Why having a bad chat window is like having a moody receptionist

You walk into a building. The receptionist is slouching in their chair, scowling and with downcast eyes. You make eye contact, and in response, you get a perfunctory grunt mingled with a sigh. How do you feel about talking to this receptionist?

Now, let’s say you land on a website.

You have a few quick questions, and spot a live chat button offering the promise of assistance.

You click that button, and up pops an ugly, disjointed chat window that looks like something from a 90s chat room.

How do you feel about beginning a conversation?

First impressions count

It’s a commonly shared statistic that first impressions are 94% design-related. And those first impressions create lasting judgments.

In fact, 75% of consumers form opinions on a company’s credibility based on website design. And your chat window is no exception to these snap evaluations.

A web chat window is often the first contact touchpoint for the website visitor. So, it should welcome them through the door of your website and into the warm help waiting at the other end of a keyboard.

It simply can’t do that if it’s archaic, visually unappealing and unaligned with your branding.

Your chat window is your customer service

For the customer, your chat window is implicitly linked with the quality of the service you offer.

For a start, it uncovers any (apparent) customer experience negligence. It visually demonstrates your commitment to perfection. And of course, it speaks volumes about the importance you place on customer conversations.

A well-placed chat button, when clicked on, should open up a well-designed chat window that matches the look and feel of your website.

That consistency is reassuring for the website visitor, and eases them into the chat session fluidly and confidently.

A bad chat window does the opposite. When presented with the unpleasant surprise of an outdated, clunky window, the visitor will think twice about continuing.

It’s jarring, and creates both distaste and distrust.

Chat windows should always incorporate your branding and match the look and feel of your website

Isn’t it all a bit shallow?

Yes, judgements about your customer service based entirely on a chat window are shallow. But think of it this way: we all instinctively shun the unappealing.

We don’t wander into dark, dilapidated old buildings when out for a stroll. We’re unlikely to walk into a shop that has cobwebs coating its windows. We exit apps we don’t like the look of, we abandon websites that are dense or cluttered, and we refuse to tolerate software that isn’t user-friendly.

Sure, a chat window is ‘just’ an interface, and its functionality is the priority. But if your users are exiting the chat before it has even begun, then that functionality becomes redundant.

In a nutshell, your chat window determines the uptake of the channel.

A frictionless experience

You’d request your receptionist to sit upright, dress suitably, smile pleasantly at guests and help them smoothly and confidently.

You would, in short, do everything possible to help them create a frictionless experience for your visitors.

While you can’t request a smile from your chat window, you can help make the journey from initial chat button click, to window launch, to chat session entry as frictionless as possible.

You should:

– Ensure your chat button is streamlined with your website, and place it up front

– Use a (preferably inline) window that incorporates your company colours and branding

– Customise your window with either a well-designed banner image, or an authentic agent avatar

– Ensure the window is large enough to be read easily, without dominating the user’s page view

– Stick to black text on a white background where possible, using a legible font and incorporating white space

Your chat window can have avatars, logos, specific message bubbles, a certain background, or anything else you need

The bottom line

A grumpy, slumped receptionist will make visitors reluctant to engage, and send off all the wrong signals about your company.

A bad chat window does the same. It’s the online equivalent of a cursory hello or a standoffish attitude.

Where the visitor is concerned, your chat window is the window to the calibre of your customer service. Ensure it speaks of only the highest quality.

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