Live chat
Did you know that live chat has actually been around for almost 50 years? It was first used by The University of Illinois back in 1973. Since then it has slowly started gracing the bottom right hand corner of our screens as a way for organisations to quickly and efficiently help their online customers.

And it’s proving successful.

Research shows that live chat now has the highest satisfaction levels for any customer service channel at 73 per cent compared to 61 per cent for email and 44 per cent for voice calls. Of those that prefer live chat almost eight out of 10 consumers say it is because help is fast and immediate. The average response time for email is 12 hours, for social media queries it is four hours, for voice calls it is 15 minutes and for live chat it is just two minutes. For a world that is increasingly demanding quicker solutions live chat ticks the box.

However, the benefits of live chat do not just extend to the consumer; there are business benefits, too. For instance research conducted by the Aberdeen Group, which compared businesses that utilise live chat compared to those that don’t, revealed there is a:

• 34 per cent greater annual improvement in customer satisfaction rate.
• 2.4 times greater annual increase in cross-sell and up-sell revenue.
• 20 per cent greater annual improvement in customer contact abandonment rate.
• 9.3 times greater annual improvement in agent utilisation rate.
• 2.6 times greater annual improvement in customer care costs.

Moreover for customers who use live chat prior to making a purchase, there is a 10 per cent increase in average order value, a 48 per cent increase in revenue per chat hour, and a 40 per cent conversion rate. And shoppers who utilise chat are worth 4.5 times as much as those who do not chat.

Clearly there is a very compelling business case for live chat. However, with the introduction of GDPR last year an organisation must have the correct back end procedures in place, or risk non-compliance. This is particularly true since it is very easy to forget just how much data is generated through the medium. As well as its core chat functionality, live chat software typically comes with inbuilt tracking and web analytics meaning organisations can uncover real-time data on customers and prospects. This might include key visitor details such as location, IP address and company. Additionally, it is possible to capture PII that the visitor types into a form field such as name, email, address, booking or purchase details. Importantly, it can capture any letters typed even if the user has not clicked a “submit” button to complete. And this typically all happens before the chat has even begun! Once the session is live any existing customer data can be pulled into the chat for reference. This can come from the browsing session or from a more detailed CRM integration. Additionally, during the chat, there may be a necessary exchange of personal data. For example, the chat operator may need to take further details to help with a query or request, such as a passport number or an alternative delivery address. And then finally once the chat has concluded it is usual practice to store the captured data in order to update or create new customer records.

Under GDPR the consumer must give opt-in permission to process their data and the data must be responsibly maintained. Unfortunately a new study by RSM reveals that one in three businesses across Europe are still not GDPR compliant despite the new regulation being over 14 months old. Even the ICO believes that its website is not wholly compliant – not inconceivably as a result of its live chat function!

So whilst live chat is an incredibly powerful customer service tool – it comes with responsibility. It is crucial to understand how to integrate the solution into the wider data management platform so as not to fall foul of GDPR – or indeed new ePrivacy legislation that will be coming into force sometime soon.

For further information on integrating live chat, or ensuring that it is compliant please don’t hesitate to contact us!

If you want to know and understand more about the way data is changing the world you live in, or would like to know how data can add value to your business, please email me at


Dave Gurney

CEO, Alchemetrics - Expert in Data & Digital Marketing
enabling senior marketers to value from engaging customers online.