-support live web chat. Am I mistaken?

  6. #6
    Affiliate Manager Steven.C's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch
    The issues of "getting chat request notifications" and "routing incoming chat requests" seem pretty important. It seems to me that a purely browser-based solution would be risky; a desktop client seems like a better alternative (theoretically). Another issue would be notifications via IM or text-message for operators who might stray away from their workstations, and perhaps even iPhone or other cell-phone access for agents to use when necessary.
    I've found that most of the systems are browser-based solutions on the client end and then on the operator end offer either a browser-based setup for those on the go and also an actual desktop client, which I do agree tend to be more reliable. As far as notifications via IM or text messages, or any other means for those away from their workstations I have yet to find anything like this. We just make sure our operators have the volume up loud enough so if they are in the break room they can still hear the rings.

    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch
    And the issue of "what to display on the web site when there are no live agents available" turns out to be more complex than I initially thought: Should your web site just not display anything about chat? Should the web site say "Agent not available"? Should there be a "leave message" or "request a callback" option that uses the chat solution, or should folks be directed to send an email?
    I believe this depends on your needs Ours displays dynamic images that change from online to offline. When agents are not available they can still send emails that are piped through to our helpdesk/sales department.

    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch
    And what should be required from users before they enter chat mode: name? email address? order number? address? SSN? register for a user account and password? or absolutely nothing?
    In my experience, I've found keeping things as short/simple as possible keep our clients happier. They are not ordering, still in pre-sales mode so they don't want to be bothered with having to give away everything but their DNA...We keep it to their name / email and we use the email to properly track logs and link transcripts to the appropriate client in our database.

  7. #7
    ABW Ambassador phillyburbs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch
    phillyburbs wrote: > "We are soon going to start using Goober" <

    Looking at their web site, it almost seems like vaporware: very sketchy information, no pricing.

    It seems to be an Instant Messaging client, which must be downloaded and installed, which isn't acceptable for pre-sale customer-support live web chat. Am I mistaken?
    Mark: I don't believe the customer has to download anything.

  8. #8
    Affiliate Manager TFAW.com's Avatar
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    Hi Mark,

    Coincidentally, I'm currently evaluating live chat solutions for TFAW. Ran a test last week using "ProvideSupport" and it went pretty well. One visitor on the second test day liked our live chat well enough to tweet about it, w00t!

    I've also recently been through the top ten lists and (vendor-commissioned) white papers that you mention in the first post, and agree that they were of only limited use. livehelp-guide.com was a good review site that seems unbiased.

    Our environment is a bit different, in that all of our CSRs use Macs, so the selection of chat solutions with Mac operator console applications was somewhat limited. After testing several web-based operator consoles from various vendors, it was clear that our minimum requirements must include a standalone console app for the operators.

    ProvideSupport is very affordable compared to other options. It is, however, a little thin on the administrative controls and reporting features. Other solutions have better reporting, training tools, more integrated analytics, etc. but you really pay for those things on the recurring subscription. After evaluating the continuum of offerings (there are a lot of choices!) we're feeling pretty strongly that ProvideSupport is a good starting point for us. The integration is pretty simple, so changing packages down the road would be relatively simple.

    We're putting together plans to run a series of tests over the next month to evaluate live chat's impact on conversion rate. Data from the chat vendors suggest up to a 35% increase in conversion for the customers who use live chat. That's great, as long as you engage a significant number of site visitors in live chat...

    Mark, please ping me offline if you want to chat more about chat.

    Thanks and good luck.

    -Dale
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  9. #9
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    Thanks for your feedback, Dale. I'm still grinding through data for 30 different companies' solutions.

    Some of these folks do a dreadful job of explaining what features their software includes. Of course, sometimes that's because they lack important features -- but not always.

    It appears that several of these folks are using the same software or "white label" service, but I haven't yet identified the source.

  10. #10
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    While slogging through all these live-help solutions, I was astounded to find that one (Kayako LiveResponse/SupportSuite) actually allows users to type text questions before an operator is available -- but then rejects and deletes the question! If no text entry was permitted while waiting for an operator, I might accept it (unhappily), but what's the purpose of starting a chat session by asking for and then deleting the user's question? I thought live-chat was supposed to increase customer satisfaction and conversion, not to annoy and anger prospective customers.

    Another huge red flag for some other companies: their live-chat support is "not available" during regular U.S. business hours. For some, this is because they're not in the US: they're based offshore (UK, Australia, Israel, China, India, and Panama, so far). And some that claim a US address appear to actually be based offshore but with a U.S. mail-drop address.

    One company claimed to be based in southern California (in what is clearly a mail-service office), but listed a Maryland phone number (which turns out to be "not in service").

    (There's absolutely nothing wrong with a company being based outside the USA. But there's a lot wrong with a company lying about its location, and simply omitting any valid contact information is not much better.)
    Last edited by markwelch; July 14th, 2009 at 06:26 PM.

  11. #11
    ABW Ambassador beachcom's Avatar
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    Mark,

    Have you had a look at whoson dot com. They offer live chat and realtime traffic monitoring. They have, I believe, a 15 day free trial offer and hosted or non hosted (your own server) installable software.

    I used them a few years back, mainly for the realtime tracking but on ocassion did use chat. It was very simple to set up and support was super.

  12. #12
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    Yes, WhosOn is on my list (of 30 vendors, each with several offerings).

  13. #13
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    try live247support.com live chat software

    they offer unlimited live chat operators / live chat customer service with per minute billing starting from just 6 cents
    Last edited by Kevin; December 17th, 2009 at 08:41 AM. Reason: Unlinked

  14. #14
    Affiliate Manager Molly_Vanns's Avatar
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    FWIW - we use LivePerson and are very happy with it, but it is not low cost. We did start w/ a lower cost open source option, but upgraded as it became more used and useful.
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