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Many companies now recognize live chat as an essential tool for doing business online. By offering sales or product expertise for site visitors, letting them connect to a real person at key moments in their purchase journey, chat boxes are a great way for companies to increase customer retention and improve their overall customer experience.

Live chats let consumers connect quickly with experts without having to pick up a phone, so potential purchasers can get product or feature information or find answers to burning questions, which may result in fewer lost sales. In fact, live chatting can help companies save time, labor and money, while providing a competitive advantage over similar businesses that don’t utilize this innovative customer channel.

If you’ve included a live chat feature on your website, you may find it helpful to follow established customer experience best practices, such as ensuring low wait times, proactively solving customers’ problems, and keeping every interaction friendly. However, to create the best customer experience for your site’s visitors, it’s crucial to avoid these five common live chat mistakes:

1. Forcing Customers to Fill in Their Name and Contact Info Before Starting a Chat

When customers open a live chat, they expect to be connected quickly to an expert, so although operators should always strive to personalize chats, requesting too much information prior to initiating the conversation can be detrimental to the customer experience. Requiring visitors to fill out complicated forms or answer questions prior to chatting can create a friction point, disrupting the purchasing journey and resulting in lost prospects. Instead, when the customer clicks on the chat invitation, request only information that’s absolutely necessary, such as any info needed to direct the customer to the appropriate sales expert.

frustrated man

In addition, although the information gleaned through live chatting can be useful, providing contact information and other valuable metrics, customers should never feel as if they’re being questioned. To minimize excessive demand on the customer to provide data upfront, sales experts should seek information organically over the course of their conversation. A good rule of thumb is to greet the customer first, asking only for their first name. Then, as the conversation evolves, the agent can find out more about their browsing habits and their needs. Customers who wish to remain anonymous should typically be allowed to do so.

Chat software that uses AI functionality may even be able to remember returning customers, reducing the need for repetitive or redundant questions, and streamlining the overall chat experience. This technology can help you get the most out of your chats by breaking down customer requests and queries into key components so your agents can more easily find answers. It can also offer insights into a prospect’s browsing behavior without requiring agents to ask disruptive or intrusive questions.

2. Serving Live Chats on Higher Pages Rather Than Deeper Pages

Most customers won’t need help when they first reach your site, so serving a live chat on higher pages is often unnecessary. In fact, many customers find pop-up chat boxes disruptive at the early stages of their purchasing journey.

However, the deeper a customer is on your website, the more likely they are to make a purchase. To increase the odds of conversion, live chats should be positioned on these crucial, deeper pages, so visitors can get support quickly if they need help with site navigation or have questions about products or services.

couple browsing computer

Ultimately, by including the option to engage in a live chat on deeper pages, you create the opportunity to deliver personalized support and demonstrate your company’s expertise by:

  • Providing additional information about product specifications
  • Clarifying policies on pricing, shipping and returns
  • Informing customers about additional products or service offerings
  • Directing customers to online demos
  • Supplying links to manuals and other online documentation
  • Helping customers compare multiple products
  • Suggesting accessories and other relevant add-ons

3. Not Serving Live Chats During Customers’ “Key Moments of Truth”

Businesses that neglect to offer live chats during key moments of truth are missing out on some of the best opportunities to convert prospects into paying customers. These key moments of truth typically signify occasions when decisions and interactions can result in a customer transitioning from one stage of the purchasing journey to another. Although these moments may be defined differently from company to company, touchpoints often include:

woman using phone
  • The first time a prospect interacts with a brand: Sometimes referred to as the zero moment of truth, this touchpoint occurs when an individual identifies a need and begins researching products or services. It often represents the time when a potential customer first learns about your company and what it has to offer.
  • The moment when a prospect forms an initial impression of your company: This typically happens when a prospect lands on your website for the first time. It’s often the moment in which a customer decides whether to stay and explore your site, or to leave and try to find what they need elsewhere.
    The moment when a prospect decides to become a first-time purchaser: This happens when a prospect decides they need the value your products or services provide and makes the decision to buy or subscribe to what you’re selling.
  • The moment(s) when first-time purchasers become loyal customers (and, ultimately, product evangelists): Although generally considered two separate moments of truth, these key inflection points represent key moments on the continuum of the customer’s purchasing journey. They may involve off-site interactions, including blogs, newsletters and social media accounts.

Smart businesses try to optimize these opportunities, starting by pinpointing the places and actions at which key moments occur. Although they can vary depending on what goods your company offers, key moments of truth often occur when customers visit individual product pages and, in the moments after they’ve added items to their virtual shopping cart. These are typically make-or-break moments when a prospect has demonstrated an interest in purchasing but hasn’t yet committed to it.

By placing a live chat option on the pages where these moments are likely to occur, companies can engage with prospects directly, demonstrating expertise by providing crucial information, answering questions and minimizing any concerns that customers may have prior to purchase. It often means including chat invitations on product and category pages and offering the option to chat with a live expert during checkout, when customers may have questions about payment methods, shipping or return policies. Triggering a chat box when a customer leaves without purchasing an item they’ve placed in their cart can also be an effective way to prevent the loss of a prospect.

4. Not Offering Contextual Messaging That Applies to the Page the Customer Is On

Contextual messaging should always be relevant to the page it appears on, letting a business deliver the right message at the right time, and in the right place on its website. Untargeted messaging can seem random, resulting in confusion and frustration, and represents a missed opportunity for meaningful customer engagement and possible conversion.

man looking at computer

Effective contextual messaging creates interactions that are relevant to a customer’s current needs, based on their recent actions or behaviors. That may mean triggering a chat box with targeted messaging if a customer’s behavior suggests they can’t locate a product or service or initiating a chat when a customer has lingered for more than a few seconds on a landing page. Some contextual chat software can also use geo-location technology to recognize when a customer has entered a business’s brick-and-mortar location and invite them to chat.

Because a contextualized live chat is designed to reflect the customer’s actions or the page they’ve landed on, it may help businesses convert prospects into paying customers by engaging them with relevant questions or talking points. Plus, because a contextual chat may be personalized to match the action that’s triggered them, it can address a customer’s specific needs in the moment, without requiring extensive information gathering or other tactics that take up both a customer’s and agent’s time.

5. Not Placing Live Chat Invitations in Relevant Areas of a Page

It’s important to decide which of your website’s pages will host chat invitations, but placement of the box on the individual page shouldn’t be overlooked. Successful websites are designed to be visual appealing, intuitively organized and easy to navigate, and the placement of every design element should be deliberate and thoughtful. When you offer a live-chat option, the chat box should be easy to find and engage with.

using computer

For the best placement and display, it may be helpful to follow a few simple guidelines:

  • Choose a prominent, intuitive location for your chat invitation. That may be alongside a call to action, or on the right side of the page where a site visitor’s gaze often lands first. Whenever possible, place the chat box invitation in the identical spot on each page, so site visitors can locate it instantly.
  • Incorporate design elements that draw attention to the invitation. Use color, sound, animation and other multimedia elements to draw a visitor’s eye to the chat box invitation. It can be helpful to include relevant nudges or messaging to let visitors know that a live chat option is available.
  • Maintain brand consistency. The chat box should coordinate with a website’s overall design to create a cohesive aesthetic. Consider colors, fonts and background designs, and be sure to reflect the tone of the website, whether that’s serious, playful, understated or high-tech.
  • Personalize the chat box. If possible, use real photos of your live experts instead of generic icons, and always include an introduction that clearly states the expert’s name.
  • Ensure readability. Being able to communicate clearly and effectively should always take precedence over visual appeal. The fonts, colors and background you choose for your chat box should never cause a consumer to have difficulty reading the chat text.
  • Don’t block other website elements. When a customer opens a chat box, it shouldn’t block other important website features, especially if the customer is on a product page or navigating through the checkout process. It may help to open the chat in a new window or to leave blank space on the page to accommodate the overlay.

Successful Live Chats

With the acceleration of online shopping, customers have come to expect the convenience of live chats on websites. For many shoppers, these chats offer the best of both worlds, combining the ease of online communication with the familiarity of talking to a real person.

Although live chats should generally only be one tool of many in a company’s overall online customer experience strategy, they can be a great way to boost leads and sales, increase your average basket through upsell and cross-sell and enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.

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