[Report] Live Chat Benchmark Report 2017

Live Chat Benchmark Report 2017
Note:The latest version, Live Chat Benchmark Report 2018, is now live! Click here and discover the latest customer service trends and live chat metrics to inform your CX and online sales strategy.


This report reveals our findings on usage of live chat, using real-world statistics and data we have collected from our customer base.

Throughout our years of experience in the live chat industry, nearly all customers, especially those who have a large support or online sales team, have reported that they prefer to reference benchmark data before making the decision to integrate live chat into their customer service strategy.

This is why we have produced, are producing, and will continue to produce our benchmark reports. As a leading live chat solution provider, our team not only strives to offer the most powerful software, but also cares deeply about helping our customers to get the best possible results out of their live chat tool.

We have collected and analyzed our live chat data from 2016. We then used this data to compare five main customer service metrics between 2015 and 2016, to find what’s stayed the same and what’s changed.

Based on our findings, we have provided some suggestions regarding how to be prepared for the increasing live chat demand and get better results in 2017. We hope that these findings and suggestions will help you make informed decisions on live chat adoption, and improve your live chat utilization.

What’s inside:

  1. Data and Methodology
  2. Key Metrics
    • Customer Satisfaction Rate
    • Wait Time
    • Chat Duration
    • Chats per Month
    • Chats per Agent per Month
  3. Key Findings
  4. Demand for Live Chat Grows
  5. Chat Volume Fluctuates by Season
  6. Live Chat Across Countries
  7. Live Chat Across Industries
  8. What To Do in 2017

The PDF version of the report is also available. You can download it to your local drive for future reference. Download PDF Version Live Chat Benchmark Report 2017

Data and Methodology

The data discussed in this report has been gathered from the 1st of January, 2016, to the 31st of December, 2016. The data sample covers companies all over the world, and represents 12 industries that use live chat either for customer service or for online sales.

The criteria for selection within the report were:

  • Only customers with established live chat implementations were taken under consideration. This allowed us to filter out trial accounts that are not representative of the actual customer service a company provides.
  • To qualify for the report, a company had to have at least 30 chats per month. This ruled out those that didn’t reach a minimum level of web traffic.

Taking this approach has allowed us to create a report which provides comprehensive, accurate insights to benefit your organization’s customer service team.

Key Metrics

Customer Satisfaction Rate
Benchmark Report 2017-Customer Satisfaction Rate

Our data shows that customer satisfaction is slightly down from 2016. As our customer base is growing, this change may be due to a growing data set. Regardless, it’s important to be aware that in an increasingly demanding customer service environment, the onus is on you to keep raising the bar in terms of the service you provide, to consistently meet and exceed increasingly demanding customer expectations, year on year.

“Behind every superior customer experience, regardless of the mechanism or channel of delivery, is emotional intelligence that capture customers’ hearts, minds, and loyalty. There will always be differences in what channel customers prefer yet the experience they want is quite consistent.”
Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Kate Nasser

Kate Nasser

President of The People Skills Coach ™

Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Dan Gingiss

Dan Gingiss

Host of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast

“There is no doubt that customer expectations continue rise in all service channels, which will make that Satisfaction Rate more and more difficult to achieve. Short wait times and fast, friendly resolution are the keys here.”
Wait Time
Benchmark Report 2017-Wait Time

Customers hate waiting. Because of this, businesses are striving to reduce the time customers have to wait before being connected to the company. Over half of the companies in our sample recorded a wait time less than 30 seconds. This shortened wait time may indicate that companies are utilizing new advances in our software such as advanced routing rules to reduce queue length and speed up the connection with visitors.

“For all interactions, wait times must be minimal. Customers don’t like to wait, especially on technology, so it is imperative for a company to focus on response or wait time.”
Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken

Customer Service Expert & New York Times Bestselling Author

Chat Duration
Benchmark Report 2017-Chat Duration

The amount of time it takes to end a chat with customers is slightly down compared to that in 2015. This shortened handle time may indicate that companies are utilizing new advances in our software such as canned messages shortcuts to reduce overall chat duration and speed up the time customers spend on chats. The fact that there isn’t a huge decrease in these stats, however, indicates that companies are recognizing the benefits of quality, considering interactions, and ensuring that where handle times drop, customer experience isn’t taking a hit too.

“One of the biggest advantages to chat vs. email and social media is that it eliminates the lengthy back-and-forth and replaces it with real-time resolution. So as 24-hour response times in email have given way to an hour or less in social media, chat essentially brings that time down to nearly zero. This is a great experience for customers. As to why a chat session would still take an average of more than 14 minutes, perhaps this is because the customer service inquiries are becoming more complex.”
Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Dan Gingiss

Dan Gingiss

Host of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast

Chats Per Month
Benchmark Report 2017-Chats Per Month

There has been a significant increase in the number of chats an average business has to handle during the course of a month in 2016, which is a signal that customers are increasingly choosing live chat as a preferred channel of communication with businesses.

“Live Chat is a great customer service technology that has been increasing in popularity over the years. There are several important points to remember about Live Chat, the most important being that it typically is replacing the phone call. There must be a benefit to the customer opting to use Live Chat over the traditional phone support. That typically comes in the form of convenience, speed and the right information. Overall, Live Chat is a major customer service channel. And, as AI (Artificial Intelligence) improves, it will make the customer experience even better.”
Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Shep Hyken

Shep Hyken

Customer Service Expert & New York Times Bestselling Author

Chats Per Agent Per Month
Benchmark Report 2017-Chats Per Agent Per Month

Live chat agents are handling more chats than ever. Our data shows that compared to last year, agents are handling 121 more chats per month. This has obvious resource implications for businesses of all kinds, as well as underlining the need for frequent, effective training to ensure your agents can improve their skills as live chat popularity grows.

“Agents are handling more chats than ever, but that’s a double-edged sword. On one hand, contact centers can serve customers more efficiently when their chat agents are kept busy. Reducing costs while providing excellent service is a major selling point for live chat, so this is a big win. On the other hand, service declines when chat agents try to handle too many chat sessions simultaneously. The most obvious problem is the delay between responses increases, which can frustrate the customer. Another less-obvious problem is agents become much more prone to mistakes when they try to handle too many sessions at once. Smart managers should keep a close eye on their agents to optimize productivity without overloading them.”
Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Jeff Toister

Jeff Toister

Author of The Service Culture Handbook

Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Adrian Swinscoe

Adrian Swinscoe

Author of How To Wow

“To avoid agent over-whelm, it would be useful to take a closer look at the reasons behind the chat requests. This would help in the identification of themes and recurring problems that could be assuaged with other solutions. For example, research has shown that up to 60% of all requests into a contact center come about because the customer wasn’t able to find the answer they were looking for on the company’s website.”

Key Findings

  1. More website visitors choose live chat as a preferred communication channel

    When looking at the data in 2016, we found that the chat-to-visit ratio improved by 4.94% at the most compared to 2015. That is to say, a higher percentage of website visitors chose to chat with agents for help.

  2. Wait time affects customer satisfaction greatly

    Out of the 10 countries that improved customer satisfaction, 8 of them had a decreased wait time. At the same time, 10 out 12 industries that improved customer satisfaction shortened visitor wait times.

  3. Live chat agents are getting busier

    An average live chat agent has to handle 44.2% more chats per month in 2016 compared to last year. As live chat is becoming increasingly popular and accepted as a preferred online communication channel, we assume that this trend will continue in 2017. Companies had better provide consistent and effective training to make agents competitive and prepared.

  4. Demand for live chat steadily grows

    The total chat volume in 2016 nearly tripled that in 2015. Both statistics can back up the conclusion that the demand for live chat has been steadily growing.

  5. Chat volume fluctuates by seasons

    We noticed chat volume reached highs and lows over the course of 2016. The amount of chats handled in July is only about 63% of the amount handled in December.

  6. Australian companies see the biggest chat volume increase

    An average Australian company needs to handle 15 times more chats per month in 2016 than in 2015. Even with the substantially increased workload, they still manage to hit a relatively high customer satisfaction at 91.43%, nearly 10% higher than the global customer satisfaction rate.

  7. US companies just hit the average line regarding customer satisfaction

    US was still the largest participant in our benchmark report, with nearly one third of companies located there. The average monthly chat volume has increased at a relatively steady rate of 54.74%. Yet the customer satisfaction decreased slightly by 0.85% and just hit the average customer satisfaction line.

  8. Education institutions see the biggest chat volume increase

    The education industry saw the biggest chat volume increase of 624.64% in 2016. Consequently, the average wait time increased by 38.85% and customer satisfaction decreased by 3.8%.

  9. Healthcare companies win in customer satisfaction

    The healthcare industry takes the lead in customer satisfaction in 2016, reaching 93.38% by gaining a positive 8.08%.

  10. Consumer service and recreation companies were the fastest

    In the consumer service industry, live chat agents spent only 23.38 seconds to connect with visitors on average. Recreation companies were the fastest in handling chats, with the average chat length of only 9 minutes and 25 seconds.

The PDF version of the report is also available. You can download it to your local drive for future reference. Download PDF Version Live Chat Benchmark Report 2017

Demand for Live Chat Grows

  1. Improved Chat-To-Visit Ratio

    A chat-to-visit ratio implies the percentage of website visitors who choose to use live chat as the channel of communication with businesses. We have produced an independent chat-to-visit ratio report in 2015 to provide you with such insight. You can get access to the report here. This year, we have incorporated the chat to-visit-ratio metric into our benchmark report.

    The following chart is a comparison between the chat-to-visit ratio in 2016 and that in 2015. The X axis represents the average monthly visits of a business and the Y axis represents the chat-to-visit ratio.

    Benchmark Report 2017 - Chat-to-Visit Ratio Comparison

    We can see from the above chart that overall more visits are converted to chats in 2016. This can be translated to a growing demand for live chat.

    If you are considering adding live chat on your website, the chat-to-visit ratio is a significant factor to consider in your live chat implementation plan. It gives you an estimated chat volume you are to handle after the implementation, which ultimately helps you make decisions on the staffing and budget.

    If you are using live chat for customer service or online sales now, you can check if there is still room to improve your chat volume, and if your live chat is being utilized to its utmost potential.

    “Customers are getting customer service help or seeking product information while at work and on the go. Live chat allows customers to easily get help without picking up the phone. In the future we will only see the customer experience of live chat improve as agents are empowered to block and tackle for the customer. Live chat is a great channel for companies that take the customer experience of it seriously.”
  2. Increased Chat Volume

    When looking at our data sample, we found that the number of chats handled in 2016 nearly tripled that in 2015, both in terms of total chats and average monthly chats.

    Benchmark Report 2017 - Total Chats
    Benchmark Report 2017 - Chats per Month

    This may partly be because in 2016, more enterprise customers chose Live Chat 100, contributing to the chat volume increase. But even compensating for these effects, the trend here is still quite clear: Live chat is being utilized more and more as a touch point for customers to connect with businesses.

    “This is consistent with the rising popularity of messaging apps for customer service vs. “traditional” social media. Not surprisingly, messaging apps like Facebook Messenger provide many of the same consumer benefits as website live chat.”
    Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Dan Gingiss

    Dan Gingiss

    Host of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast

Chat Volume Fluctuates by Seasons

One of our assumptions when producing this benchmark report is that chat volume might fluctuate. Just like there are peak and idle hours during a day, people may rush to buy things during one season, for example the holiday season, and are less motivated to buy during another season.

That’s why we added this perspective to our 2017 benchmark report. And our assumption has been proved by data.

We looked into the chat volume of each month in 2016, and mapped the highs and lows over the period of a year. See the chart below for details:

Benchmark Report 2017 - Chat Distribution by Month

Chat volume in July dropped to the lowest point of the year, with only about 63% of the number of chats handled in December.

Starting in August, chat volume increases steadily through the next half of the year and reaches the highest point in December. When the holiday rush is over and January arrives, chat volume falls significantly to nearly the same level as in July.

Knowing that your chat volume will vary through the year allows you to make more effective resourcing decisions. One feasible solution might be to hire part time agents during holiday seasons.

“Hiring seasonal workers can either rescue or ruin the customer experience, depending on how you onboard and train them. Make sure that new hires start with enough time to be trained thoroughly on your systems and product knowledge, to the same level as your full-time agents, before starting to take chats. This will ensure that customers don’t have to make repeated contacts to get queries resolved, inflating already busy holiday chat volumes even further.”

Live Chat Across Countries

Of the ten countries that we chose to represent our global customer base, six got a satisfaction rate higher than the average of 84.06%.

We did a comparison of the main live chat metrics in 2015 and 2016 among these countries and the result is as the table below shows:

Benchmark Report 2017 - Table by Country
  1. Global Chat Volume Increase

    Except for a slight decrease of chat volume in Canada, all other countries had more chats to handle in 2016 than in 2015. Australia has gained a startling increase of 1532.53%, which might be due to the extremely high chat volume from some individual clients. Even taking this into account, this increased rate shows that there has definitely been increased interest in, and adoption of live chat in Australia.

  2. US Was Still the Largest Participant

    As in 2015, nearly one third of companies in our 2016 sample are from the US. US companies had a steady monthly chat volume increase of 54.74% and visitors’ wait time decreased by 32.67%. Yet the shortened wait time didn’t result in higher customer satisfaction, as we noticed a slight decrease of 0.85% in the average satisfaction rate.

    China has experienced similar trends to US in the past year.

    “As U.S. consumers become more sophisticated, their expectations are higher. This may explain the slight decrease in customer satisfaction in this study. Since several recent studies point to the importance of a human connection, live chat remains a critical part of the customer service mix.”
    Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Teresa Allen

    Teresa Allen

    Author of Common Sense Service

  3. Wait Time Affects Customer Satisfaction Greatly

    We found a strong relationship between wait time and customer satisfaction: lower wait times are associated with higher customer satisfaction.

    Customers whose chats are answered quickly are more inclined to rate their experience positively, meaning that the quicker that chats are answered, the more chance there is to ensure your customers walk away happy.

    “I would agree that wait time can have a significant and negative impact on customer satisfaction. But, what customers dislike more is not knowing how long they will have to wait and how their time is improving. Therefore, if a customer has to wait for whatever reason then having a clear idea of how long they may have to wait and how that is progressing over time will allow them to make a decision about whether they want to wait or call back/chat later. It’s the not knowing that really messes with our heads and customer satisfaction.”
    “In addition, a quick response rate with a low problem resolution rate is equally problematic.”
    Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Adrian Swinscoe

    Adrian Swinscoe

    Author of How To Wow

    Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Kate Leggett

    Kate Leggett

    Customer Service Expert & VP and Principal Analyst at Forrester Research

    “Customers of all demographics expect their time to be valued. At Forrester, we find that an overwhelmingly 77% of customers say that valuing their time is the most important thing that a company can do to provide good customer service. Yet, customers also expect effective service interactions – they want their question answered or their issue fully resolved without a need for follow-up. In addition, they want their answer or resolution personalized to who they are, and contextualized to their particular situation. This means that customer service organizations must balance delivering a fast response, with one that is perfectly solved – and the balance tips to a well resolved answer or fix instead of an answer that does not meet a customer’s needs.”

    “This is consistent with Twitter’s findings that Response Time is critical to customer satisfaction. Customers are willing to wait on a resolution as long as they know that the company has heard them and is working on their issue. With live chat, that suggests an opportunity to be as transparent as possible about wait times and/or offering the customer a “call back” time (where the company could reach out to the customer at a specified time, either via SMS or a messaging app) or a “come back” time (where the customer agrees to return to the website at a specified time when an agent will be guaranteed to be available).”
    Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Dan Gingiss

    Dan Gingiss

    Host of the Focus on Customer Service Podcast

  4. Mexico’s Companies Got the Best Result

    Despite a slight drop, Mexico’s companies still lead the league in 2016 in terms of customer satisfaction, with 93.26% of their customers leaving positive ratings for the chat service they received.

    Compared to the situation in 2015, over the year of 2016, Mexico’s companies had much more chats to handle, agents were much busier, and visitors had to wait longer. This may be the reason for the slight drop in customer satisfaction rate.

  5. Malaysia Gains the Most in Customer Satisfaction, India Sees the Biggest Drop

    The chart below shows the comparison of customer satisfaction among countries.

    Benchmark Report 2017 - Customer Satisfaction by Country

    As you can see from the above chart that Malaysia gains the most and India loses the most. When looking through our metrics for the reason, we found something interesting: the biggest decrease of 65.9% in wait time belonged to Malaysia’s companies and the biggest increase of 72.77% in wait time for India’s companies.

Live Chat Across Industries

We conducted a comparison of main live chat metrics between 2015 and 2016 among different industries.

Benchmark Report 2017 - Table by Industry
  1. The Education Industry Saw the Biggest Increase in Chat Volume

    The average monthly chat volume of the education industry increased by 624.64% in 2016, which is quite significant. Consequently, each agent has to handle 16.27% more chats per month than in 2015. Perhaps that’s why visitor wait time increased by 38.85% and customer satisfaction lowered by 3.6%.

  2. The Healthcare Businesses Have Gained the Most in Customer Satisfaction

    The healthcare industry got the best result in 2016: This industry reached the highest level of average customer satisfaction rate of 93.38% by gaining a positive 8.08%. The increase in wait time seems to have no negative impacts on visitors who are seeking help in the healthcare area. It could have something to do with the fact that healthcare companies have the second lowest number of chats per month and the lowest number of chats per agent per month.

  3. 9.28% Less Customers in the Business Service Sector Are Satisfied

    The business service sector saw the biggest drop of 9.28% in customer satisfaction in 2016, reaching the lowest level among all industries at 75.29%. Possible reasons could be the increase in wait time as well as the increased chat volume.

    “For companies wanting to satisfy their customers, here’s a few simple ideas: focus on the customer, be understanding, be helpful, solve their problems as quickly as possible and first time and, even better, solve their problems proactively or before they show up.”
    Benchmark Report 2017-Expert Opinions from Adrian Swinscoe

    Adrian Swinscoe

    Author of How To Wow

What To Do in 2017?

The aim of this benchmark report is to provide insight into your live chat implementation and what you should watch for in 2017. After a thorough analysis of the real-world data from our customers, we’d like to give you some suggestions on what to do in 2017 to make your live chat successful.

  1. Connect with Customers As Quickly As Possible

    As you can see from our data, short wait time is a major contribution to the improvement in customer satisfaction in 2016. And this trend will continue as customers are only expecting more rather than less.

    Yet speed is not everything. Another metric you should be watching out in 2017 is the first contact resolution rate, namely the percentage of customers whose problems are solved the first time they connect with your live chat agents.

  2. You Can Expect More Chats to Handle

    Another major finding that we can see by looking at the data sample is that live chat is being adopted globally by more and more companies, and that people are increasingly choosing live chat as a preferred touch point with companies. In some industries like education and ecommerce, the average monthly chat volume tripled or even saw a six-fold jump.

    The trend will continue in this digital world. More chats mean greater opportunity. This trend is likely to continue. Be prepared for increased chat volumes on your site, to ensure that you can stay ahead of the competition and safeguard the satisfaction of your customers.

  3. Seasonal Hiring May Be a Good Choice

    We noticed a seasonal chat volume fluctuation in 2016 and thought it might represent a common trend that is worth your attention. During summer months, the chat volume was only about 60% of that during the holiday season. After the holiday rush, there will be a big drop in January, followed by a return in February and March since people start to seek after-sales help. The summer low runs from April through August.

    Adjust your staffing according to this trend to save more money. There are a large number of seasonal workers out there and you can try seasonal hiring in 2017.

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