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Six Business Benefits of Live Chat After a Year That Changed Everything

2020 was the year that changed everything – including how many of us chose to converse with businesses and brands and what we expect from them in return.

As staying at home was mandatory and we lived through uncertain times, our collective time online increased, as did our need for authentic, real time connections and even greater reassurance and support. In response, we embraced quick and easy ways to contact businesses and retailers alike and our use of live chat doubled.

With many pandemic-induced behaviours now here to stay and a phased end to lockdown underway, Louise Wilson, Head of the Finance Sector at Moneypenny shares her top six benefits of live chat and explains how improving lead capture and conversion will be more critical than ever for UK accountancy firms.

ONE: Stay Ahead or Get Ahead

 The pandemic demonstrated just how critical digital accessibility is for business. As we come out of lockdown, accountancy firms must be ready for renewed demand and sure that they are easy to reach through a variety of channels.

Consumers are increasingly familiar with instant messaging and have grown to expect immediacy and efficiency in response. Live chat is a powerful differentiator that can help accountancy firms to show themselves as modern, accessible and relatable while also providing a useful way to triage enquiries and keep unnecessary volumes away from the phones. By using the communications channels that clients and prospects want, accountancy firms will improve their relevance and create a valuable point of difference.

Takeaway tip: Look at all communication channels and check they’re relevant to your firms’ client base and prospects. Could they be made more efficient? Are there new channels and tools to consider?

TWO: Open All Hours

 Over the last year, many of our working patterns, hours and behaviours have changed for good and we’ve seen this reflected in a dramatic increase in the volume of calls and chats taking place outside traditional 9-5 hours.   37% of our live chats now occur outside the standard working day.

While a prospect is unlikely to expect to talk to an accountant at 11pm about an issue, they will expect to be able to get in touch to ask questions, find out more preliminary information and request a call back. Live chat allows you to ensure that not only every enquiry is captured but that every visitor stands the best chance of enquiring.

Being available around the clock has not only become essential to positive brand image and the customer experience, but also to business growth.  So, while your team sleeps, you can still be open all hours and capturing and qualifying new enquiries in a highly cost effective and efficient way.

Takeaway tip: Use other marketing channels, such as social media platforms to promote the fact you’re contactable outside of the 9-5, drive traffic directly to your website and remove clunky contact forms.

 THREE: Build better relationships

 Live chat technology generates six times more website engagement and encourages visitors who wouldn’t otherwise take the time to email or call, to engage. Proactive live chat pop-ups could ask “do you need help with IR35?” or “do you have a question about furlough” to stimulate conversation and help drive enquiries for key services. It also has the potential to signpost web visitors to the information they need quickly and before they get frustrated and take their potential business elsewhere.

By ensuring that customers can always engage with a person via live chat, rather than an awkward or clunky chat bot, accountancy firms can build better relationships with clients and prospects and project a positive and accessible brand image. People buy from people and live chat helps to make brands and their websites more human, real and relatable.  The addition of photos and names to live chat handlers can further support this too – reiterating that prospects and customers are speaking to one of your team.

Takeaway tip: Stand in the clients’ shoes. Review all customer touch points and identify how they can be improved. If the firm prides itself on accessibility, this should be reflected in the comms channels on offer and the availability of the team.

FOUR: Horses for Courses and Customer Insights

 Empathy is an increasingly important part of business as the last year has proven. Live chat provides an opportunity for accountants to show empathy and engage with vulnerable, nervous and reticent customers on their terms. Not everyone wants to pick up the phone.  A live chat pop up can help to stimulate conversation with even the most nervous potential customer.

 The anonymity of live chat also makes people share more detail about their circumstances and needs – which can provide very useful insight and intelligence for accountancy firms. On a micro level, this makes it easier to qualify leads and understand needs, as well as move them along the sales cycle. On a macro level, it provides an opportunity to better understand the market and identify trends and insights that might shape service delivery and innovation.

Post lockdown tip: Ask the team if anyone reviews the live chat transcripts regularly. Consider how they could be used for service innovation and to improve the website’s ‘human touch’.

FIVE: Remove operational barriers.

 All the challenges that have impacted customers over the last year have impacted accountancy teams too. Even with lockdown ending, some staff may still be on furlough and the team may have been downsized or reshaped.

According to our ‘Future Focus Report – The Next 12 Months for Accountancy Firms’, while strengthening client service is the biggest priority for accountancy firms in 2021, it’s closely followed by cost cutting for 32% of firms. 39% of this group will do that by reducing their head count, 37% will delay CAPEX spend and 35% will introduce cost saving measures.  In the face of these challenges, keeping the client experience front and centre becomes much more difficult.

Outsourced live chat can help to remove these operational barriers and ensure that no matter the size of a business, or the demands on the team, communications remain positive, efficient and professional. Quite simply, it can level the playing field for client experience and make even the smallest accountancy firm comparable with larger, better resourced competitors.

Live chat has some very practical benefits too such as helping to keep volume away from the phone. In the time it would take to handle one phone enquiry, it’s possible to handle three live chat interactions making it a very quick alternative. As we come out of lockdown, live chat can help to keep phone lines clear for the most important and most profitable matters.

Takeaway tip: If short term fixes were put in place at the start of the pandemic, review them – and ask if they are suitable for the long term? If hard decisions are about to made about resource or future spend, consider if they help or hinder the practice in achieving its goals and improving the customer experience.

SIX: Drive value and revenue.

 A quarter of accountancy firms are planning to grow their practice using social media (37%), referrals (37%), increased business development (36%) and increased marketing (35%)[1].

This means that accountancy firms must use every opportunity to stimulate and capture enquiries, particularly as we come out of lockdown. This process should start with ensuring that websites aren’t just static shop windows, but places for real-time conversations with real brand representatives that can become leads.

Live chat puts those brand representatives in an accountancy business’s ‘shop’ and also provides a helpful website concierge to cut out the noise of a busy, content-heavy site to steer people to the right information, capture enquiries and qualify leads. If money is being spent on business development and marketing, particularly if it’s driving prospects to a website – there must be the tools to help convert them.

Takeaway tip: Review the ROI of your website and add live chat to the pages that get the most traffic – as well as those where products/services need a push.

After a year like no other, consumers want to feel more connected to the brands and businesses they buy from – including their accountancy partners.  This desire for authentic, real time and any-time access to accountants is driving change across the sector, as it learns to understand these new wants and needs and responds accordingly.

For accountancy firms keen to improve and protect their customer experience, convert more leads and bring brand values to life, live chat is a very important communications channel.

To download a copy of Moneypenny’s ‘Future Focus Report – The Next 12 Months for Accountancy Firms’ visit: https://www.moneypenny.com/uk/resources/blog/future-focus-the-next-12-months-for-accountancy-firms/

ENDS

Moneypenny handles 15 million calls and live chats for financial services businesses every year and is trusted by the UK’s top accounting firms, including five of the Top 30.

Established in 2000, Moneypenny is the world’s market leader for telephone answering, live chat, outsourced switchboard and customer contact solutions. In total, more than 13,000 businesses across the UK benefit from Moneypenny’s mix of extraordinary people and ground-breaking technology.

For more information about Moneypenny’s work in the financial sector visit:

www.moneypenny.com/uk/accountancy-answering-services/

For more media information contact Helen or Sophie at Plume PR.

helen@plumepr.co.uk / 07463 757740

sophie@plumepr.co.uk / 07860 691397

Louise Wilson

Louise Wilson

Moneypenny
Head of the Finance Sector at Moneypenny