An Introduction to Salesforce Live Agent


Salesforce Live Agent is a native Salesforce tool that provides the ability to communicate in real-time with your web site users. In this blog I am going to discuss why you might want Live Agent, my favourite of the basic ‘out of the box’ offerings and then talk through some of the customisation options available to you to enhance the standard product.

We have all seen the little ‘chat to an agent’ buttons on company websites, usually when trying to find a way to contact a support team without the monotony of waiting on hold for 15 minutes while Lionel Richie plays on repeat. Live Chat offers customers exactly what they want from a support team, real time interaction with a real person. Amazon, Vodafone and Sky are just some of the companies who use Live Chat as a method of support for their customers (and personally it is always my method of choice when I have a gripe!)

Live Agent is superb for those who have a limited size support team but want to extract maximum return and effectiveness from them. Unlike a phone call, where one agent can only manage one customer at a time, using Live Agent each user can be partaking in numerous simultaneous customer interactions from just the one screen. It can also be an effective way to alleviate pressure from a struggling phone support team by diverting some customer traffic to an alternative channel.

Utilising Live Agent is also great for those operating on a budget. Companies that use integrated phone networks to facilitate their customer support through Salesforce face a charge for each call that comes in. While the ‘per call’ cost is of course minimal it can soon add up over the year. With Live Agent there is no charge per interaction so after it has been setup the only cost is the agents themselves. You can also keep the chat transcripts to use as free training guides to any new starters in how to (and maybe how not to…) deal with customers.

Favourite Features

Another reason to use Live Agent is the ability to customise the application to build an entirely robust process around it. Data Validation before a customer is linked to an agent? Sure thing! Automatically send the customer a post chat survey? Absolutely. Want to send a link to a Knowledge Article that answers their query? That just takes a few clicks.

Live Agent is a standard feature of the Salesforce Service Cloud and my pick of the bunch from the out of the box offerings is as follows:

Sneak peek – This feature enables agents to see what a visitor is typing before the message has been sent. This means an agent can start reacting to comments (e.g. searching case records or knowledge articles) and preparing a response before the client has actually sent the message. This limits the time a site visitor will have to wait for a reply from the agent, especially useful if dealing with an angry customer who wants instant results!


Whisper messages – This allows a supervisor to communicate with an agent that is currently engaged in a chat, without the exchange being visible to the customer. The idea of this is that a supervisor can offer advice, direct the agent to a relevant knowledge article, or simply offer encouragement for a job well done without disturbing the agents interaction with the customer. Supervisors can also choose to view chats as a means of quality control.

Auto greeting – Most customer service teams have a set way they like to initiate customer interactions, using this feature they can ensure this is done effectively and efficiently by all agents. The auto greeting message guarantees all Live Chat exchanges begin with the same message with no spelling mistakes and no deviations! You can also use mail merge within the auto greeting to add minor customisations such as agent name. A similar feature that Live Agent also offers is Quick Text. This offers the ability to store pre-prepared text snippets that an agent can access, such as commonly used expressions or questions, and negates the need to type these out each time.

Customisation and enhancements

A great facet of Live Agent is that you are not just limited to what Salesforce provides out of the box. Using custom development you can completely alter the end-user experience while also ensuring you capture all the key data needed without always relying on human input.

Pre-Chat Page – This is where you capture data from the customer before the conversation starts and the possibilities here are endless. From something basic like validation rules to ensure the key fields such as name and email address are populated, to custom verification rules and triggers that identify existing/create new contract records based on the data provided.

Post Chat Page – A common requirement from customers is to capture feedback from the live chat visitor at the end of a conversation. This feedback usually covers both the tool itself (would you use live agent again?) and the agent they dealt with (how useful were they? did they solve your problem?).  This can be easily achieved by linking a survey to a custom post chat page and having it launch when the user clicks a specific custom button. You can also map in Contact or Case ID values so the survey results attach to the correct records in Salesforce once submitted.

Custom Settings & Dashboards – These offer a quick and easy way for you to manage Live Agent after it has been deployed to a live site. It is certainly much easier to manage the tool using custom setting than it is to start unpicking the code on your sites page! A good tip is to utilise a master switch off custom setting, this is a simple check box which you can then reference in your code. If the checkbox is ticked the button to initiate a Live Chat is visible and available, if the checkbox is unticked the button is not visible and chats cannot be initiated.

The data captured from Live Agent exchanges can also be utilised to create some insightful reports and dashboards. With very little work you can soon have some useful analytics to hand such as average chat duration, average agent response time, peak chat times or number of chats completed per agent in a given timeframe. If using a survey tool the scope for analytics increases even further and can help you gauge just how effectively both your new tool and agents are performing.

Do you need Live Agent?

– Do you have a small support team that is swamped with customer support calls?
– Do you need to cut customer support costs?
– Do you want to automate some manual processes?
– Do you need to stand out from rivals by offering extra customer support channels?

Those who don’t need Live Agent?

– Support teams that need to complete extremely complex and time consuming trouble shooting diagnostics
– Customer Support teams using power tools such as Radian6 to manage customer support through social media

Marco Erzingher is a Salesforce Certified Administrator, Developer and Sales Cloud Consultant at Westbrook International


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