Live chat has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel, with 73%, compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone.
I can see why as live chat combines the best of phone and email, and avoids the pain of hanging on the line listening to muzak.
The stats come from eDigital's Customer Service Benchmark which surveyed 2,000 consumers on their experiences of various customer service channels.
Here, I've taken a closer look at the stats, and the value of providing live chat for customers...
The stats in brief
Live chat currently has the highest satisfaction levels. There are only a smaller number of customers using this method (just 24% said they have used live chat in the past year), 73% of those that have are pretty happy with their experience.
Phone and SMS are currently the lowest rated customer service touch points, with 44% and 41% respectively. Premium rate numbers, automated answering systems and long waiting times are the main sources of frustration for phone users.
Unsurprisingly, email and phone are the most frequent ways to make contact.
Customers also choose channels based on the nature of the query. The phone is the preferred channel for general queries, though less popular for bookings and feedback.
The benefits of live chat
There are plenty of other stats which echo the findings of this report. For example, BoldChat found that 31% of online shoppers from both the US and UK saying they would be more likely to purchase after a live chat.
People appreciate live chat for a number of reasons, and time is a key factor. Of those who prefer live chat, 79% said they did so because they get their questions answered quickly and 46% agreed it was the most efficient communication method.
It works too, and can be offered pro-actively while customers are browsing, or used tactically at various key points of the purchase journey, during checkout being the obvious example.
Schuh offers live chat proactively if you linger on the page, though it's easy enough to close down if you aren't ready to chat.
I thought I'd try it out, though I was surprised that it wanted access to my webcam and microphone, as I was expecting the normal text chat.
That said, I can see that some people would prefer the face to face experience, and I'd be interested to know how it compares to the more common text-only chat.
Not wanting to disturb Mark too much, I refused the webcam access and chose text instead. I asked him about the last delivery dates before Christmas and received a prompt and accurate respsonse.
Unlike some call centres, the response was almost instant, and the nature of the medium means responses are nice and clear.
The eDigital survey found that customers appreciated the speed of response, though many said that they expect a response within a minute, so best practice may be to only show the option if staff are available, as O2 does.
Given that customers appreciate it, and it has shown to be helpful as a sales driver, I can see the use of live chat becoming more popular. I'd certainly prefer it to call queues, while email customer service is hampered by the slow responses that are typical.
You can register to receive eDigital's Customer Service Benchmark here (good report, annoying download form).