Ghost Chats: How to Deal with Abandoned Chat Interactions

It’s a tale of woe every online shopper can relate to: you’re shopping on a site and have a quick question about a product or a policy. After a quick scan of the page, you find a helpful chat icon and initiate a live chat. After the agent enters the chat, you trade a few pleasantries and ask your question, eagerly awaiting a reply. Then, your phone rings, your email inbox pings, and you spill a cup of coffee – all at once. As you rush to clean up, answer your phone, and read your email, your live chat interaction gets buried on a forgotten page three tabs deep, never to be seen again. Sound familiar?

In this common scenario, a customer becomes inactive after asking a question. How do the front-line staffers on the other side of the chat interaction handle this inactivity? StellaService was curious, so we had our analysts put retailers in the StellaService Ecommerce Index to the test.

Here’s what we found:

Four main styles of responses were addressed:

chat staffer responses to customer inactivity, by style | stellaconnect


The most common language we saw in responses:

chat staffer responses to customer inactivity, by typical script | stellaconnect

So, what did we learn from this test?

In terms of wait time, some retailers were more patient than others. While the average time between the agent’s response and first follow-up was 87 seconds, 31% of CSR’s waited just 30 seconds before following up. On average, agents disconnected with us after 6.1 minutes of inactivity. Net-A-Porter waited the longest, with 18 minutes elapsing from their follow-up to disconnection.

The right amount of time to wait depends on your staffing levels, contact volume, and on each individual interaction, but in our analysis, we were surprised to see that overall, only about half of chats offered future assistance and provided contact information. If a customer loses interest for a few minutes, that doesn’t necessarily mean they won’t be back to make a future purchase, so encouraging them to reach out again as needed and providing methods of contact is a best practice.

Lastly, providing customers with the option to access a transcript even after a chat has ended is a great way to help make sure they retain access to any information that was shared in their chat, especially if it might help them with a purchasing decision or service issue and prevent future contacts. Chat abandonment happens – we’ve all been there – but if you follow these simple guidelines, your chat interactions won’t be lost in vain.

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