Live Chat vs Instant Messaging - Which one is better for your business?

October 21, 2021

Due to the convenience of live chats compared to emails or phone calls, it's no wonder they've been on the rise for a while now.

However, rumor has it that there is a new sheriff in town, more specifically Instant Messaging (IM). So, how does live chat compare with instant messaging? Is there an advantage to using one over the other? And which should you use for your business?

We will answer these questions in this blog post, but before that, let's understand what live chat and instant messaging are.

What is live chat?

Live chat is software on your website that allows customers to send private messages that are instantly displayed to you.

Live chats can be used for general support and are ideal when you want to offer visitors an option of instant communication during browsing or shopping on your site. This way, visitors do not have to leave the page and contact customer service via email if they need help.

Advantages of live chat

According to Software Advice, more than 85% of companies plan to offer live chat support by 2022. This is due to some of the benefits that this solution offers. Let's see what they are.

  1. Live chat improves the customer support experience

We all know how much customers dislike being transferred from one service agent to another. With that in mind, imagine how dissatisfied they are when you ask them to contact you through a different channel.

When users come to your website, they want their questions answered right there, at that moment, and this is exactly the benefit that live chat offers businesses.

With the help of live chat, you can remove all the disruptions from the customer journey and offer an uninterrupted, seamless experience.

  1. Wide selection of good quality live chat software

Fortunately for those who want to implement live chat software on their website, there is a wide selection of platforms that offer the service.

Some of the options include:

The list goes on. There are a lot of live chat platforms and you can easily find the one that best suits your needs and budget.

  1. Live chat data takes decision making to the next level

One of the biggest benefits of live chat is access to the information it offers.

Your customer interactions reveal valuable information such as frequent issues, feature requests, suggestions, service satisfaction and more.

Tracking and collecting this information from email or phone conversations takes a lot of effort. However, live chat platforms offer you automated reports that give you all the valuable information mentioned above at your fingertips.

With access to such information, your management can make more informed decisions based on data rather than instinct.

  1. Customers don't have to repeat themselves

Live chat software shows your agents the complete history of each individual customer interaction. This means that the customer only has to explain their current issue once and the agent can access all previous interactions.

Live chat enables service agents to understand whether the current inquiry is related to previous interactions and, if so, what was the problem in previous cases.

Not only does this save a lot of time for both customers and agents, but more importantly, it will give the customer a feeling of first-class service and leave them happily surprised.

Disadvantages of live chat

However, like everything in the world, live chat also has some drawbacks.

  1. Waiting for agents causes dissatisfaction

Nobody likes to wait, and especially when it comes to customer service. However, in case of a large volume of inquiries, customers might have to wait for hours, or even days.

Although some live chat platforms do not require the customer to stay on the website, the general feeling remains that customers expect a response on the website and wait there.

When agents are overwhelmed with too many requests and wait times are high, this causes dissatisfaction because customers stay live in chat and cannot get back to what they were doing while waiting for a response.

  1. Might feel foreign to some

Although most live chat platforms are intuitive, they still might feel foreign to some customers. They might not know how the service works and feel inhibited when they use it for the first time.

Due to interface variation, clients may not be able to attach files or use the platform effectively.

  1. Not optimized on mobile

Live chat software needs to be mobile-friendly. Unfortunately, some platforms are not optimized for mobile devices and this is a big drawback in today's world where the majority of users access websites through their phones.

For example, after sending a message in live chat, in order to get notified about the reply, the user has to stay on the website and not switch to other applications or web pages.

In case the user switches to other apps, there is no way to be notified if the service agent responded in the live chat. This increases the risk of interrupting the interaction as users can get carried away and forget about the message.

What is Instant Messaging for business?

Like live chat, instant messaging platforms are websites and applications that allow users to exchange messages and media in real-time.

The main difference is that instant messaging platforms are part of social networks, which people use for various personal reasons, while in the case of live chat, they are integrated into the company website and are used solely for customers to communicate with companies.

However, with the advances and developments in social media platforms, many businesses started using instant messaging applications to communicate with their users and exchange messages in real-time, just like with live chat.

Advantages of Instant Messaging

Instant messaging is gaining popularity in the business sector, this is because social networks realized the potential and began to personalize the service for businesses. Here are some benefits that businesses can expect from using instant messaging services:

  1. Cost-saving

Yes, live chat platforms offer affordable prices, but in the case of having many users under one account, the price can be more than most businesses can afford.

With social media messaging, most of the time businesses can create accounts for free and remain so regardless of the number of users or messages sent.

  1. Chat history for both parties

One of the great benefits of social media messaging platforms is that it shows chat history to both parties. Agents, as well as clients, can have access and review previous messages.

Such an environment can help customers get their message across more effectively and draw attention to past interactions if the service agents aren’t able to do it themselves.

  1. No need for being online

In the case of instant messaging platforms, clients do not have to be online and wait for a response. They can send a message, go back to their daily tasks, and be notified when the service agent responds, making the waiting process more tolerable and less irritating.

This medium also encourages customers to contact you when they need it, knowing that they will receive a message regardless of office hours or not.

  1. Can be integrated into your website

Facebook Messenger realized the importance of the messaging experience directly on the website and began offering businesses a special plugin that allows customers to chat directly from the company website.

You may also use a free tool like Rasayel’s Omnichannel Widget to offer multiple instant messaging options to your website visitors.

This means that you can still offer instant messaging as a contact option and stop worrying about your customers not being able to reach you when they are on your website.

  1. Easier to connect with customers

Since instant messaging is part of social media platforms, its main focus is on connecting people and fostering relationships. For example, you can interact with customers not only when they ask you a question, but also when they mention you in stories.

They may tag you in their post where you have a chance to interact with them. This creates a stronger and more natural connection that feels like something more valuable rather than just an inquiry-focused message exchange.

  1. Popularity

Social media instant messaging is the most popular communication medium today.

With social media networks like Facebook, WhatsApp and Messenger having billions of active users every month, these platforms are much more likely to be used by your customers than live chat or other web messaging services that you can integrate into your website.

  1. Feels familiar

Customers are used to social media platforms and find it more natural to engage with a company through these networks.

Since instant messaging platforms are a part of everyday life for most customers, they are aware of most of the features and can use them more effectively to get their message across to you.

Also, instant messaging platforms are highly optimized for mobile devices and do not interfere with other activities on the phone. So your customers can simply send you a message and get back to using other apps again, without the need to have your chat constantly open and wait for your response.

  1. Various possibilities to communicate

With instant messaging platforms, users can send you a message, attach an image or video, record a voice message, send GIFs, share their location, mention you in stories, etc.

Since clients are not limited to just text-based communication, they can be more expressive and feel more comfortable.

Disadvantages of Instant messaging

Businesses still face certain challenges when using instant messaging as a form of customer service.

  1. No feeling of anonymity

Most of the instant messaging platforms are part of social networks, which means that there may be some information visible related to the client (name, number, place of residence, etc.).

This can prevent customers from being completely frank in asking questions or inquiring about certain products.

  1. Does not offer as much data

Instant messaging platforms such as Facebook offer general data such as total conversations, average response time or marked-as-spam rates, but do not offer detailed information.

With live chat software, companies can access data such as customer satisfaction scores, recent page views, web sessions, the last time their site was viewed, etc.

  1. Instant messaging platforms can be overwhelming

If you are present on several social media platforms and offer customer service on all of them, it can be overwhelming.

With a huge number of messages coming in from different platforms, you may not know where to start and get confused about whom to contact first.

However, there is a solution. With tools like Rasayel, you can connect all of your social media messaging channels in one inbox and have a unified view of all conversations without leaving customers unanswered.

Which one is better for my business?

The answer to this question really depends on your specific business needs and use case. Some companies may find instant messaging more beneficial, while others prefer to use live chat.

You need to take into account several factors such as customer demographics, nature of your business, customer journey, etc.

As we saw in the previous sections, both solutions have their ups and downs. However, judging by the growing trend of social media use, as well as the simplicity of instant messaging apps, more and more companies are jumping on the social media train.

Social media (SM) platforms, in turn, pay more attention to business needs and support them with various novel solutions. All of this may make us think that instant messaging may soon be (if they aren't already) the preferred method of customer service, not only for your clients, but also for your team.