Live Chat Support: The Complete Beginner’s Guide

Say goodbye to long waiting times and frustrating service scenarios. Live chat support is everything most people won’t associate with customer support – fast, convenient, personal.

But there are some things you need to know to fully experience the benefits of this channel. Whether you’re new to the topic or want to up your game, this guide will show you how live chat software works and how you can master it in no time.

From implementation to performance analysis to communication tips, I’ll walk you through the chat best practices we’ve learned at Userlike by building one of the leading live chat solutions and consulting thousands of companies with live chat implementation.

This guide covers:

  1. What is live chat support
  2. How live chat matches evolving customer needs
  3. Live chat benefits: Why chat is the best support channel
  4. The benefits of live chat support by industry
  5. Checklist: How to spot a good live chat provider
  6. How to get started with live chat support
  7. How to make the most out of live chat support
  8. Communication best practices for a great live chat support experience
  9. All Userlike articles on live chat support

But first, let’s get everyone on the same page with a quick definition of live chat support.

What is live chat support

Live chat support is real-time customer service through chat. It can be delivered through a company's website or through mobile messaging apps like WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and SMS.

A chat bubble with a friendly message inviting a visitor to start a chat should they have questions

Live chat empowers businesses to provide immediate customer support, clear up requests in an instant and forge happier customer relationships.

How live chat matches evolving customer needs

Consumer behavior is chaotic. The linear “I sell, you buy, the end” journey hardly exists in today’s hectic information age.

cartoon of a rollercoaster

A visitor will enter your site, leave, be reminded, come back, leave again, compare solutions, come back, and then, maybe, make a purchase – all while switching between devices. And if they're happy with their purchase, the cycle repeats.

And then there’s the disruption in communication. We text and message our friends and family instead of calling them. Same at the workplace, where tools like Slack radically changed team collaboration. It’s right, we don’t talk anymore. We chat.

We don’t talk anymore. We chat.

We've all adapted this new mode of communication because it’s easy – you can chat while commuting on the train, waiting in line at the coffee shop or chilling on the sofa watching Netflix. It doesn’t absorb your entire attention and you can pick up and leave a conversation whenever you have time.

Why shouldn’t it be the same in customer communication?

In the digital age, competition and buyer empowerment have become stronger than ever . Businesses that fail to adapt to changed customer preferences are not only frustrating their customers but leaving valuable profits on the table.

Three website messengers showing customer interactions with emoji, video sharing and voice messaging

People increasingly expect a high level of convenience when they’re talking with a business as well. Live chat makes it easy for your customers to start a conversation with you at any time. That allows you to connect with your customers on several touchpoints throughout their customer journey.

New touchpoints through live chat

  • Live chat on your contact page gives customers a direct line to get the support they need
  • Proactive chat on your features page shows you’re there to explain complex functionalities
  • Live chat on your checkout page helps clear up any last uncertainties before visitors abandon their cart
  • Connecting your live chat solution with a popular messaging app, such as WhatsApp or Messenger, allows your customers to ask a question not just on your website but wherever they go

Userlike: Instant chats, long-term customer relationships

Over 10,000 companies like Toyota and Hermes trust Userlike to connect with their customers every day - via website chat, WhatsApp, chatbots and more.

Learn more

Live chat benefits: Why chat is the best support channel

Live chat allows you to seamlessly connect with your customers in real time, directly on your website. This unique set of characteristics separates chat from the standard contact channels, leading to a number of powerful benefits of live chat support . Phone holding times and slow email responses?

Say bye bye bye to bad service.

There are plenty of gains you’ll experience with live chat support. For a complete overview of all live chat advantages (and disadvantages), check out this post . Let’s take a look at the top three benefits together.

1. Optimize conversions

A customer interaction in a live chat messenger

Commerce is increasingly happening online and even your mom is on Instagram now. But when it comes to customer support and online sales , most companies are still stuck on channels from the past millennium.

This doesn’t only hurt your user experience but negatively affects your business as well. To send an email, your customers have to enter their inbox and leave your website. Then, email response rates are far from instant. If the question is crucial to their buying decision, they’ll have to wait for the response – or put the purchase off.

A graph illustrating a 3 times higher conversion rate for live chat over email
A Virgin Airlines case study found a 3.5 times higher conversion rate for people who had used chat than with those who had emailed the company.

Live chat is the only support channel that’s both on-site and real-time. This unique combination allows you to guide visitors on your website and solve questions directly. Here’s what else chat helps you with:

  • Identify customer needs and offer solutions
  • Clear up uncertainties and build trust
  • Prevent shopping cart abandonment by addressing customers directly
  • Nudge visitors to a purchase or upselling with personalized offers
  • Support people along their customer journey

2. Increase service efficiency

Good customer service isn’t an end in itself, it’s sustainable. Live chat support is both fast for your customers and significantly reduces your service costs. And if you ever had to talk on the phone for a whole day, you’ll know that chatting is just so much less tiring. To sum it up, live chat support is a win-win for everyone involved.

A chat agent can talk to 5 people at the same time while a call center agent can only do one call at a time.

The low service costs for live chat support allow both small and large businesses alike to offer personal customer support at scale. These are the reasons why chat is more efficient than any other channel:

  • Use canned messages for frequent questions
  • Chat with multiple people at the same time
  • Prepare your answer in advance with a live preview of your customer’s message
  • Share files and rich media
  • Get a complete overview of conversations from all touchpoints and agents in one interface
  • Let chatbots handle repetitive requests
An example of canned messages in live chat support for when an agent is occupied

3. Personalize the support experience

When commerce first moved online, service was sacrificed over the low-price appeal. But with more players entering the market, distinguishing your company solely based on your pricing became impossible. This was good news for consumers because smart businesses began putting their customers first again.

A chat agent greeting a recurring visitor

Companies that listen to their customers and treat them like human beings instead of numbers will succeed while others fail. Live chat matches this movement because it allows businesses to get closer to their customers. Here’s why:

  • Proactively offer individual, one-on-one support
  • Build customer loyalty through personal contact
  • Reflect service philosophy of putting your customers first
  • Increase customer and brand experience
  • Create long term relationships through ongoing conversations and smart routing

The benefits of live chat support by industry

Ten years ago, it was primarily e-commerce shops that turned toward live chat. Those who didn’t have stores or large call centers to support their customers. Fast forward to the present and you’ll find that businesses of all industries and sizes are adapting a support strategy that includes live chat.

Still, an online fashion shop is very different from a bank and so are the ways in which they will use live chat support. For a detailed insight into the benefits of live chat as well as best practices for each industry, take a look at these posts.

Relevant articles:

For more specific inspiration on how others successfully added live chat to their support mix, I recommend our case studies and customer story videos. From an NGO to globally operating enterprises, see how organizations are putting their customers first with Userlike and the decision-making steps that brought them there.

Userlike live chat customer stories:

Live chat case studies by industry:

Userlike's live chat window on Babywalz's website
Source: Babywalz

Checklist: How to spot a good live chat provider

You can recognize a good live chat provider by the following features:

✔ Website messenger. New generation live chat tools enable asynchronous messaging. This means that the conversation does not have to take place in real time, but is ongoing - similar to WhatsApp - and can be continued by both sides at any time.

✔ Intelligent chat routing. Chats are automatically assigned to an appropriate employee, for example, by department or language.

✔ Chatbots. An easily configurable chatbot answers common questions, performs simple tasks, generates leads, and routes chats to the right contact.

✔ Live translations. To ensure that languages are not a barrier to good support, chat messages are instantly translated by AI-powered software.

✔ Audio and video calls. Operators can offer customers to switch from chat to an audio or video call for complex concerns, and offer screen sharing.

✔ Omnichannel. No matter what messaging platform your customers use (WhatsApp, Facebook, Telegram, SMS, etc.), all messages land in a shared inbox.

✔ Integrations. Operators receive notification of new chats and ratings in the tools they use every day, like your CRM or on Slack.

✔ Server hosted in Germany. Messages are processed securely and in compliance with the GDPR. The servers are located in the EU, ideally in Germany.

✔ No hidden costs. Prices are transparent and predictable. The monthly package price includes unlimited contacts and messages, so there are no additional costs.

Userlike covers all these requirements and offers a completely free plan with one operator seat for those just starting out. A team with several operators can chat for as little as 90 euros per month. In both plans, all core functions (e.g. customizing the chat design to your brand, sharing media files, feedback functions) are included.

Tip: At first glance, there are many adequate, affordable providers. But if you take a closer look, their individual live chat features are often unsophisticated. Because of this, make sure you test the software in a free trial period before you commit to a provider.

How to get started with live chat support

Once you’ve found the best live chat software for your business, the technical implementation is next. But there’s no need to call the IT crowd.

I share my tips for a quick start with live chat support in this post. Here’s the gist of it in a nutshell:

  • Add live chat to your website. Adding live chat to your website is a breeze. Just copy the javascript code, paste it into your website’s source code – and chat away! Popular online shop systems such as WordPress or Shopify offer plugins that make it even easier for you to add live chat – no code involved.

  • Customize your chat window. Looks matter when it comes to websites. The Website Messenger is the (inter)face of live chat support your customers use to get in touch with you. That’s why it needs to fit into your style and corporate identity regarding design (e.g. colors, position), wording (formal vs. informal) and behavior (proactive vs. register). Adjust these elements and tailor the chat to your needs.
  • A GIF showing three website messengers in different color designs
  • Connect your service team. Live chat support is only as good as the people behind it. Setting up the right profile for your service team is vital both for an efficient working style and a customer experience that feels personal. Configure your agents’ profiles so they reflect your organizational structure and put a friendly face to your brand. :)

That’s it, you’re all set up!

Relevant articles:

How to make the most out of live chat support

cartoon of a microscope

The basic steps described above will allow a smooth start with live chat support so you can chat with your customers in no time. But live chat support offers much more than just quick chats.

From chatbots to routing to tracking, let’s look at your options for a more advanced setup.

Communication best practices for a great live chat support experience

Chatting seems easy. It’s become our main mode for talking to friends and family. You just type away and hit the send button. But not so in customer support.

Here the stakes are higher and the rules more demanding. Time is tight and you’re bound to the keyboard, delivering personal support to someone you’ve never met, all while appearing professional and offering helpful solutions. Doesn’t sound so easy anymore.

A young woman sitting in a meeting, looking at her teammate
Workshops and internal training are important steps on your way to successful live chat implementation

That’s why we need a manifesto for chat communication. If you’re interested in a deep dive into live chat communication best practices, I recommend our popular webinar on the topic.

Free Guide to Professional Communication in Customer Support

Download our free guide and master professional customer communication across channels.

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Let’s take a look at the most important live chat support tips we’ve distilled from almost 10 years in the business.

  • Make it conversational. Some companies fear chatting conflicts with their professional image. Their chats tend to be slow, long like an email, full of jargon– basically the opposite of what chat should be. That’s why my #1 tip is to try keeping your messages short, clear and simple. Don’t be afraid to add emoji and exclamation points as well for a friendly, more personal tone.

  • Be transparent. On the phone, you’re quick to realize when the other side isn’t paying attention. In chat, you can’t be so sure. Leave no room for doubts through active listening (e.g. “yes,” “I see,” “alright”) and explaining your action or availability (e.g. “One moment please, I’ll look that up for you quickly”).

  • Use social mimicking. Communication isn’t a one-way street. Chat is a more informal channel by nature, but some people still prefer a formal code of communication. It’s important to accept and address that so they feel comfortable talking to you. Start off with a friendly but neutral tone and tailor your level of formality by adapting it to your customer’s use of words.

  • Always be positive. It goes without saying that you need to be friendly and positive when you’re working in customer support. But what you might not be aware of is the way our mind is playing tricks on us sometimes. The so-called negativity bias – our tendency to interpret ambiguity in a negative way – is a major cause of miscommunication and especially prevalent in written communication, such as live chat support. My colleague Leah shares our tips on how you can avoid falling victim to this bias and communicate more clearly in this video.
  • Explain with structure. Spontaneous conversations can be stressful but structure helps you explain things clearly, consistently and faster. That’s why talking structure is crucial in all communication, especially live chat support. There are several powerful techniques you can try, take a look at them here .

  • Write to the customer, not about the customer. A you-focus puts your customer in the center because the text feels like it’s directed at them. But writing to the customer goes beyond just rephrasing your messages to “you.” It’s about cutting everything that's irrelevant from their perspective. That helps make things more conversational in chat as well.
cartoon of an angry bird

We know sticking to these playbook tips can be hard in the real world where you might be dealing with demanding customers. Take a look at these articles to explore our best practices for tackling the most difficult situations in live chat support:

Are you ready to add live chat to your website? Try Userlike for free for 14 days and be sure to reach out to us in the chat if you have any questions – we’re looking forward to getting you started with live chat support!

Live chat support from A to Z

This is a complete list of articles we’ve written on live chat support. Enjoy!

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