Choosing online chat

Choosing online chat

Online chat is an application integrated to your website. You can use chat to hold rich text discussions with visitors to your website.

Importantly, 40% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person is one of the most important features a website can offer. One in five people use online chat so they can shop whilst they work.

What’s your use case?

Online chat helps in many ways. Use case determines the system you choose based on its functionality.

Users expect quick responses. Consequently, you will need to ensure that your service is staffed with the right people available to answer different kinds of questions. Because of this, chat will have an impact on day to day operations.

Comparing favourably to other options such as voice (88%), email (85%), and social media messaging (Facebook 84%, Twitter 77%), 92% of customers feel most satisfied when using a live chat feature. That’s according to one established provider, Zendesk.

Here are some ways to use chat:

Web features support. Chat is used to support users of your web-based services. Offering online account access when someone gets stuck logging in, will result in an expectation that the user will get an online response to an online problem. As a result, live help during a loan application process reduces drop-out rates.

Some chat systems provide semi or fully automated responses to common questions, reducing reliance on staff to respond to regular queries. Expect to pay more to use artificial intelligence to build answers.

Newsletter signup and feedback. Some chat software provides small add-ons like newsletter sign-ups. Follow up customer care questions and quick feedback can be requested from a user.

Lead generation. How many potential members find your website but don’t sign up to membership? Probably the vast majority. Web visitors that are thinking about joining the credit union but not do so this visit can be captured using a chat-based contact form. Add them to a prospect mailing list. Send useful information. Outline the benefits of joining your credit union.

Business to business. Some chat services enable different greetings based on the web page being visited. Business to business landing pages with specific chat responses could be set up. Automate a discussion about payroll benefits. Provide signup options.



You’ll want to set your own opening hours. Without these people contacting you out of office hours are expecting an immediate response. Half of consumers expect your business to be open 24/7. Typically, chat initiated outside of opening hours gathers the visitor’s email address, sending them an email when you reply.

Ensuring that chat reflects your branding and web design requires a flexible widget. Using this you can change logos, colours and the look and feel of the chat icon so it matches your web design and brand.

Covering staff absences is important. Specialist responses may be required. Administrators can answer basic questions. Loans officers are the people to respond to queries about an application. Whoever is leading on payroll deduction is best placed to speak to businesses looking to partner with your credit union. Because of this, multiple users is a useful feature.

Pre-defined answers. Cheaper chat software allows you to copy and paste responses to live chat. Some have an auto-complete feature. Fully automated responses require something more powerful and this comes at additional cost.

You may find that a Mobile app is less important if you are based in a fixed office.

Understanding how many chats you handle with good reporting is helpful. Knowing how quickly responses are given enables you to manage visitor expectations with a published waiting time.



I talked about an IT eco-system connected through APIs in an earlier post. Using best in class providers specialising in distinct areas of operation, improves your overall operation.

Slack is a team messaging system. Discussions and documents are split across ‘channels’ for co-ordinated debate and decisions. An integration between Slack and chat sends messages into a relevant channel alerting the right people.

WordPress. Most chat providers have a WordPress plug in. For other Content Management Systems a basic level of programming is required.

Newsletter sign up. Visitors provide their email address in a small box in the chat area. As a result they can sign up to receive newsletters and other information.

Fans assume they can contact you using Messenger if you use Facebook marketing. Facebook Messenger integration means discussions are re-routed to online chat, including any Customer Relationship Management software you use. Enabling you to see who you are talking to, visitors also have a record of their discussion. Because of this, it is easier to pick up a previous thread for follow up conversations.

Next step – loan applications via chatbot?


You get what you pay for. There’s a balance between cost and functionality. It’s important to check out the company behind the chat service. Will they last? Is there a product roadmap? Is it well-used and respected?

There are many providers. Choosing the right software will depend on use case, functionality and required integrations.

Here are three options:

Drift sets the standard. Flexible, feature rich and easy to integrate. There’s a free account for basic chat. Personalisation costs £45 per month. Extensive features such as appointment booking, automated responses to FAQs and custom branding increases cost to £400 per month.  Consequently, without this kind of investment, you’re not really going to get essential features.

PalDesk is a relatively new entrant. PalDesk has a feature-rich free version with Facebook integration, custom widget and analytics. Additionally for £11 per user per month you get unlimited conversation history, more reports and mailchimp integration. Automated bots are in the roadmap. As a result, this is a recommended chat to kick things off.

Intercom is more than chat. Intercom has three parts; chat, articles and messages. Articles are user guides to direct visitors to helpful documentation when they have a question about a product. Chat functionality is extensive. There are lots of integrations. Its £75 per month for two users. Customer support is great. You’ll need to spend another £40 to automate FAQ responses.

Managing a mailing list uses messages. But Mailchimp, Drip or Benchmark are cheaper. Articles are useful if you are offering products that require written support including online account access, mobile apps, current accounts or prepaid cards.


If you want to receive more information and tips, sign up.

Do you have any questions or comments? Let us know.