Live chat is quickly turning into the customer-support option of choice for consumers, new research finds.
Customers who use live chat for support come away satisfied more often than those who call, email or turn to social media for help, according to a study from customer service software provider Zendesk. The company offers a variety of customer service software, but discovered that live chat is the feature customers like most.
Specifically, customers who need support come away content 92 percent of the time after a live-chat session. That's compared to just 88 percent of the time when calling on the phone, 85 percent when filling out a form on a website or sending an email, 84 percent when using Facebook, and 77 percent when using Twitter.
"Customers are gravitating more towards live chat as their preferred channel," Jason Maynard, senior manager of data and analytics at Zendesk, said in a statement. "Organizations who use live chat move customer requests away from Web forms and feedback tabs to real-time chat, where questions can be answered directly in the Web or mobile experience."
Customers seem to like live-chat support because it provides a back-and-forth conversation style. The research revealed that customer satisfaction increases with live chat as the number of chat messages exchanged rises. The study's authors said they believe one reason for this is that consumers are happier when customer service agents are more engaged in the support process, such as by asking more troubleshooting questions or finding out how the customer's day is going. [10 Companies That Totally Rock Customer Service on Social Media]
The study discovered that the average live-chat response time is 1 minute and 36 seconds, with the most popular time for consumers to use live chat options coming between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.
Another sign of the growing popularity of live-chat support is that after adding the option, businesses see a drop in the number of help requests they receive via their websites
"We found that 30 days after implementing live chat, ticket volume from embedded Web forms plummets, suggesting that customers prefer to communicate with support directly from the company website, instead of waiting for a response to arrive via email," the study's authors wrote.
When it comes to overall customer-service satisfaction, regardless of option, the following industries were rated highest: government and nonprofit, IT services and consultancy, and health care, the research showed. Social media, Web hosting, and manufacturing and computer hardware were the industries that showed the most improvement over the past three months.
The study was based on data from 2,261 Zendesk customers. To be included, companies must have conducted at least 25 chats in the first quarter of 2015.