The one real drawback I have found is that some people just want to chat. I have been held up a couple of hours or more by people who have a genuine question but getting to it through the chit chat is a nightmare. So I'm now learning the pros and cons of this I'm afraid.
When I was a one man show back in the day, I had live help, but then I was online 18+ hours a day also. Even today, while I have regular staff that man the live help, I still load up my the live help program any time I'm at a computer.
As Steve mentioned, many companies have the chat PROMPT, and we use it too. If a user is 5 minutes on the site, then we prompt to see if we can answer any questions. I don't like the sites that wait 10 seconds, that annoys me, but if you're 5 minutes on the site, likely you're doing some checking and maybe someone can help make it easier.
Live chat does have it's purpose for certain markets, and is a great tool for upselling and prompting purpose, but if you're going to have a button saying ONLINE, be sure you have the time/resources to actaully be online. Don't just have it say ONLINE, then "no representitve available" - I think that's one of the things that annoy me the most. People pretending to be online, and nobody really there!
Thanks, that was some great advice. Although I'm in the process of changing live chat software when it was working I would also be online if at a computer. If you spend all day on the computer you may as well stay on live chat as it may gain you more customers.
And I cannot be online long enough for it to be worth while. I work during the day. So having a ticket system that sends me a email alert is a lot more effective. I can immediatly start working on the problem from work, from my phone or tell them when I can look into it.
Fortunatly, my hosting does not have that many problems, so I blessed that way. A ticket system is the best. I use the one in my ClientExec software and it just works for me.
People are turned off when they always see OFFLINE.
Live chat is good to improve sales. It creates trust and clients can get their queries resolved through chat immediately. I think you should put live chat on the website however you won't be using it much. Whenever you will be online try to request chat to visitors.