Yet despite web chat being available for a number of years, only a quarter of businesses actually offer the service. And according to Chris Kirby, head of research at Fifth Quadrant, it might be time to change this.

Web chat has a great proposition for consumers. It is a convenient offer of help at an appropriate time. When carried out properly it is non-intrusive and simplifies the consumer’s experience. 

Kirby also points out that those businesses that do offer web chat are often able to deliver a higher standard of service than those that just offer a social media channel, which he attributes to the staff manning the computers at the other end.

Unlike social media which is often handled by the marketing or IT department, web chats are generally staffed by customer-orientated people. In fact, 8 out of 10 businesses said the their call centre or customer service division were responsible for managing web chats for their organisations.

Faster, easier and more convenient

The study found that Australian consumers look at web chats as being more effective at resolving queries and notably more convenient than both social media and smartphone apps. Many also believe it to be more secure and personalised.

Age doesn’t appear to be a barrier either, with 25% of Gen Y, 28% of Gen X and 29% of Baby Boomers indicating they had used web chat in the past three months. This figure looks set to rise as well, with 43% of respondents saying they plan to use web chat in the future. 

When it came to resolving technical issues with a device, web chat shined as a medium with 66% of respondents choosing this as being the most suitable way to handle the task (compared to 29% for social media and 25% for smartphone apps).

Over half of respondents also preferred web chat for a purchase or sales related question (compared to 37% for social media and 31% for smartphone apps) and 67% preferred to use it for general enquiries (compared to 43% for social media and 35% for smartphone apps). 

[Image credit: US Department of Labor]