Proactive chat: Reassure your customers

Some chat practices make me think of a halloween creepy costume contest. Simply terrifying!! New technologies will give your agents much information about your online visitors – It may feel big-brotherish at times. The targeting tools are designed to make the intervention of a salesperson on a website, helpful and contextual – If used properly, it is welcomed by most visitors. Now, do not make them feel like you are breathing down their neck or they will leave and not come back.

The stalker!

We recently commissioned a survey that clearly showed that chat is often misused. Proactive chat can have the opposite effect of its intended purpose: At best it annoys, it can also scare customers away or interrupt a successful check out. This results in increased workload for agents and lower customer retention. We found out that sales training is neglected in most chat implementations. It is like sending a sales person on a sales call without the basic training. Your website is likely to be customers first point of contact with your company – it also caters to a much higher traffic than any other physical outlet. Chat agents or sales people are representing your company – it is important to give them the training your company deserves.

“Just looking”: helpfully engage, at the right time

Chat must be intelligently addressed, it must be subtle, offered at the right time with the right message: We have all been engaged by an overzealous sales person when walking into a store. “Can I help you find something?” The answer is invariably “no, I am just looking”: The salesperson has missed an opportunity to establish a connection with the customer and been tagged as an annoying salesperson. Customers need space. You did a great job displaying really cool information on your website. Give them some time to look at it. Your objective is to keep the agent out of the conversation if not needed. Then nudge back customers who need help and close the sale. Initiating a proactive chat at the right time dramatically increases your chances of establishing a connection. Imagine a visitor browses to a product page, then hovers over the cart several times, you know that this is a pretty typical abandonment point on your site – You can establish a connection, offer help, advice, technical details or simply get them “unstuck”. Your agent has been helpful and increased the lifetime value of the customer.

Set your chat at strategic points

Target First is a powerful tool to identify when to engage visitors in the context of their navigation. By triggering a chat at known abandonment points – for example erratic navigation on complex product pages or along the purchasing tunnel. You will be able to help customers through otherwise abandoned transactions. Enriching customer information with external databases such as your CRM can also give some useful information to your agents. For example, it could identify a returning customer ready to renew a lease. Web monitoring technology is here to help, it is powerful but must be used wisely – make your customers feel special, don’t make them feel like you are stalking them.

Can you afford a targeted chat?

I often get the question: Can I afford a targeted chat? My answer is usually: Can you afford not to have one? – and for sure, you cannot afford a basic chat. Chat is a powerful tool in the marketing manager’s toolbox, but it can also be an expensive proposition – and not always for the most obvious reasons.

Total cost of operating a chat

Most basic chat software are relatively inexpensive, some of them are even free and most do a pretty good job – they are also inexpensive to implement and agents can chat with several customers at the same time – It is not hard to realize, that the highest cost of operating a chat comes from the manpower and associated costs to operate it. This is also were the cost savings are – Unlike basic chat, a targeted chat reduces costs: it monitors visitor behavior and profile and sends invitations to chat at the appropriate time focusing on abandonment points – it limits as much as possible unnecessary discussions – or interfering with a successful unassisted check out.

Companies are increasingly looking at chat as a branding tool

Online customer acquisition has become more expensive in the last few years. Online competition has increased, driving some industries to spend up to 25% of their sales to generate qualified traffic. Conversion rates online remain relatively low – so this expensive traffic gets even more expensive. A well implemented targeted chat will increase conversion rates by up to 40%. Successful companies are using chat to build customer trust and increase average shopping cart value. By being helpful and appropriate, a chat agent will increase customer retention and lifetime value.

I often come across this scenario

Websites visitors are prompted to chat as soon as they land on the site. Each subsequent page visited offers a chat – usually with a close ended question! “Hello, my name is John, do you need help?” – These pro-active chat requests are coming at the wrong time and are at best annoying – they are usually ignored. Conversion results are poor, cost of agents increases and customer satisfaction decreases. The project gets shelved and the chat is not attended.

In conclusion: The hidden costs of chat, lye as much in the cannibalization of unassisted online sales at a cost, as it does in long term customer loyalty. However, we have come a long way in chat technology, real time targeting tools can avoid these pitfalls and are a powerful tools to customer engagement.