How to improve live chat usability: a quick-start guide

The utility of live chat software on websites is long-since established. Unfortunately, this utility does not always translate into usability.

Bad practices will hurt live chat usability. No matter how handy the channel, handling its implementation poorly can lead to a diminished customer experience. From failing to live up to the ‘live’ promise, to confused branding, the simplest mistakes can sink your live chat potential.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. To help you ensure that your chat channel is as effortlessly usable as it is useful, here’s a quick-start guide to improving live chat usability for your online visitors.


Accessibility and the button

One of the first ways to boost your live chat usability comes before visitors have even decided to chat. It’s the appearance and placement of your live chat button. You need to reduce barriers to using your live chat channel by ensuring visitors don’t need to hunt around your site for it.

This means making sure that the button stands out enough to be noticeable. But you don’t want to make it jarring, distracting or off-brand. So, consider how to use your brand colours to create a high contrast between your chat button and your website background.

It also needs to be unmistakeable that your chat button starts a live chat session. This means clear labelling. Where a speech bubble icon might link to a quote of the day, for instance, a bubble with ‘chat to us’ written on it is far less prone to misinterpretation. 

Where you place your chat button can also impact your live chat usability. It shouldn’t be buried in your contact page or tacked on to your sidebar. Instead, fix your chat button to the bottom-right corner of every page on your website. This has become an accepted standard, and is where most of your online visitors will expect to find a chat option.


Trigger the chat, not the customer

Proactive chat invitations, when used well, not only boost live chat usability but also earn as much as 105% ROI. Used wrong, however, they can be damaging to the user experience.

It’s easy to fall foul of over-inviting visitors to chat. In a bid to engage them, web visitors get bombarded with interrupting invitations whenever they interact with your website. As a result, the chat channel becomes akin to an overly needy friend that won’t leave you alone. Instead of improving your live chat usability, aggressive chat invitations only impede the user experience.

Leveraging proactive chat invitations effectively comes down to when your invitations are triggered. Set your triggers to offer chat at opportune moments. That is, when talking to a representative is likely to be the most useful for the visitor.

For example, visitors that are trawling through your FAQ or lingering on your demo page. These online guests are demonstrating an interest in your products, but also hesitancy that suggests they need a helping hand. By only offering help to visitors when it will most benefit them, you become a helping hand, not a needy nuisance.


Make your chat window convenient

Consider also the appearance and placement of your chat window. Like your chat button, your chat window needs to be representative of your brand. It should have your brand colours, designs, or logo. This prevents a jarring experience due to an inconsistent brand mismatch.

The chat window is where chatters will spend most of their time interacting with your chat channel. So, you need to ensure that it’s not overly cluttered. The user interface should be simple and intuitive to use. Using real images of your agents for agent avatars also improves live chat usability, by adding a human element to the channel.

Crucially, let your chat users browse your website while they chat to you. This is best achieved by using an inline chat window, rather than a pop-out one. Inline chat follows the user from page to page, so there’s no hassle of clicking in and out of separate windows.


During the chat

Live chat usability doesn’t stop when your visitors start a chat. You need to continue to boost and support the usability of your chat channel throughout the chat journey. So, once the user clicks your expertly placed and designed chat button, or accepts a well-time chat invitation, the fun begins.

The start of the chat session should involve almost no wait time for the chatting visitor. So, you need to be able to effectively manage your queues. Use tools like CRM integration and canned responses to prioritise key customers and answer the call to chat quickly. Use pre-chat surveys to ensure the customer is sent to the correct queue for the correct agent. (Remember: too many pre-chat questions create a high barrier to using your chat channel, so keep it short and sweet.)

During the conversation, live chat usability relies on timely responses, good empathy and an on-brand tone of voice from your agents. Use the chat mood feature and empathy statements to keep the conversations positive and efficient. Use file sharing to give extra resources without forcing the customer away from your chat channel. Consider the tone of your brand. Should your agents make use of emojis, or should they adopt a more formal tone of voice?


Live chat usability

Improving your live chat usability comes down to three core elements: accessibility, responsiveness and branding.

By following the steps in this quick-start guide, unlocking the full potential of live chat software is within your grasp. When you pair your highly useable live chat channel with the great service your agents provide, you’re on to something beautiful.


Useful links

Customer contact: cat got your website’s tongue?

10 ideas for live chat triggers

Emojis in live chat – engaging or confusing? 🤔