Are you using a live chat program on your website? If not , the question that you should be asking yourself is “Why not?” Live chat programs allow your customers, both active and potential, to talk with your sales or customer service representatives in real time. Issues or questions are resolved before they can become obstacles to a purchase or conversion, and your sales or customer service team has an opportunity to build customer loyalty and brand dedication.
However, the real purpose for implementing live chat onto your website is that it increases your company’s bottom line revenue. Sales will improve, conversions will improve, sales dollar amounts will improve, and repeat businesses will improve. In short, you’ll make more money because you’re using live chat. Whether you’ve already implemented a live chat solution and aren’t experiencing the improved metrics you were expecting, or you’re evaluating the benefits of a live chat implantation, you can’t see improved results unless you understand the tangible ways in which live chat can give you measurable results. Continue reading for Comm100’s ten most effective ways to use live chat to improve your bottom line.
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Close your eyes and imagine for a second that you are in a retail store. What’s the first thing that happens? In most cases, it will be that a sales person comes up to you and asks you if you need help with your purchase or decision. You may choose to search on your own, but you may also talk to the sales person. He or she will then guide you through your purchase, and you’re likely to not only buy but also buy a higher dollar amount because of the sales person’s attention. That improved sales capability is exactly why stores pay sales people! However, brick-and-mortar stores have an advantage that online stores don’t. They can see every time a person walks into their establishment. On the web, visits are often anonymous and, in some cases, you won’t have an opportunity to follow up with a visitor or customer unless they leave you their contact information.
However, contemporary live chat software offers you the ability to proactively invite users to chat when they are online. Essentially, you get the opportunity to “walk up” to a customer on your website and say, “Can I help you? ” You don’t need to reactively wait for a customer to ask you a question or find the right spot on your website for the information that they need. You can initiate the conversation just like a sales person would.
How can you do this effectively? By using auto invitations you can program simple live chat boxes to pop up on your website based on various criteria that indicate that a customer should be contacted. That criterion may be as simple as the process of a visitor landing on a web page (think of this as being similar to an in-store sales person who greets you as soon as you walk into the door). Or, you can program your live chat proactive invitations to happen only after a customer visits a certain page or has been on a certain page for a set amount of time (think of this as being similar to a sales person who smiles at you when you enter the door, but who doesn’t “bother” you until it’s clear that you may need some help). With live chat, you can create the same personalized, proactive sales technique that retail locations rely on.
Here’s an example of how you can use auto invitations to proactively ask customers to chat. Let’s say that you run a website that sells lawn care services. People may come to your website for many reasons. They may want to see what types of lawn care services you offer or they may want to get a price quote. Chances are that you have two pages on your website. On one page, you explain your types of services. On the other page, you list your prices. It’s very possible that a person who visits the page that describes your different types of services isn’t ready to ask for a price quote yet and should be treated with a gentler level of customer service. However, you still want to reach out and begin a relationship and dialogue with that lead. Create a live chat auto invitation that pops up for visitors who have been on the services page for longer than thirty seconds that says “Do you have questions about what the best type of lawn care services for your turf or grass would be? Let us help you!” That way, you’ve let the customer know that you’re there and willing to help, but first you let them browse and get comfortable on their own.
On the other hand, a person who visits your pricing page is most likely a “hot” lead that should get contacted more quickly before he or she moves on. Set an auto invitation for live chat to appear as soon as a person lands on your pricing page to say, “Chat with us to get a customized price quote specific to your needs!” You’ve approached the customer quickly and proactively, before they can change their minds about the cost of your lawn care services.
Proactive chat creates a much higher return on investment than passive chat does. Take the time to structure proactive chat invitations that are similar to what an in-person salesperson would do in a retail environment.
Much like the web doesn’t always let you know that you have a “customer in the store,” it’s also very hard to create a customized communication for a user. You can’t see who’s on your website or what reactions they may be having. The web is a generic, mass experience. However, sales conversions are most effective when they are personalized. Fortunately, with robust live chat software, you can create customization and personalization and turn a generic user experience into a specific user experience.
How can you do this effectively? Not only can you customize auto invitations to speak specifically to a customer’s needs based on their location on your website, time on your website, or other criteria, but you can also craft conversations that happen with the customer after they have initiated a live chat that will feel customized rather than generic. By gathering customer information (such as name, issue, and familiarity with your brand) in the pre-chat window of your live chat software, you can ensure that when your sales or customer service team begins chatting with the customer, the conversation is already tailored to the user’s personal traits and site issues.
The easiest way to create a customized chat experience is to capture key information in the pre-chat window while a user is waiting to be assigned to a chat operator, such as the name of the user and a basic summary of the issue that they are hoping to chat about. In addition to the pre-chat information, you can get a lot of other useful information about the user without asking with live chat software’s visitor monitor functionality, such as which page they are looking at, where they come from and more. When your live chat operator begins the chat, he or she can begin it as though he or she were greeting a person in real life. “Hello, Julie. I hope that the weather in Chicago is great this afternoon. I’m eager to chat with you and help you resolve your billing issue.” That type of personalized greeting immediately puts customers at ease, makes them feel a relationship with your company or brand, and can even make them easier to satisfy from a customer service perspective. A few simple pieces of information can turn a generic chat into a personal conversation.
At the end of the day, nothing will impact your ability to maximize revenue more than your ability to streamline your lead generation cycle. While a good lead generation program includes multiple avenues for lead collection, an often overlooked opportunity to capture leads is live chat functionality. Not only are leads captured in the live chat process a valuable addition to your lead database, but they also often provide more valuable data for follow-up than do leads captured from other sources.
How can you do this effectively? Using enterprise level live chat software, you can actually construct a user path from start-to-exit of a live chat participant as well as capture detailed information for follow-up within the live chat process. Using live chat analytics tools, you can see entrance information, time on site, and other valuable information to narrow the follow-up category of your lead. Using information captured within the live chat pre-chat capture, you can further categorize leads by prospect type and even save personal information such as a name or user name to make higher converting follow-up contacts via email or telemarketing.
Let’s use a case study to show you how you can do this effectively. Imagine that you have a website that sells music albums. When a user enters your website, you can see from your live chat monitor functionality that he or she entered from a search keyword or website about jazz music. The user then travels to a page that lists current jazz best sellers. You extend a live chat auto invitation after the user has been on the webpage for thirty seconds asking if the user has any questions about available jazz albums or other genres. Through the chat process, you also capture the user’s first name and email address. Now, you have a complete history of what brought the user to your site, what the user enjoys about music and the user’s contact information. Even if the user or visitor doesn’t convert to a sale that day, you now have all of the information you need to turn a lead into a purchaser.
A week later, you send the user an email using their fist name in the greeting. The email includes all of the new jazz releases for the week. Because you capture the user’s lead information, including name, contact information and interests, you’re now able to convert the user from a lead to a purchaser with a follow-up communication.
Have you ever visited an Apple store and watched the service employee who is in charge of activating new iPhone accounts? At any one point, that employee is expected to be able to simultaneously activate four to six different iPhones while also explaining the set-up to the customers. Not only is it an impressive display of knowledge, but it’s a highly efficient use of employee time. Rather than have to pay one employee per iPhone activation (or have customers wait impatiently in the store), a single employee is effectively turned into four to six employees! While that type of employee management is difficult and not always effective, live chat implementations allow you to leverage the same kind of employee efficiency. In almost all cases, a single sales or customer service representative can handle multiple live chat contacts at the same time. Unlike email, which must be answered one at a time, or phone, where only one call can be answered at a time, live chat allows one employee to close multiple open cases simultaneously.
How can you do this effectively? In addition to employee training, live chat gives you a wealth of tools to make answering queries fast and accurate. Canned responses, typing indicator and well-crafted and tested scripts mean that customer inquiries can be answered not only with simultaneous chats but also with accuracy and precision. You won’t need three phone bank operators or two email representatives. You’ll simply need one, well-trained, well-prepared chat operator.
Sometimes, an ounce of prevention is worth a gallon of cure, as the old saying goes. By taking the time when you launch your live chat program to develop a comprehensive list of canned answers to common questions, you can improve employee efficiency. Begin by using your existing customer service email or phone data to compile a list of the most frequently asked questions. Then organize those questions into groups that have common themes. Finally, recruit your best customer service representatives or team leaders to craft “one-size-fits-all” answers to those questions. You can both train individual live chat operators on the right canned responses to the matching questions, or you can use a wiki or other tools to give easy access to canned responses for all operators.
A customer service operator can only physically speak to one person at a time or concentrate on one email at a time. However, live chat allows representatives to multi-task customers and issues simultaneously.
If your website is an ecommerce website that sells products in any way, then you must have implemented programs to encourage cross-selling of products and upselling of products. Those may include email follow-ups, suggestions in the shopping cart, or upsell and cross-sell items on the product pages themselves. However, you may not be satisfied with your results. The truth is that many users have become “ad blind” to cross sell or upsell promotions. They may also not understand the value of an upgrade or an add-on in the limited space available on your website. Nothing is more effective in promoting cross sells and upsells more than a one-to-one customer communication. Live chat gives you the opportunity for just that communication.
How can you do this effectively? The best way to utilize live chat opportunities for cross sells and upsells is to effectively train your live chat representatives on the best opportunities to merchandise cross sells and upsells within customer communications about specific issues or specific products. There will be a resource allocation on your company’s end both in the initial training of your live chat representatives as well as in the ongoing process of keeping them up to date on merchandise decisions, but the results will be well worth it in the form of increased revenue through live chat channels. A good example of an upsell would be a product for which the customer reviews left on your website are “middle-of-the-road” but a more expensive product has stellar reviews. As you are chatting with a customer about to make a purchase of the fewer products, train the live chat operator to say, “I don’t want to pressure you with your purchase, but you’ll notice that the customer reviews of that product are often mixed. You may want to consider an upgrade purchase of a product that has a higher customer satisfaction level. Let me know if you have any questions.”
An example of a strong cross sell opportunity would be on a clothing website. If a customer is chatting about buying a sweater that has a matching skirt, train the live chat operator to say something such as, “I’m not sure if you’re interested, but in case you didn’t notice it on the site, there is a matching skirt to that sweater that customers love.” Then be sure to have the live chat operator provide a link to the skirt.
The key, of course, is that you’ll need to train your operators and also make sure that they always have a current list of inventory and associated products. However, the results that you’ll see in sales and revenue will make it worth it.
If there’s one proven fact of sales, it’s that the best way to convert a sale is through one-on-one contact. However, that’s not the only value of personalized, conversational, one-on-one interaction. When a customer begins to have a personal dialogue with a representative of your company, they begin to feel the development of a relationship. Users don’t develop relationships with generic email templates or with pages on a website, but they do develop relationships through individualized dialogue. When you create a live chat program on your website, you open the door to increase the number of users or visitors with whom you can have those types of personal-feeling, relationship-building dialogues. Not only will that increase your sales conversions, but you’ll be building customers who will be repeat customers and who will be brand advocates of your company, promoting it to others with good reviews and recommendations.
How can you do this effectively? While a great deal of the value in live chat is in its ability to be efficient through scripts and canned responses, finding a balance between that efficiency and allowing your customer service or sales representatives to express their personality is the key to an optimal live chat program. Train your live chat operators to walk that line, and select live chat operators who acquit themselves well over chat format. Also, you can take the easy step of ensuring that your live chat operators always use personalized sign-offs and greetings.
It’s very easy to create a live chat program that sounds like it is entirely a copy and paste job from a script. Not only will your customers pick up on that, but you’ll also lose one of the most powerful advantages of live chat when you strip it of its personalization. A good way to get live chat operators more used to chatting in a personal way is to have them practice live chats on each other. Because they are already comfortable with each other and may be more casual in a simulated live chat, that tone and friendliness will spill over into their actual work chats. When training, take examples of very personal feeling chats and use them as samples in your live chat training sessions to show other operators how to be more personalized during a live chat session.
How many times have you had this experience: You call a customer service center, only to find that the representative that you’re talking to doesn’t have the answer to your question? Then, one of two things happens. You are either put on hold for a lengthy period of time, or you are transferred within the system until the right representative is reached. In either instance, it is obvious to you that there was a lack of expert knowledge within the customer service or sales staff. In a worst case scenario, the tele-representative simply gave you the wrong information and your problem wasn’t resolved at all. However, live chat functionality gives you the opportunity to keep information seeking out of the view of your customer as well as to effectively route customer service and sales inquiries directly to the most qualified agent to answer them. When your customers get quality, detailed, expert answers with their first customer service or sales contact, not only does it increase your conversions but it also builds customer and brand loyalty for the long term.
How can you do this effectively? Identifying the source or nature of a live chat inquiry gives you an advantage in being able to either instantly route queries to a specific operator or pre-prepare information in response. By tracking the page location or website source that a live chat request came from, you can automatically route a chat to an operator specialized in a relevant area without having to collect additional information or transfer within departments. By collecting information about the nature of the query in the pre-chat window, your live chat operator can gather and prepare necessary information before the chat begins, making him or her better ready for any questions or issues and less likely to subject your customer to delays. Because a live chat customer funnel is more controllable than many other channels, you can ensure expert answers in a higher percentage of cases and convert those quality answers to sales.
Here’s an example. You have a website that sells various types of insurance. It may be auto insurance, life insurance, or renters insurance. When your live chat begins, either by logging the page that the user is on or by asking the user what type of insurance he or he is searching for in the pre-chat window, you know that your user is looking for information about auto insurance. One of two things can then happen. You can route the live chat so that it goes directly to a team of live chat operators who specialize in only auto insurance questions. If your team isn’t big enough for a dedicated staff for just that sub-specialty, your available live chat operator can pull of all of the company information on auto insurance as well as get on the phone with any auto insurance specialists before he or she begins the live chat so that the operator has all of the information that he or she needs available before and during the chat. You’ll have operators who appear to have a high amount of knowledge and you’vv ll have satisfied customers on the other and of the chat.
Have you researched how many of your competitors are using live chat, or how many of them are actually using it well? If you’ve noticed that your competitors don’t have prominent or proactive live chat implementations on their websites, then you have a prime opportunity to gain a competitive advantage. While customers who may be waiting to get through on a customer service call line or to receive a response to an email at your competitors are comparison shopping online, you have a chance to utilize live chat to instantly answer any of their questions and convert sales in real time before they ever return to your competitor. While your competitor is still sorting through customer service inquiries, you can already have entirely closed the sale.
How can you do this effectively? There are two keys to gaining a competitive advantage with live chat. The first is to use proactive live chat so that you’re not relying on a customer, who may already think that they are simply comparison shopping and not prepared to make an actual purchase, to contact you. The second is to ensure that your live chat agents and operators are both trained and incentivized to close sales during chat transactions. By ensuring that your agents can effectively close sales, you limit the possibility of your consumer or user returning to a competitor’s website.
Of course, having a large enough live chat service staff to handle chat volume both proactively and reactively without creating customer wait times is just as important. Much like a customer may abandon a competitor while waiting for a phone or email contact, a customer may abandon you if you make them wait too long on a chat. The advantages of live chat can also be disadvantages if you don’t manage your staffing and availability correctly.
In business, staying abreast of current trends isn’t just an advantage, it’s a necessity. If you’re relying on your customers to use phone or to email customer support, then you may be missing out on potential contacts based on the increasingly real-time, online expectations of an entire generation of online customers. The use of smart phones, SMS, and social media messaging has changed the way that customers communicate from a primarily long-form style to a short message style. A live chat component allows users to use a communication technique that they are familiar and comfortable with to facilitate interactions with you rather than forcing them to use longer text or even live, verbal, intrapersonal communication. If you haven’t provided a live chat option to users, you may not be being aware enough of their need for short form style, real time communications.
How can you do this effectively? There are a number of ways to make live chat more appealing to your short form communication customers. The first is to strategically place your live chat buttons and invitations near your social media links on your website. This will mean that the places that a social media user is naturally drawn to will also promote live chat features. The second methodology is to be aware of the verbiage and style that you use in both your live chat invitations as well as with your live chat interactions. Use terms like “message” rather than “chat” or “post” rather than “write.” The more that you appeal to the natural communications style of your users, the better.
Take the time to sit down with your marketing communications team and think about the various ways that you can make live chat appealing to your shorter communications demographic. You may also want to do some simple A/B testing with locations of live chat buttons and invitations on your website as well as with the language that you use in those invitations and buttons.
When you’re evaluating what can and can’t make an impact on your bottom line revenue, the primary deciding factor should be return-on-investment (ROI). While there are a nearly limitless number of marketing and customer communications channels that you can explore, very few offer the same benefits at live chat. In most cases, implementing a live chat solution can be as simple as copying and pasting a block of html code onto an existing website. Though live chat customizations can improve performance, the basic process of getting set up can literally be done in less than a working day and often without a full tech or design team. There isn’t a marketing channel solution out there that can offer more sales and conversion improvement for less effort and upfront costs.
How can you do this effectively? The key to minimizing your time, effort, and expenses with a live chat implementation while maximizing the return lays within the planning of your live chat rollout. First, be sure that you are following all best practices for getting users to notice your live chat button or invitation. Customize your reactive button or proactive invitation with noticeable colors and inviting text. Ensure that your invitations or buttons appear above-the-fold on your webpage, and place buttons next to areas that already encourage user actions such as “buy” buttons or “more info” buttons. With a little pre-planning, you can also strategize unique invitations and codes based on user activity. It doesn’t take much to get your live chat program up and running and to instantly begin seeing results.