Live Chat: What Does a Modern Solution Look Like?

When organizations are considering a chat strategy, there’s a common debate over whether live chat or a messenger app is the right method to use for client communication. Both models have pros and cons, but technologies have evolved to make a hybrid approach not just possible, but effective. By blending both models together, you can test, collect feedback, and grow—and new tools make it easier than ever to take the best from each approach.

Read about Kustomer Chat’s new features here.

But before we define the benefits and drawbacks of each, it’s important to define the difference between “Synchronous” and “Asynchronous” messaging.

Synchronous Messaging:

This is commonly associated with “Live Chat”, where a customer can only maintain one chat “session” at a time with an Agent. These conversations only exist for as long as the customer is active or at least one agent is online.

Asynchronous Messaging:

This is commonly associated with email, social media, or SMS messaging. Within these channels, neither the customer nor the agent communicate in real time. This means customers can start a chat and come back to it an hour later without worrying about ending “sessions”.

What’s wrong with Live Chat?

Chat used to be confined to a website, where customers would wait for an agent to become available. If they got disconnected or refreshed the page, the session would end. To keep customers from waiting after sending their chat message, many organizations would disable the chat experience on their site whenever agents weren’t available. Once connected to an agent, customers would have to stay confined to their desk chairs chatting back and forth until they resolved their issue.

The Old Version of Live Chat: Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Customers get instant replies and immediate feedback, which sets that expectation going forward.
  • CON: The “session” philosophy means a customer can’t message you from their computer, and then respond to you from their mobile phone.
  • CON: Normally works based on “agent availability” meaning that if agents are maxed out or not available chat is removed, and you are asked to leave a message or worse, the website hides chat completely.
  • CON: Missed/Dropped Chats immediately stop a conversation and require everyone to start over.

Why Have Messaging Apps Replaced Live Chat?

With the introduction of smartphones, app-based communication shifted customer expectations. They could open an app, click “contact support”, and start a conversation, but didn’t have to wait around for a reply. When a reply did come, they’d get a notification to check it and keep the conversation going. This allowed customers to move freely from a desktop to their mobile app if they needed to get up and grab a coffee, for example. The ease of use across any device lead to a natural shift from the need to be “live” to customers becoming accustomed to asynchronous messaging within third-party apps.

Asynchronous Messaging App: Pros and Cons

  • PRO: Customers can start a chat from their computer and finish it from their smartphone.
  • PRO: The app is always available as a means to collect and store customer issues while “offline”, which agents can follow up on later.
  • PRO: Past chat conversations can be stored and replied to for context.
  • PRO: Customers don’t expect instant replies.
  • CON: Conversations are never “closed”, making it hard to measure agents on that metric.
  • CON: Conversations with customers are dragged out over a longer period of time, slowing down resolution times.
  • CON: Customer can always reply to old conversations, which can make it harder to follow up and provide timely or quality support.

While asynchronous messaging has become more popular, there are some great concepts that underlie Live Chat functionality, like using Agent Availability to set expectations. Instead of completely removing the experience of chat from your site when agents aren’t available, you can collect customers’ info and issue, and then pass them to another channel for follow-up—setting the expectation that a reply will not be live.

Modern Chat Gives You the Best of Both Worlds

Ideally, you can bridge the gap between these kinds of synchronous and asynchronous messaging by providing a customer the ability to chat live with an agent, but maintain an asynchronous state when agents are not available or over-capacity by shifting the conversation to channels like email or text messaging or setting expectations about your reply times.

Customers need a fast response to get an answer or complete a sale—like asking about clothing sizes on a retail site—but you can’t always provide 24/7 communication. That’s why your chat tool needs to evolve to combine the best features of synchronous Live Chat and an asynchronous Messaging App. Kustomer chat is always on, allowing you to set business hours so that customers have the right expectations. That makes it easy to provide synchronous chat when agents are available, and asynchronous when they’re not. The history of every conversation is saved across platforms, so it’s easy for agents and customers to move from platform to platform for a fully omnichannel chat experience. The option to close conversations makes chat support more efficient and easier to manage and measure, and because everything is tied to the customer, agents have all the necessary conversation when they start a new one. Modern chat solutions meet the expectations of your customers and the needs of your business—and with Kustomer Chat, you can deliver the best possible chat and messaging experience.

Kustomer’s Chat makes it easy to deliver the experience that’s right for your team and organization. To learn more about our latest additions to our chat offering, read our product update here.