Hands on with SnapEngage – Live Chat Support

“UX means getting closer to your user.”  That’s what I say when asked, “What is UX?” I talk about user-centered design, about observation and testing.  It’s all about what the user will tell you (if you ask), and what the user will show you (if you watch).

Lately, I’ve been thinking about Live Chat tools as a way to “get closer to users.” Live Chat is a ‘Tell me’ type tool as opposed to a ‘show me’ type tool.  Surveys typify the ‘tell me.’  Analytics typify the ‘show me’.  A major problem with ‘tell me’ tools is that users often aren’t honest (even to themselves).  Actions, at times, are more truthful.  The hips don’t lie.

just checking ... hips (still) don't lie

Live chat is a better ‘tell me’ tool because the user is very close to their experience with the site – in time and in space.  During the chat, you are actually on the website – not on a survey site, for example. The experience is happening RIGHT NOW. Users want to engage now – not in a few hours, via email.  And, we don’t want to pick up another communications device, like the phone. [These are testable assumptions – ed]

Typical engagement on a website happens thru email, contact forms or the phone.  I figure that chat is a better way to engage – it doesn’t require as much ‘activation energy.’  It’s easier – for me, at least – to click the chat button than it is to pick up the phone and dial a number.  Clicking on an email link and sending an email can be a pain at times. Chat presents the lowest hill to climb in order to interact.

And one last thing about Chat in general:  Users come to a site authentically.  They are your actual users, doing actual tasks, with actual expectations and needs.  They aren’t paid testers or Mechanical Turks.  Their motivation is the same as your motivation – they want to use your service, buy your stuff, etc.  They are primed to tell you truthfully how they are experiencing what you created for them.

With all this in mind, I’m doing a trial of SnapEngage this week.

It's a snap to engage with your customers ... with SNAPENGAGE!

SnapEngage – What I expected

I’m not going to lie, I have high hopes for Live Chat as a UX designers’ tool.  I might be naive, but I expect that people visiting the site will want to chat if the site is not meeting their needs or not what the expected or if they are getting frustrated. And, who hasn’t felt that way on the ‘net?

I also expect to install the code and start talking to users – like an old shopkeeper from the days of yore.  I’m on my website. Users are on my site.  Why shouldn’t we communicate ON MY WEBSITE?  We have the greatest communications tools available.  Am I really going to ask my users to downshift technology that’s 50 years (telephone) or 20 years (email) old?

First Register and Get Started.

It’s a typical registration process.  You create an account.  All accounts start with the 15 day free trial of the premium service.  I’m not exactly sure which features are premium and which aren’t, but I suppose I can deal with whatever the account turns into after the 15 days.  I hope the transition goes smoothly.

There is a set-up page to configure your widget code.  Make sure you pay attention here or you’ll have to redo it to get the settings right.  Once I got the widget code, I pasted it into my templates for site, and uploaded the files.  Without the chat client configured, the widget-only option is an email contact.

Next I set up the chat client.  There are three options – A web client via a browser , Skype, and Google Talk.  Firefox requires a plugin for the web client to work, Chrome doesn’t.  I used Skype and had to manually add the SnapEngage contact.  I didn’t try Google Talk.

Once that was done, I could open the widget, click on the chat button, and my Skype would alert me just like any other friend wanted to chat.  I tested it with two browser windows and it worked great!  It took an hour to set up – from start to finish.

Plus and Minus

Let’s get the minus out of the way first.  All of these negatives are pretty insubstantial and nothing that keeps me from recommending the tool.

First, there is this Snapabug name that shows up from time to time – that’s the original name of the product.  Not to worry.

The Skype usernames are different on the site versus those you actually enter into Skype.  It seems odd that they don’t just change  the site, but I’m sure they have their reasons.

There is no “About Us” page and they list the company name as “TimZon,” with another contact telephone number.  Is this an example of trying to look like a corporation or something bigger than they are?

But the biggest miscue was the billing and the trial information. On the Billing page, the price listed didn’t match the price on the sales page.  It seems like they struggled with the App side of the site and the ‘sales brochure’ side of the site.  I went back and forth between them without knowing at times. And, information is different on the different sides. It’s a handful of separate sites – The sales brochure, the app, the blog, and the chat client.  I feel your pain, SnapEngage, but you’re not quite there as far as a smooth transition between all of these areas of your site.

This gave me enough concern to … contact support!  Not enough concern to pick up the phone or send an email. But enough concern to click on the chat button…  or, as I recall, respond to a ‘pro-active’ chat.

Thumbs up to Chris, employee #1 at SnapEngage, for showing me how Live Chat can work by chatting with me live.  Proactive chat, you’ve probably seen it before, works like this;  After a configurable amount of time (default is 45 sec), the chat window pops up and asks for help.  I saw this and pretty soon Chris was helping me with every step of the process.  He addressed the problem with the billing inconsistency between the brochure and the app.

Our chat did a couple of things:  It felt good to engage with another human who was focused and concerned with my experience.  He listened to me and answered my questions.  He used the ‘co-browsing’ feature to change my browser to requested information.  For example; instead of just sending the link to an FAQ page, he could control my browser to display the page.

Other positives: I like the free plan, but I’m not 100% sure what features will last after the trial.

One of the things I didn’t expect is the Woopra like user info screens.  When a user starts a chat, you are given some info about them:  the typical browser info, and past connections and chats.  This is great!  Knowing more about your users is good, always good.

Things I didn’t expect but figure are invaluable are the custom graphics and the shortcut hotkey text expansion. These allow you to change the look of the button – the default is a green button with the text “HELP.”  The text expansion is used for repeatable phrases  – like “Hello, my name is {alias}.<br> How may I help you?”

"I don't need a 'Widget' to chat with my customers."


What do we want as users of a site?  I believe we want connection and engagement. We want to deal with actual people, who have personality and emotion.  Pre-internet businesses had this type of connection with customers.  Paradoxically, as we have become more connected with more ‘powerful,’ global communication tools, the less we feel truly connected to those around us.  Live Chat PROBABLY won’t fix this.  It’s not a magic bullet.  But, it does take away some of the barriers to a better user experience, if connection and engagement are lacking.

If you and your business are open, authentic, curious and creative, then live chat tools like SnapEngage will help you connect with users and create a better user experience.

Final Thoughts

I’m curious about these things:

ProActive chat (the system automatically initiating the chat after a certain time) – Do you use it?  Is it an interruption?  How long to wait before it pops up?  How can you tell when to use it? It seems that brick and mortar stores have answered these questions.  Each business is different.  A Hair Salon is not Walmart. But, it’s cool that online stores are asking the same questions.

How many people will click on the button to chat?  It seems that each of the connection methods (phone, email, contact form, chat) have different ‘activation energy,’ or preference for the user.  Some may like chat and hate the phone, or vice versa. It seems that this might be a good thing to test.

6 comments on “Hands on with SnapEngage – Live Chat Support

  1. Newman,

    Thanks very much for the feedback. This is really useful for us and we’ll certainly use your very detailed analysis to improve the user experience.
    Sorry for the confusion about the pricing, we’re fixing it.
    … and an about us page is in the work. 🙂


  2. This is very helpful to us who is using the technology of communications through chat. There are very important points where we can learn something. This would really our landing page yellowhead.pro.- a landing where we offer customer chat support to boost up your sales or revenue, with a free 14 days trial.

  3. Thanks for sharing. During the past months I have also been using Live Chat in my online shop and my experience is very positive.
    However, having used the free trial version of SnapEngage, I have to say that I prefer the solution I am using right now, Visitlead. In my opinion it has an user interface way more intuitive, the price is better, and it comes with great extra features, like live tracking or co-browsing.
    Here you can find an explanation of the differences between both providers if you are interested: https://visitlead.com/alternative/snapengage/

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