22 Jan 3 things to consider before you hire live chat agents
Adding live chat to your website can help you capture 40 percent more leads online. However, it also means answering a key question: Should you hire live chat agents?
The question is a weighty one. Building your own live chat team is a large investment. However, live chat offers an undeniable lead capture advantage. If you want to convert more website visitors into warm leads, a chat solution will help you do that. However, you have to consider who will handle incoming chats. And even that question carries a few more with it. Here are a few of the things you should consider if you plan to hire your own chat team:
1. How much does each chat agent cost?
Hiring new employees is expensive. Even after you’ve completed the hiring process, onboarding and ongoing salary and benefit requirements represent significant expenditures for any business. If you hope to hire your own chat team one of the first things you should consider is the overall cost per employee. The average cost per hire is $4,129 for each new employee, the Society for Human Resource Management found. However, that’s not the only expense you should account for when hiring chat employees.
Once you’ve hired a chat agent – which can take 42 days on average, according to the SHRM – there are onboarding costs to consider, as well as salary and benefit commitments. Even if you’ve hired an experienced chat agent, engaging prospects is different for each business. You have to teach employees to convert website visitors into leads for your business. That means developing scripts specific to your services and training your new hires on your industry. There are big differences between legal live chat and medical live chat requirements.
Onboarding can cost around $400 per new hire, HROnboard explained. That brings the cost of a new employee to over $4,500. And then you have to consider what you will pay the individual for annual salary and what your chat agent’s benefits package will look like.
Finally, you should also consider turnover rate and how much high chat-employee churn may increase costs. Live chat jobs typically have a relatively high turnover rate and each time one leaves you’ll have to shell out thousands of dollars to replace the individual. Those costs can add up over time.
What about current employees?
If hiring new employees to handle chat seems too expensive another option to consider is handing the responsibility off to current staff. However, such a move could backfire. Just like hiring new employees, it’s important to weigh the pros and cons of this option before taking the plunge.
The biggest benefit of having existing employees handle your chat is inside knowledge of your brand and services. While you’ll still have to train the individuals, one thing you won’t have to cover is your business. That’s something your employees should know inside and out. However, you will still have to train them on new responsibilities. And that’s where the cons come in.
Many workers are stressed out. Often, that’s because they’re responsibilities are growing faster than they can keep up. In fact, Millennials, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers all rated “changing job requirements” among their top five workplace stressors, according to a Udemy survey. Too much stress in the office can affect employee productivity, as well as their personal lives. Ultimately that lost production could affect your business or lead employees to look elsewhere for work. If you plan to hand off chat responsibilities to current staff it’s important to make sure they have the bandwidth to handle the extra undertaking.
2. How many live chat agents do you need?
The number of live chat agents your business requires ultimately depends on your website traffic. The more visitors you have, the more live chat agents you’ll have to hire. However, there are some minimum conditions you should meet to ensure a functional chat operation. For example, at the bare minimum, you’ll need at least two chat agents available at all times your chat is operational. For smaller businesses, though, it is better to have three agents working at any given time. If one of your chat agents calls out sick, you still have two available. That way, when one agent steps away there’s always at least one more available to speak with incoming website visitors.
However, three chat agents is a minimum requirement. Chances are you’ll need more than three to run an effective live chat operation. Especially for medium-sized businesses. A safe number for most small- and medium-sized businesses is around six chat agents.
3. What does your live chat availability look like?
So you’ve built a plan around a 6-person live chat team that operates for eight hours a day. That’s great, but did you know that 42 percent of chat leads come outside normal business hours. Have you considered how your business will convert nighttime or weekend website visitors into leads?
Live chat is a great way to capture more leads, but if you’re not taking chats at all hours you’re not getting the most out of it. If you hope to convert as many website visitors as possible into leads you’ll have to run your website chat 24 hours per day, seven days per week. And that means investing more in the resources required to keep chat up and running all the time. In that case, it makes sense to double your chat team from six to twelve individuals. Each will require training on your business, your industry and live chat best practices.
Should you hire live chat agents?
If you’re considering investing in your own live chat team it’s important to consider the above factors. Your chat operation won’t be as effective as it can be without the right number of agents. And it won’t capture the optimal number of leads if it isn’t running all day, every day. Ultimately it can cost your business more than $50,000 just to hire and onboard 12 chat agents. From there you will also have to pay each agent’s annual salary and cover the employees’ benefits. For smaller businesses, such large regular expenses may not be feasible. However, it is important to make investments in a sizable chat team that runs 24-hours per day if you hope to get an optimal return on investment.
While it may be tempting to hire live chat agents, another option to consider is third party chat agents. Some live chat solution providers maintain their own teams of industry-trained chat agents available at all times to capture website visitors’ information. Even if you don’t entirely hand your chat operation over to third-party agents, they can help your employees handle overflow and ensure that every chat gets answered in a timely and professional manner.
If your business has the resources to look for and onboard the number of employees necessary to add live chat to your website it is certainly worth considering. After all, live chat is proven to help businesses capture more leads from their websites. However, regarding who handles the chats, it’s also important to consider other options. Ultimately, it’s best to weigh affordability against lead capture potential and choose the best solution for your business.