Proactive vs Reactive Web Chat Support: Which is Better?

Published by Roma Gonzales on

Reactive versus Proactive Chat Support

As competition increases and client expectations diversify, ecommerce businesses have to find new ways to stay on top of their game. To improve customer satisfaction and reduce cart abandonment, some online retailers have already integrated web chat support into their business.

According to this Forrester study, 44% of online buyers are impressed when their concerns are addressed in the middle of the buying process. When web chat support is available, 90% of customers reported feeling more secure.

Proactive and Reactive Chat Support

Already thinking about jump-starting your customer support performance by launching a live chat app on your website? First, you have to determine which of the two types – proactive or reactive – will work best for you.

In the simplest sense, reactive chat is when the online shopper approaches the agent for help, and proactive chat is when the agent offers assistance to the shopper.

Let’s say a customer enters your store. He or she seems confused about the specifications of the product they want to buy. So, the customer seeks help from one of your salespeople. When your salesperson responds to your customer’s request, this is reactive support.

On one hand, when one of your salespeople greets a customer as they enter the store and asks the customer how they can make their shopping experience better, this is proactive support. A website is basically like a store, and the chat support agents are your virtual salespersons.

To help you decide, check out this brief comparison of proactive and reactive web chat support systems:


On average, it takes 23 seconds to address a client’s query through reactive chat support. On the other hand, calculating how quick proactive chat responses are can be tricky. The speed depends on the shopping behavior of the client. Proactive chat offers to help the shopper from start to finish. Response time also depends on the number of chat invitations that can be sent and processed in an hour.


With an engagement level of only 2%, it seems customers don’t respond much to proactive chat invitations from support representatives. Obviously, it doesn’t compare to the 7.8% engagement level of customers towards reactive chat responses.

The passive nature of proactive chat may be the reason for such a low turnout of customer engagement. Chat invitations are often ignored until the point when the customer realizes that he or she has questions that need answers immediately.

While the shopping experience is enriched with the recommendations and assistance of proactive chat support, customers may not see the need to fully engage. In comparison, reactive chat has a higher engagement because the customers are the first to contact a support agent out of necessity. Thus, they will stick around until their concerns are addressed.


Whether it’s proactive or reactive, web chat support leads to increased satisfaction among your customers. It shortens waiting time for clear and concise answers to their questions.

Getting answers from a reliable source while browsing through a gallery of items or selecting one brand over another can make your customer’s whole shopping experience satisfying and memorable. It lessens unnecessary delays brought about by doubt or hesitation. It fosters trust and builds loyalty. Best of all, your customers don’t experience buyer’s remorse which can affect how they perceive the whole shopping experience has been at your online store.

However, hesitant buyers are 6.3 times more likely to buy an item after they’re given proactive chat support than when they are left alone. Thus, this type of web chat leads to higher lead generation and sales conversion. In fact, this Forrester study claims that proactive chat has an ROI of 105% while reactive chat only has 15%.


The potential downside to proactive chat is that it may cause your customers to totally disengage and even try to stop the chat window from popping up. Pop-up windows offering unsolicited assistance may be taken as intrusive and annoying especially if they constantly appear on screen.

While it could lead to higher sales generation, the use of proactive chat is a slippery slope. Even the overall look of the pop-up window, how the invitation was worded, and what triggers its appearance can affect how your customers respond to it.

Moreover, chat support allows you to analyze the customer’s profile, geographic location, current page, referral page, and time spent on the website, among many others. All these data will help your understand your customers better and provide you with insights into effectively deliver your services. The key to getting the results you want is knowing how to deliver the right message at the right time.

Meanwhile, reactive chat support is only activated when the client asks for it.


You don’t need a large team to provide reactive chat support. An agent can cater to 3-5 clients at the same time. It’s relatively easy with proper training and a database of knowledge that agents can readily pull up when needed.

It is important to note that your staffing size will depend on the roles your agents need to fulfill. One of the questions to ask is, “Do they have to answer simple questions only?” You may also need to consider the metrics that you’ll use to automate chat support invites, your site traffic, and the baseline amount of chats, among other factors.

Web chat support is a great feature for your company’s website. However, one must not assume that it guarantees an immediate and tremendous boost. It is important to study and adjust the type of chat service you will offer based on facts, figures, and trends.