Forms have ruled the online space since the beginning. And they’ve served us well. But are they going extinct?
Here’s the better question: Should they go extinct?
Live chat (often referred to as web chat) has penetrated the online world, with businesses in both the B2B and B2C online space embracing it. While it’s been used to supplement businesses’ main info-gathering method (forms), now live chat is taking over.
Businesses are replacing contact forms with live chat, using a combination of live agents and chatbots to deliver the best experience.
Let’s compare live chat and form filling.
Why form filling isn’t ideal.
Form filling has been the standard for years, but that also means customers are wise to them. They know sharing their email, and phone number potentially means fending off follow-ups they’re not ready for.
With the mad dash to move sales and service online in the past few years, contact forms just aren’t cutting it.
5 ways forms fall short
- Conversion rates are low. The average form conversion rate is 3–5%, according to WebFX. There are many outliers to that average depending on the industry and other business factors like marketing. Yet, customers have to be pretty sure of your product or service to fill out your contact form—without additional incentives like discounts or lead magnets. This means that even if you’re getting people to your forms, few are turning into sales.
- They take a lot of your team’s time. Do you have an easy way of sorting form entries before they get to your team? If you don’t, your generic forms are siphoning your sales and customer service teams’ time. Sorting through inquiries (are they just asking a customer service question, or are they looking to buy?), vetting leads, following up when you don’t have enough information… It all adds time before you even get to the sales process.
- Poor customer service. People have high expectations for customer service. Over 80% of customers expect to interact with someone immediately when they contact a company, according to Salesforce’s State of the Connected Customer report. Try as you might, customers don’t get instant answers through contact forms. And if their issue requires multiple back-and-forth emails, you’re adding unnecessary friction.
- You’re probably losing sales. How many customers reach your contact form only to bounce? You’re probably very familiar with that number, but what about all the customers who bounce on your website without even making it to the contact form? Even when customers have questions, they might not poke around your website to find your form and ask it.
- You might be alienating customers. Some people are introverts! The thought of filling out a contact form and possibly receiving a phone call can be daunting. Even if they’re interested, the fear of talking to a person can keep them moving forward.
Forms vs. live chat: Why is live chat better?
More and more businesses are embracing live chat as an easy way to engage their website visitors and convert them into paying customers.
Here are a few ways live web chat outperforms contact forms.
Live chat connects customers with your team members (or a chatbot) instantly. No matter how quickly you respond to contact forms, you don’t get the same satisfaction of a quick conversation using chat.
Even knowing that live chat is an option will make your customers more likely to engage. It’s like having a salesperson at a traditional brick-and-mortar store. You may not want to have them walk you through the displays, but it’s nice knowing they’re there if you need them.
Customers don’t engage with a contact form—they fill it out. There’s no back-and-forth conversation and no way to make a connection until after they’ve taken that step. Live chat with your agents (or even a well-trained chatbot) gives them a human connection, and maybe even gives them more affinity for your brand.
Forms can go on every page, but there’s almost always scrolling/searching involved to find it. The benefit of live chat is not only its accessibility on your website, but that it can engage your web visitors in conversation even before they think they need it.
And when you swap forms for chatbots, customers can engage with your brand any time, 24/7. When they have a question on Friday night, they don’t need to wait until Monday morning to get a response.
Familiarity over formality.
Forms are only the beginning of a conversation that will inevitably lead to an email, and then a phone call. Then your customers think they’ll be dealing with unwanted phone calls. It feels like much more of a commitment they’re not ready to make. It’s much simpler for customers to ask a few questions in live chat and leave the conversation when they need to.
Customers prefer it.
Compared to other forms of customer service, live chat frequently performs better, with faster response times, higher CSAT scores, and quicker resolutions. According to Salesforce, 42% of customers prefer live chat over other communication methods. Plus, your customers are more likely to return to a website that offers live chat, according to 63% of respondents, reports SaaSworthy.
What can you do with chatbots?
While live chat can run sufficiently when staffed by your own team, chatbots take it to the next level.
According to Databox’s informal survey, 50% of respondents said chatbots convert better than forms, while only 39% said forms convert better. (The other 11% said they convert the same.)
Here are some things chatbots can do to save you time and improve your customer service:
- Answer customer questions.
- Troubleshoot common problems.
- Gather customer information.
- Determine the department to route customers to.
- Move customers into an agent’s queue across channels.
Forms vs. live chat: Who wins?
Hands down, live chat.
Live chat gives customers the one-to-one experience they prefer when choosing an online business. And with personalization becoming an even bigger part of the customer experience, having conversations is vital.