Customer Self-Service | | Published April 30, 2015

The Impact of Demographics on Live Chat Customer Service

Offering live chat as part of your customer service strategy can be of great benefit to your company, but how you utilize this resource depends on your target customer. By offering live chat, companies give customers the opportunity to reach out to them without having to worry about getting the hard sell. The customer is more likely to use live chat because of the ability to sign in and out when they please, without being tied to a phone hold message.


Live chat is a great way to reach customers who are already shopping or researching on the internet, because they don’t have to wait to speak with an agent.

A leading research company, Software Advice, recently completed an online survey of respondents from around the U.S. to find out who was using live chat and why.  

Why Customers Use Live Chat

When considering live chat as a customer service channel, it’s important to understand who is using it, and why.  Make sure it’s a fit that makes sense for your business before undergoing an implementation.  Here are some important factors to consider:

Nearly half of respondents of any age felt that the primary reason for using live chat was no hold times, with convenience coming in second.

Primary reasons for using live chat, in order of preference:

  • No Hold Times
  • Convenient
  • Provides a Record of Chat
  • Easy to Multitask
  • Can Use at Work

The Nature of Your Business

The study found that over 56% of respondents had used live chat at least once while on a company’s website.  However this changed considerably depending on the topic - with 49% preferring to use it for questions related to online shopping compared to only 26% for financial inquiries.   So if your business is highly personal, or financial-related, it may not be the best medium for customer support. 

Your Target Market Demographic

The likelihood of customer’s using live chat did change noticeably with age, with 56% of customers 18-34 preferring live chat to phone, compared to only 29% of those over 35.  The survey also found that approximately 60% of users aged 55+ had never used live chat or had used it but hadn’t found an answer to their question.  So if your customers are typically in the 55+ range then it may not be the best option for you. 

The Type of Question

The usage of live chat also changed with the nature of the questions. For simple, direct questions respondents tended to prefer live chat, however for more complex or technical questions they chose to use the phone. This makes sense, as live chat is typically considered a better channel for quick answers to simple questions, or for details that aren’t readily available on the website.

What does this mean for you?

Overall it seems that implementing a live chat as part of a customer service strategy could benefit any company. There are, however, some considerations with implementing a live chat feature. Software Advice spoke with several companies that use live chat as part of their strategy for customer service and they offered several pieces of advice to make the addition of live chat go more smoothly.

  1. Train staff to respond to customer requests quickly and to disable the chat when the representative is not available.
  2. Create auto-responses to frequent questions to save time and money.
  3. Train staff to speak with the brand in mind, as well as emphasizing politeness and empathy with the customer.
  4. Initiate a formal review process and stick with it. Make sure employees are following protocol (but not necessarily a script!) when handling customer requests.
  5. Test different locations of the live chat button in order to see where it is most often used by customers. Also consider using triggers for the live chat to proactively reach out to customers at certain stages in their visit to your site.

Using live chat as part of a service initiative speaks to a company’s willingness to reach out to their customer. Customers, in turn, value the option of being able to get quick answers without having to speak to a sales person, which makes live chat an option worth exploring.

Do you use live chat with your company? How does it work for your customers? Start the conversation in the comments.