Your chat button may be doing more harm than good

There was a time that chat was one of the highest converting, most popular features you could add to your website. Customers who chatted were 8x more likely to make a purchase and chat for support was preferred by over 70% of customers compared to email and phone. With so many people  in front of keyboards and screens all day, chat is just more convenient than picking up the phone. No nosy co-workers to over hear you, no waiting on hold, no terrible call centers. It was fast becoming the most efficient way to engage customers, and it made the difficult job of online marketing more effective. Now it seems most chat companies are doing their best to make you hate it. Even worse, it’s probably affecting how people feel about your company.

80% of Chatbots are failing

It used to be if a chat button was live, it’s because there was someone there to answer you. Now, 8 out of every 10 websites with chat provide an experience like this:

This is all too common, even when someone wants to have a pricing discussion.

This is not meant to pick on any particular chat product - they all make it far too easy to present sales prospects and existing customers with experiences like this. If a sales rep did this on the phone, they wouldn’t last very long. Yet this has become so common that the general consensus among people we interviewed is that they have begun avoiding chat when they see a robot face.

The chat button is a call to action that signals help to your customers. By failing to staff it, and even worse, asking folks questions just to provide their contact information, it creates an irritating experience.

So why is this happening and how did we get to such a bad place with Chatbots?

Decision trees are hard

One of the technical features limiting these customer experiences is that the knowledge of the system is limited to what a marketer inputs into the system manually, and how they script the conversational marketing experience. This is at least difficult to master, and at best simply time consuming, tedious work. Creating a basic decision tree is easy, but conversations aren’t basic or easy. For example, here is a potential hierarchy if someone on your website asks about a product and chooses “Sales” as one of the options:

This is just one simple path. Each choice creates a branch, each branch requires a response. 

They made 3 choices just to get a description of a feature or use case about a specific product. But the decision tree never takes into consideration these crucial factors:

What if they have a different question?
What if they want to go back and hear about an earlier use case?
What if their use case isn’t listed?
What about certain integrations?
What about the price?

The list goes on, but it doesn’t take long to realize that all the potential permutations of a ‘conversation’ entirely designed by a decision tree is terribly complex, and not the promise of easy to use SaaS for marketers. If you are wondering why most chatbots ask a few questions and then shift you to a live rep, this is the most likely reason.

Chatbots: Banner Blindness 2.0

In the early 2000’s there was a phenomenon called “Banner Blindness” which was coined after researchers figured out that after being exposed constantly to banner ads, people had developed an amazing ability to “tune out” the banner ads - effectively making them blind to banners. It actually has a wikipedia page:

When something doesn’t add value, humans learn to ignore it and it becomes background noise. Most chatbot implementations are not designed to add value for your prospect or customer, but rather are a new way to harvest contact information to meet lead quotas.

Recently, 7 out of 10 professionals admitted to ignoring chat when there is a robot icon, while a more recent trend indicates 4 out of 10 have begun to ignore chat buttons if they look like the kind that use chatbots. Just a few years ago chat was the preferred communication channel, and after a couple years of bad chatbots we’re seeing a second type of banner blindness creep in and compromise the incredible benefit to sales and support that chat can provide.

This is born out in the flattening growth trajectories of some of the most popular chat solutions. While 2015 through 2018 were incredible growth periods for live chat companies, largely fueled by new chatbot capabilities, in 2019 began to slow.

Great brands build trust

Great brands prioritize the customer. Whether that manifests in seamless integration of software and hardware to create the best smartphone, or bending over backwards to make sure customers get their questions answered and their needs met - the most powerful brands in the world have this quality in common. Your website should be a gateway to this promise to your customers, that you are committed to their needs and want to offer them the most convenient ways to engage with you. If done right, chat can be used to build trust.

Customers buy from brands they trust, and brands that make it easy to do business with them. This can be demonstrated in a variety of ways, but in this context it should mean prioritizing speed and accuracy in answering customer questions.

Statistically, every 10 seconds a customer waits for a response to a chat question is a significant drop off. At 30 seconds, 76% of customers abandon the chat.

To build trust, make it easy for a customer to get an answer to their question in 10 seconds or less - this will create more engagements than ever before, and the customer will feel like a priority.

Fewer hoops means more engagement. If someone is early in the research process, they are less likely to give you accurate contact information just to get an answer to a question. Just look at the number of bogus email addresses that flow into your online lead forms for gated content. It’s pretty obvious that “” and “” are not legit leads. The solution to this problem isn’t to move this tactic to the chat window as a gate before answering basic questions, this does not make your brand seem easy to do business with.

The People Problem

At the heart of the challenge (and opportunity) is people. It’s time consuming and costly for people to build decision trees, and having SDRs or effective support reps answering chats is becoming cost prohibitive - even though it delivers amazing results. FAQ/Knowledge base systems aren’t enough to enable self-service because they require you use just the right terminology to find the answer you need. Every organization in today’s economy, especially post covid-19 is trying to find a way to get more done with less resources and need to find ways to automate in order to scale.

But efficiency doesn’t strictly benefit the business. 81% of customers don’t care how they get answers to their questions, they just want the right answer fast. In the famous words of author Steve Krug, “Don’t make me think.” The most effective way to deliver personalized content to your customers is to let them tell you exactly what they want, and then give it to them in real time.

The best experiences allow customers to be self-centered (not a bad thing in this case) and accept that they are there to accomplish a task - to learn enough about your products/services to make a purchase decision, or to find a resolution to a product problem they are having. Experiences that engender loyalty are the ones that make the customer feel like you are prioritizing their needs, and trying to make their lives easier. While most chatbots fail at this task, we at Gamalon are tirelessly innovating to provide a solution that enables fast, always-available chat to every customer on every website that builds trust while also building our customers’ businesses. We think a conversational website is the right answer.

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