How to implement live chat on your charity website

John Newton's picture
John Newton

Gaining engagement and effecting outcomes with your website is often the key goal for many organisations and while we've heard a lot of talk recently about chatbots, old fashioned live chat has been around for a while now and seems to be gaining in popularity. Formerly restricted to sales, many charities are now seeing the wider potential of live chat to help break down barriers with users. I thought it would be useful to share a few observations on implementing live chat services on Drupal websites and to highlight a couple of issues that charities in particular might want to bear in mind when considering live chat implementation.

First off, lets look at the logistics. It's an abvious point but if you are going to run a live chat service you'll ned to be clear about when the service is going to covered and by whom. Take a look at your analytics and make sure the cover you aim to provide corresponds with your spikes in site traffic and doesn't just reflect your core working hours. You'll also need a protocol for response. You can build on what you already have assuming you run a helpline or similar. How are you trying to help your clients? Be clear about the next steps and outcomes for the interactions. Sales teams use KPIs to help measure the effectiveness of interactions. Your goal may not be sales but you should still be measuring what you do. Set a realistic internal training schedule to get everyone up-to-speed on how the admin system works and also script some realistic scenarios for your team to be dealing with. Never implement live chat and treat a real world situation as a learning opportunity.

What about the technology itself and the costs?

There's no shortage of live chat options out there but I'm going to just mention a few services that might be of particular interest to UK charities. 

Livechat is one of the leading services (confusing the domain is livechatinc.com not livechat.com which is another live chat service provider called livechat.com!). What I really like about Livechat is that it has a handy Drupal module that  works flawslessly which makes implementation incredibly easy and quick. There are plenty of opportunities to customise the chat display too, including the ability to add in photographs of your staff member who is currently working on the live chat. I've found their support to be great too. Livechat is a paid service and prices start at $16/month per chat account. However, if you have 2 or 3 live chat representatives or more and if you want full control over your chat window and access to a range of reports this cost will increase.

I only have one concern with Livechat and that is where and how the data is kept. This is not a concern about security per se but at time of writing the data centres are in Texas and Frankfurt. So if you want to keep your data in the UK then this service might not be for you. If UK data control is a key issue for you then I suggest you check out click4assistance and see what they have to offer. If you are providing a sign-posting service to help your users then this sort of data issue might not be a deciding factor. However, if you believe your servcie will be used to support people who are in any way vulnerable or likely to wish to convey sensitive information, I highly recommend spending some R&D time looking into data storage, retention and the legalities of yor provider's privacy policy.

Another servcie well worth checking out is tawk.to. This is a completely free service for a basic set up. So there's a small tawk.to branding item in the footer of the chat window but apart from that you can customise the chat window. You can also access the usual chat features of working with teams, scheduling online & offline times, set up alerts and so on. There's a freemium model so you can pay for additional services like video and screen sharing. Once again, data storage might be an issue. They use Google hosting which means they use a server near to your geographical location but this might not be in the UK.

I have a couple of niggles with tawk.to. For example, I couldn't get their Drupal module to work but the service was easy to integrate by other means. Sometimes changes can take a minute or two to take effect which can catch you out. Finally, it's true the service is not as feature rich as some but, hey, it's free! And on the plus side again, I've found their support to be great too.

If you've found this article helpful and have any experiences of running a live chat in your charity, please let me know as I will share these more widely to help others in the sector.

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