Last year our company deployed a live customer support program in a variety of ways on our own sites. We spent about 6 month learning who interacted, how they interacted, when the chose to chat with one of our live customer support specialist.
(Quick context: Our consulting firm has a production company. The production company builds and manages online sales and marketing applications --websites -- in support of our consulting projects. 90% of our clients are B2B. We also have a CRM company that builds, deploys and supports the adoption of CRM processes.)
We then started to "sell" it as a feature upgrade to all of our clients for who we host their chat. We deployed it for about a month -- sometimes more -- with our internal team providing the chat support. Then as we had "figured out" how to generate leads and provide quality live support in their unique context we transfer ownership to the client's internal staff team. We have now been able to demonstrate an ROI for almost every single client.
This is a quick summary of current key take aways:
Taking The Time to Set-up Our internal team spent considerable time learning how people responded to chat on the site so that we could provide a customized experience. (The added benefit of this is that it provided our design/development team a unique level of customer interaction data which we hadn't had before) I strongly recommend that to earn internal adoption -- just as critical as external use -- that this stage of deployment is honored.
We made changes As mentioned above -- chagned were made to our site's UI -- especially our B2C sites -- to reflect the type of questions we were receiving from those that responded to our invitations to chat. This lets me know that a positive feedback loop was developed -- and as a systems guy -- I like that!
Customized Triggers The live customer support program we chose allows use to customize triggers -- or chat requests -- based on the action of the individual on the site. This includes time on the site, search words used to get to the site, referring page, sequence of pages visited. this customization has allowed us to have automated triggers that address the specific particular interests of the site visitor and has greatly enhanced the response rate.
Passive Moderators The custom triggers also allow our chat moderator (who is always someone in sales/marketing) to be doing something else and receive the incoming chat requests. The invitation to chat is automated. This makes it much easier to gain adoption from the existing sales/marketing team.
CRM Integration The live customer support program we chose also allows for integration directly into our CRM platform. This ensure consistentcy in leadership messaging about the critical importance of every step of the CRM process being docuemented in the CRM platform.
Not Just for Prospects We have found that 50% of the users of the LiveChat are current customers or clients that come to ask a quick question, get a piece of information, or to facilitate a referral!! this was a surprise to us, and we had to reconfigure deployment to match this need. It has permitted us to leverage live customer support throughout the customer/client lifecycle.
Integrated with SaaS Another unexpected surprise was that by leveraging iframes we were able to embed the chat inside our CRM platform -- thus providing immediate live client support to support the adoption and use of a new CRM tool. Wow! We are still figuring out how to make this work, and link with our own case management -- but the initial results have been very positive.
The live customer support platform we chose also allows us to match campaigns to goals to triggers for caluaculating marketing ROI. It is a nice feature. I am excited about it. I wish I was cool enough to speak to it as a benefit, but it is a level of complexity that we haven't wrapped our heads around and deployed yet.
In the end a successful organization engages their stakeholders in a relationship. We have found that live customer support to be emerging as an important tool is supporting the feedback loops that allow the relationships to deepen.
We introduced Live Chat into our sales flow a couple of months ago, and while I won't say radical change in our business model, its certainly a major part of any future plans.
Couple of things to think about, if you already use a chat system based around jabber or similar then you may find some of the chat systems support jabber clients for operators allowing staff to use their existing systems.
So for example a few of our notifications have included:
When one of these targets are met, the system pings all available operators and one of us will drop on, asking if they want any help. Initially we were sceptical about responses but we have well over 25% respond to this greeting.
In terms of sales, I suspect our chat system paid its running costs in about an hour on the first day as while it does increase some sales where it really works is in upsells. All our staff are technical with exception of the office manager and generally suck at selling but can happily talk features to customers.
Meaning they inadvertently upsell often subconsciously. Consequently we have seen a substantial increase in higher value sales.
The downside we don't use it as a support mechanism officially, though it has started to become so, also we find that while we have some ability to download transcripts its hard to tie into our CRM. We did for a while ask people to input their email and name before chatting to us but we would rather have the engagement and potential lack of tracking.
All in all it's been a huge success we are looking to expand it out to our other sites.
We are also looking to try and determine if our current solution partner is the route we want to go or bring it in house but either way live chat for us at least is here to stay.
Yes, it works to increase interaction with your web site visitors. We implemented live chat about 18 months ago. It brought a significant increase in contacts with both customers and prospects.
Increased interaction means more leads and the opportunity for more conversions. Remember this is a two edged sword. Conversions are pretty dependent on what you're selling and the effectiveness of the people interacting to your chat visitors. I've left more than one web site based on complete frustration trying to get basic information from a live chat representative.
Yes, it works.
A couple key points:
1) post the hours that you're able to staff this - clicking on "Chat with a rep" and then getting the "oh, we're closed now" message is a turn off.
2) empower the people who are monitoring / conducting your chats to fix problems and if they can't make sure they can do a "warm transfer" from the chat to someone who can fix the problem.
You might consider aligning this function with the person / team who monitors Twitter for you so that you're able to extend your chats beyond just people who come to your site and include people who contact you on Twitter or perhaps just @mention you on Twitter.
Not so long ago, I saw that question in a tech magazine, and was proven to convince up to 30% more of the visitors to purchase an article, increasing the website's revenue.
The key is to address the visitor, not letting him/her click a button to ask for information. Just letting them know you're there to help by a simple "Hello, I am here to help you if you might have any questions." Pro-active selling a product online works !
I can't tell you how many times I found myself in a position where i wanted to just "ask a question" that wasn't on any FAQ and there was simply no one to talk to. This definitely adds value and can salvage otherwise lost business.
If you do limit your product to business-hours working audience, you should try to stretch the availability of support to cover evenings too.
You can definitely outsource this to India, that'll lower the costs and also provide support beyond the regular 9-5.
Our sales team has been using live chat for over two years now. Our most recent statistics show that 18% to 27% of our chats turn into leads for callbacks during a 3 month period. Our sales team takes the chats, and our answering service handles them when the sales team is unavailable or off work.
What we found most interesting is that the lead capture rates were the same for both our professionally-trained sales team as well as for our answering service. The difference was maybe 1% overall.
Some people think that inbound calls and inbound chats should be treated in the same manner. We've actually learned that chats and calls should be treated very differently. The advantage of chat for lead capture is that you can have people handle the chats who know very little about your business. They don't need to answer questions. In fact, you shouldn't have them answer questions if you can avoid it.
Instead, it's best to have your chat agents ask basic, general, opening questions, which is described in greater detail in the article How To Build Great Rapport With Live Chat When setting up a new client, we sit down with our best chat agents and look at new client's websites and come up with a list of questions that we can ask. I've seen pretty bad chats that had 3 messages. The first was the agent saying "How may I help you?". The second message was the question from the lead, and the third was "Sorry, I don't know, let me have your email and someone will get back to you."
When we asked for contact information right away, we noticed that we encountered a lot of resistance! However, we found that if our agents first asked some general, basic questions, it not only engaged the chat guest, but it also set the chat agent up to have an out. If the lead asks a question, turn the conversation back around, take control of it, and ask questions yourself. In the motorcycle safety course example, we would have the agents ask the following questions:
After asking these questions, we say
I'd like to send you the list of required safety items and also pass your information to our new rider scheduling department. May I have your email address? In summary, here are the following things you need to make sure your agents can do to successfully run live chat:
By engaging your leads and asking some basic questions, you'll find that your lead capture rates will increase, and your prospects will be much more satisfied with their chat interactions.
DISCLOSURE: I am the product manager of Conversion Support's sales team's software, which is included in our list of software and service offerings.
Yes, it works. Because when you're online, and you're a customer, doubt = 99.9% no sale. If you can talk to a live person, instantly, that person can put your mind at ease and pretty much lead you by hand to the online checkout line.