What’s the difference between live chat and WhatsApp?

Pearl • 7 minute read • 01/06/2021
Online customer service
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Buying online has never been easier. With a few clicks of a button, you’ve bought those beautiful new shoes or that user-friendly vacuum cleaner. Taking out insurance or reporting nuisance also is done in no time these days via online channels. And if you have questions about a purchase, service or product, you want to be helped as quickly as possible. Are you ready for conversational customer contact, but don’t know where to start? We’ll list for you the differences and similarities of live chat and WhatsApp – the two most popular personal channels!

Trend or necessity? Conversational customer contact is here to stay!

Why is it so important to help customers directly with a question or complaint? Just imagine a customer being angry because of a failed delivery. Then, of course, you’d want to help the customer immediately so that they’re satisfied and don’t spread bad reviews. Help the customer who’s still in the middle of his emotions immediately. In this way, you still have the possibility to change the customer’s emotions and ensure a positive experience.

A direct way of conversing, also called conversational customer contact, is the ultimate way to work on your customer satisfaction. Trend or necessity? Conversational customer contact is indispensable in a good customer service strategy and can be realised through channels such as live chat and WhatsApp.

Personalised and accessible service? The similarities between live chat and WhatsApp

Live chat and WhatsApp have a lot in common as customer contact channels. Both channels are accessible and contribute to a warm, confidential relationship with your customers. They are personal channels where people often speak informally. Both channels facilitate direct and fast communication. By communicating with the customer in a personal way, you lower the threshold for the customer to contact you, and you reduce the distance between customer and organisation.

Do you often receive the same simple questions through these channels? If so, you can easily handle them with a virtual assistant, a chatbot. In this way, you tackle the necessity for immediate availability of service staff. It also allows agents to focus more on complex questions, as the simple and repetitive questions are automatically handled by the bot.
The differences between live chat and WhatsApp? Here’s what to look out for!
Are you convinced of the power of conversational customer contact, but wondering which channel is best for your situation? We’ll list the biggest differences between live chat and WhatsApp for you.

The differences between live chat and WhatsApp? Here's what to look out for!

Are you convinced of the power of conversational customer contact, but wondering which channel is best for your situation? We’ll list the biggest differences between live chat and WhatsApp for you.

1. Live chat is linked to your website

You implement live chat on your website. If customers have questions about things they find – or don’t find – on the website or your social media, they can contact you directly through that same platform. By implementing live chat on your website, you provide a higher level of information, and it contributes to your conversion rate. You can also better direct the customer on the website by proactively offering them help. Do you notice that customers often bounce on a particular page? Then encourage them to start a chat so you can guide them through the ordering process.

Gartner research shows that live chat has a very positive effect on customer experience. By interacting with your customers you give them a nice feeling, and because of this pleasant experience they’re more likely to make a purchase. Live chat contributes more than other channels to customer satisfaction, especially because of its interactive nature. With WhatsApp you’ll be interacting, of course. But unlike live chat, WhatsApp is not yet linked to the platforms on which you sell your products or services.

2. With WhatsApp, you communicate through the customer's preferred channel

Today, almost everyone has WhatsApp on their phone. With 2 billion users in 180 countries, you can reach almost anyone with this popular channel. Whereas with live chat you enable communication via your preferred channel for customers, with WhatsApp you give the control to the customer. They can approach you through their own preferred channel.

Customers use WhatsApp on a daily basis, and therefore know exactly how it works. WhatsApp is incredibly user-friendly for both the young and the elderly. With a simple click of a button you can send texts, photos, videos and voice messages. And since you’re an organisation among conversations with friends and family, one almost always assumes that the tone of the conversation is personal and informal. By using WhatsApp and connecting with your customer in an informal and personal way, you’re working to build a confidential relationship.

3. Response time with live chat is shorter than with WhatsApp

Of course, it’s great that you can guide the customer through the (buying) process with live chat on your website. But if the customer has to wait too long for an answer, chances are that the process will be aborted. The pressure to answer quickly via live chat is high. Your customer contact center needs to be well equipped for this.

Research by Comm100 shows that the average wait time on live chat in 2019 was still 50 seconds. In 2020, the average wait time went down by 30%, to 35 seconds. In general, it’s recommended that the customer doesn’t wait longer than 2 minutes.

Through WhatsApp, the customer also expects a quick response, but you don’t necessarily have to answer within a few minutes. Many customer contact centers take 1 or 2 hours to answer questions via WhatsApp. This gives service agents a little more time to answer questions properly.

“WhatsApp works intuitively, and you can easily start a dialogue. You can ‘ping pong’ with the customer, so to speak, without having to answer directly, like by phone or live chat.” André Tuinenburg, Head of Customer Care at Sunweb Group Group.

4. Live chat can be turned on and off. Via WhatsApp, customers can always contact you

Through live chat, you’re expected to respond quickly to questions. Fortunately, it’s possible to switch off live chat when you’re not available. Therefore, customers can only contact you via this channel if agents are also available to answer the questions. Optionally, you can choose to place a form within the chat after office hours, in which customers are asked to fill in their contact details so that they can be called back or emailed at a later time.

“The great thing about live chat is that you can control when customers can reach you with the push of a button.” – Alev Grim, Traffic and Social Media Specialist at Delta Energie

With WhatsApp, this isn’t possible. One can ask a question via this channel at any time of the day, any day. If you don’t have the ability to answer the question within 24 hours, then you can send a template containing a set text. Of course, there are ways to direct the communication somewhat. For example, you could indicate on the website or in the profile of WhatsApp when people can or cannot expect an answer via this channel.

Live chat and/or WhatsApp?

Conversational customer contact is a necessary part of a modern webcare strategy. The advantages of channels like live chat and WhatsApp speak for themselves. Both are personal, accessible and contribute to a warm, confidential bond with your customers through fast communication. Would you like to get started, but are you unsure about the pros and cons of WhatsApp compared to live chat? Then take a good look at the features and differences of both channels.

Can we help you make the right decision? Our experts are ready for you!

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Pearl Vink
As a driven writer with a passion for heavy metal, social media, marketing and events, I enjoy writing interesting, thought provoking content for OBI4wan. It makes my day when I hear that I inspire organizations and their customers with interesting articles, a nice conversation, a stimulating newsletter or a convincing social media post.

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