Web Chats Vs. SMS Widgets—Which Is Better?

SMS widgets vs web chats

Answering customers quickly—especially while they’re browsing on a website—is a key focus for most businesses. Teams often use widgets to connect with them in record time. Web chat widgets, for example, are a popular option for businesses that want to answer customer questions. But what about newer tools, like SMS widgets?

Teams already using business text messaging to chat with their customers will find that SMS widgets just increase the number of queries they can resolve quickly. Teams who are interested in business text messaging will find that SMS widgets are a big draw.

Read on to learn the differences between web chat and SMS widgets—and which is a better tool. 

Definitions: What Are Web Chats?

A web chat is an online, real-time chat. Sometimes web chats are called live chats or live support in a business setting. 

Online chats were introduced in the 80s, but the casual “chat room” took off in the 90s. Then, businesses began to use web chats to connect with their customers. For example, “Enterprise Instant Messaging” (EIM) was created with IBM Lotus Sametime in 1998. Microsoft Exchange Instant Messaging and others followed shortly behind. 

Now, people usually use web chats to connect with businesses through their webpages. Modern web chats, like Intercom and Drift, are popular choices for businesses. 

Typically, customers will be presented with a clear web chat button in the corner of a business’s website. When they click on the button, a chat will pop open on their webpage. In the chat, customers will see an introductory message from a customer service agent or sales rep. Then, customers can start chatting with them. When customers are finished, they simply quit the chat. 

Definitions: What are SMS widgets? 

An SMS widget is an online button that customers can click or tap on to connect with a customer service agent. 

SMS widgets can be found on business websites. They are a new tool that rose from the current interest in business text messaging. Any messages that originate in the SMS widget are automatically sent to the company’s business text messaging platform. They arrive in a shared inbox, so teams can quickly review them and reply. 

If customers tap on the SMS widget while using their smartphones, their native SMS apps will automatically open with the business’s SMS number already populated. If customers click on the button while they’re on their computers, a message box asks for the customers’ phone number, message, and a quick opt in. Once customers opt in, customer service agents can start texting with them. 

Comparison: Flexibility

One of the biggest differences between web chats and SMS widgets is flexibility.

Web chats are synchronous Using SMS widgets on different devicesconversations. In other words, both agents and customers have to stay at their computers for the life of the chat. If customers leave the chat, they might not be able to connect with the same customer service agent again. In fact, they may have to repeat their conversation. Additionally, if they don’t provide their emails during the chat, the customer service agent won’t be able to follow up. 

SMS conversations are asynchronous. In other words, agents and customers can communicate with each other, but they don’t have to be online and together at the same time. This means that customers can connect with agents whenever they want, wherever they want. They can text from any place with reliable service, and even stop and start conversations as they please. If customers opt in at the beginning of the SMS conversation, agents can send follow-up texts later, too. 

Comparison: Personalization

Personalization is another aspect in which web chats and SMS widgets differ.

Web chats are often one-off conversations. Because of this, agents don’t have time to gather the background information they need to complete their picture of the customer. While agents can still ask about customer history during the web chats, it slows down conversations. Agents can ask customers for their phone numbers or emails to look up their CRM case, but this extra step consumes time and might be denied by the web chat customer.

With SMS widgets, personalization is easy. Business text messaging platforms support integrations with existing CRM and customer service tools. When a customer adds their phone number into the SMS widget, the business text messaging platform will sync with the CRM or other integrated platforms immediately. Then, the customer service agent will be able to immediately see the contact’s custom fields, including purchase history, last conversation with a customer service agent, and other key information. This empowers the agent to personalize each and every conversation very quickly.

Comparison: Speed

Web chats and SMS widgets offer a similar speed.

Web chats allow customers to connect with agents in real-time. People on both ends of the conversation write with little lag. However, because the chat has to occur while the original web browser is open, conversations are sometimes cut off when customers exit their browsers. 

SMS widgets enable extremely fast conversations. Because customers nearly always have their phones with them, they’re always ready to text. In fact, 90% of texts are read within the first three seconds of receipt and the average response time for a text is 90 seconds. SMS conversations with customers are sure to fly by. 


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