We live in a vastly different consumer world today than we did just a decade ago. The continuing rise of online sales presents an enormous challenge in determining best business practices. Although customer service may have shifted away from face-to-face interactions, it remains an equally important part of a customer’s experience.
Live chat, also known as click-to-chat services, is a simple, cost-effective way to humanize the customer experience with your website. It allows you to interact with customers in real time to provide the answers that they’re seeking, and it shows them that their needs are important to your company. Surveys have confirmed that customers value access to live help. According to Forrester Research, 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer.
Besides the positive impact on customer experience, live chat can increase productivity in the contact center. Customer support staff can more easily multitask and can handle more than one customer at a time, reducing customer wait time and lowering the volume of calls to the center. In addition, once customers are engaged with an agent who understands their needs, the agent is in a perfect position to recommend additional products to complement items already in the cart, ultimately, increasing overall sales.
However, organizations are often challenged when it comes to setting up and tailoring live-chat software to meet their specific needs. Many end up giving up because they lack the tools and training to take full advantage of the software package’s capabilities. In fact, each year, businesses spend $12 billion on technology that never gets implemented because they’re not provided with the necessary support.
The right live-chat system that is supported by effective processes can go a long way toward increasing customer satisfaction and revenue. The guidance and best practices presented in this article will give you the foundation for developing live chat into an effective solution that meets the needs of your customers and your organization.
Tips for Using Live Chat
The following are several tips to get the most out of live chat so that businesses can quickly begin to reduce costs and improve operational efficiency.
- For the most effective use of live chat, consider using inside sales staff and not just customer service representatives. People who have sales experience will more likely lead customers toward sales and increase upselling.
- Provide customers with a transcript of conversations for reference. Customers love having records of their conversations—especially when technical support or detailed step-by-step instructions are involved.
Allow customers to choose the type of help they need (e.g., sales, support, billing questions), which will eliminate the need to transfer them around.
- Use premade messages for frequently asked questions. They are convenient, easy to use and ensure that a process or service is consistently explained. They can also help to reinforce brand messaging and position. Review archived chat transcripts for ideas on language and content when developing premade messages.
- Use targeted, proactive chats to invite customers to engage in a conversation as they navigate through the website. Chat invitations can be sent manually or automatically, and can address customer queries in real-time on a variety of issues regarding purchase, shipping, pricing and more—all prominent factors in shopping cart abandonment. Proactive chat also reduces costs for businesses by lowering the number of phone calls made to a company.
- Collect vital customer information using integrated chat surveys. The surveys can be deployed on a website, embedded in email or pushed through a chat window.
And don’t forget, it’s imperative that an online presence remains personable, professional and consistent. Train live-chat support staff to:
- Remain professional and polite. Remember, these chats are an extension of a company and its reputation. Always remain calm, and give customers the benefit of the doubt.
- Avoid acronyms and slang. Be as thorough in answers as possible (without being condescending). Assume that a visitor is new to what a company is selling, and let the conversation evolve from that starting point.
- Address guests by their names. One of the easiest ways to establish a personal connection with a customer is to address him or her by first name. In doing so, it is being communicated that the company cares about each customer as a person (and not just a number).
Real-World Example: Increasing Revenue with Proactive Chat
The old adage “the customer is always right” will always ring true in the Internet economy. And, when customers feel that they have not received the attention and service they deserve, they will simply do a Google search and shop from competition. It’s that easy to lose a sale online.
How do you ensure that customers feel empowered and attended to so they don’t shop around? 1-800-GOT-JUNK? is a franchise-based company that offers full-service junk removal for homes and businesses throughout North America and Australia. The company has set the standard for exceptional customer service—for removing items directly from their location and for diverting junk from landfills whenever possible. With approximately 30% of jobs booked through the company website, the online booking process must be easy and sufficient for customers to use.
In early 2010, the company set a goal of doubling their online bookings. With that came a suite of projects, including link- building to bolster web traffic, a website redesign to help improve conversion, an iPhone booking site to accommodate a growing number of mobile users and live chat to increase conversions and to offer better customer service online. The company’s vision statement for the live-chat project was: “Our customers will have access to answers to their sales-related questions anywhere in the world at any time in all the languages we do business in via our website.”
To do this, the company initiated proactive chat invitations any time that a visitor was idle for 60 seconds or more on any of the scheduling process pages. Since the deployment, 1-800-GOT-JUNK? increased their revenue by between $70,000 and $106,000 per month. The approach has been so successful that the company is planning to roll out live-chat service on other key areas of the site, including making chat available on help pages, contact pages and other key areas where visitors typically have questions.
Provide Live Support When and Where Customers Need It
In an age of seemingly endless choices, consumers are growing more fickle. They are less tolerant of inferior service and more willing to move to competitors as a result of even a single incident of poor customer service. Responsive support staff can make all the difference.
Organizations seeking to improve customer satisfaction should not delay taking a serious look at live chat for enhancing their customers’ online experience. Customers expect a company to be available when they need them—and with live chat, a business is always just a click away.
Jeff Mason is Vice President of Marketing for Velaro, a leading provider of live chat software.
– Reprinted with permission from Contact Center Pipeline, www.contactcenterpipeline.com