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Texting vs. Live Chat: Customer Service Pros & Cons

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Customer service might be the most important part of any business. And with continual demand for quicker, more personal service, leaders have been asking “How can we improve?"

How can you make your customer service feel like 2 friends having a chat, instead of like a corporate nightmare?

2 popular responses have been text messaging and live chat. They're both great tools!

But each was created for a reason, and best results happen when you use them for their intended purposes. In what situations is one better than the other?

Live Chat

Live chat is commonly seen as a button in the corner of a website, asking "How can I help?" Consumers can type in their questions and start a real-time conversation with a real person at your company.

Consumers get to type from their computer, and so do the company representatives. It's a simple and convenient tool! Here's what we like about live chat.

Consumers want mobile, personal, and quick communication

Pros of Live Chat for Customer Service

Instantaneous: Live chat is essentially instant messaging for business. Consumers can type in questions, and have all their needs met as soon as an available representative handles the chat.

Personal: Live chat provides one-on-one conversations. You're not just given an FAQ link, but a person who you can actively work with.

Creates a record: Most live chat features instantly create a record of the conversation, which is great for compliance and oversight.

Ability to Copy/Paste: Chances are you'll need to provide the same answers to different people. Live chat gives you the opportunity to create "canned responses" that save everyone time.

Easily say a lot: Usually, less is more. But sometimes you need to give a lot of details. Live chat makes it easy for you to share as much as you need, and for consumers to re-read that information as they need.

Private: You don't have to worry about anyone overhearing your conversation, or about your message being public.

No waiting on hold: Unless all customer service reps are busy for a few minutes, you don't have to wait for service!

Related: Why Would You Ever Place Someone On Hold?

Can use while working on a project: Live chat lets people communicate with your business while they're working, without having to stop everything else they're doing.

Uses a keyboard: A decent typist can type ~75 accurate words per minute on a computer keyboard, which is fairly quick. Plus, you can edit what you type before you send it, which helps clarification. And you can handle multiple conversations simultaneously.

Customer Service Pros and Cons of Live Chat

Cons of Live Chat for Customer Service

Impractical on mobile devices: Most web traffic comes from mobile devices, but live chat is difficult to manage from a phone. If you leave the page or your screen darkens, the conversation ends! That's not a good experience.

Must stay on same screen: If you leave or refresh the page you're on, your live chat conversation disappears. What if you accidentally click around the site, or even check your email? If someone is able to leave the screen up for the entire conversation, awesome! But it's a common problem.

Session timeouts; doesn't work on-the-go: Combining the previous 2 points, if you become "inactive" in the live chat by not responding for a little while, you're conversation ends. This is inconvenient for people on the go, and for the person who needs to use the bathroom!

Related: Mobile Mary: A Complete Guide for Marketing to Millennials

Relies on CSR to give appropriate information: If you have a new CSR handling conversations, they're going to make mistakes. Unfortunately, they won't always give the most accurate information, which can potentially harm your business.

Relies on CSR to portray human personality: As with most customer service operations, there's the issue of being kind to customers. Sometimes it's more difficult to be personable without intonation and inflection.

Texting

Texting is "the most prevalent form of communication for American adults under 50." It's how we reach friends and family, coworkers and colleagues. And it's the way people prefer to communicate in our mobile-first society.

Here's what it can look like for customer service.

Benefits of online texting from a computer

Pros of Texting for Customer Service

Instantaneous: Texting is real-time communication. You and your customers can both ask questions or talk instantly, whether you're in a meeting, running around town, or sitting at your desk.

Personal: Texting provides a 1-on-1 conversation, the same way you communicate with friends and family. What's more personal than that?

Creates a record: Every text creates a record of the sender, recipient, message, and time - which is great for organization and oversight.

Ability to Copy/Paste: Sometimes you need to share information that you found or that someone already sent you. With texting, you can copy and paste text, links, images, and more.

Concise: Texting is meant to be concise, which is a refreshing alternative to overly formal emails. This is great for business! You can follow up with customers quickly and efficiently.

Private: Texting is just between you and the person you're texting with. There's no worry about being overheard.

No waiting on hold: Waiting on hold is perhaps the worst, most costly customer experience. But texting takes that entirely off the table. You just text, and then get back to what you're doing.

Related: One Third of Callers Placed on Hold Hang Up Immediately

Great for on-the-go: People enjoy texting because we're mobile. We're always on the go! Texting accommodates our lifestyle.

Mobile-friendly: Mobile devices make up most of any given website's traffic, which means tailoring customer service for mobile devices is extremely important. And texting is about as mobile as it gets!

Can save number: People would generally rather text you than call someone else. And when they do text you, they're more likely to save your number, which encourages them to communicate with you more, and to actually answer your calls, because they know who you are.

Customer Service Pros and Cons of Texting

Cons of Texting for Customer Service

Not (usually) for lengthy conversations: Sometimes you need to have a lengthy or detailed conversation with customers. You might text to set up a call, but you probably won't complete a long conversation through text.

Can't use a keyboard: Your customer service reps would be able to use a keyboard, but customers would need to use their phones. This isn't an issue for younger customers, but it could be for older ones.

Relies on CSR to give appropriate information: Like any other form of customer service, it's difficult to ensure CSRs always give out correct information.

Relies on CSR to portray human personality: Not everyone has the ability to display a kind personality through text. Anytime you take out body language and inflection, it's more difficult to be personable.

Wrapping Up

Ultimately, it's best to use both texting and live chat for customer service. Most people want more options, anyway. And it's up to you to provide those options.

Some people will want to use live chat, because that fits their needs. Some will want to text, because that fits their needs. Both work great in the right situations! And you need both to provide the experience customers want.

Related: 3 Easy Business SMS Strategies to Increase Customer Retention & Value