Hold the phone. Back that truck up. Did he say live chat was a bad idea for small business owners?
I read the article and immediately reached out to him on Twitter, with a series of three tweets. (One hundred forty characters is so hard when you’re passionate about something!) He responded, kindly disagreeing and holding firm. His position in the blog post is that live chat should be avoided by small business owners for two reasons:
Someone has to be behind a computer at all times lest you appear understaffed, and
You could easily forget that you have it activated, walk away and then no one answers the chats.
The answer, which was so very difficult to give in 140 characters, is that these problems can be fixed in two steps.
Deploy a chat button that simply disappears when you are offline. Or alternately, deploy a chat button that is replaced with an “email us” button when you are offline.
If you’re likely to forget you’re online and walk away, your chat implementation should have a setting that allows you to go offline if your computer is idle. (With BoldChat you can set the time in minutes that you’d like to go inactive after.) And when you go offline, rule #1 that your chat button disappears or turns into something else goes into effect.
These are both features that reputable live chat services should have, even at the lowest price points. So, if the live chat service you’re using isn’t able to do this, now is a good time to go shopping for live chat.
Sure, those are reasons to fix the problems he mentioned, but why have live chat in the first place? Business owners have to decide if having live chat on their website makes sense for themselves. But if your site has enough traffic to justify it, not having live chat can actually be detrimental.
What if we told you that 1 in 5 website shoppers prefers live chat over all other communication methods? That’s where the math comes in. If you’re counting, that’s 20% of website shoppers who would rather chat with you than call you or email you. And that 20% (we call them Live Chat Fans) are appealing shoppers. They’re more likely to be college-educated and they are 43% more likely to have spent $2,000 or more in a single transaction. They’re so appealing, we did a study to find out who they are.
We’ll leave the, “How to Run Customer Service for a Small Shop” part to Steve C. but the second part? Let’s make that “and Why Doing Live Chat Wrong is a Bad Idea.”
At BoldChat we follow online searches for our brand’s name and for terms like “live chat software.” Google is a handy tool for this. These terms come up on Twitter all the time too. At some point, I noticed the great number of people calling out either their love of, or their disdain for a live chat experience. So much that I started a folder on my desktop that I named, “Live Chat Fail,” and another, “Live Chat Win” with the intent of screen capturing these nuggets and revisiting their mistakes (or celebrating their win) with an occasional blog post — in fact, I still plan on doing that. But more recently, I started to notice a trend, the great number of people complaining that chatting with customer service was like talking to a robot. Case in point:
There are countless other examples, but you get the point. One culprit of this less than par experience? A feature present in most live chat providers – canned messaging. At BoldChat, we also boast a canned messaging tool. In some of our editions it’s even an “intelligent” feature that suggests messaging based on the current chat conversation. The point is, the feature is not to blame, the problem with these robotic responses is the approach. Canned messaging, whether it is for chat, as in the above example, or for a response in Twitter, should be used as a tool to get the job done, not a crutch to move you task to task. In the BoldChat UI, canned messages can be inserted, and then edited, shortened or expanded upon. The best practice around canned messaging is to use them to cut your response time, but before hitting send, be sure your message is relevant and makes sense considering the context of the conversation.
Nowhere is the ability to personalize each and every message more apparent than in social media. Social consumers tend to have an expectation for human interaction. Just a few short weeks ago, Progressive, the insurance company known for their amiable agent, Flo, came under fire when a family member of one of their insured criticized them via a blog post which then went viral, leading to hundreds, if not thousands of angry tweets. The company responded via Twitter, which at first seemed genuine, unless you took at look at their page, which looked something like this:
So, the lesson to take away here is not only about the way that Progressive handled such as emotional issue, but also in how they responded to the countless people who communicated to them.
If there’s a message that you are constantly sending, step back and take a look. Are you doing the robot?
Today begins the beta testing phase of a new tool that can help manage Twitter for your business. BoldChat, with an integrated Twitter management tool, is available now! To become a beta tester, first, signup here. You’ll be directed to create a BoldChat account and download a new beta edition of BoldChat (or to login if you have a current account). Then, be sure to follow our @BoldBeta account on Twitter. Participation in the beta test is free and is slotted to last for 30 days. Each time you send us a suggestion or feedback via Twitter (tweet or DM), you’ll be entered in our drawing to win a new iPad.*
What Can You Expect During the BoldBeta?
Full Functionality of BoldChat. The beta test will include a fully functional trial of our product, so all features of BoldChat will be available for use. We encourage you to use other features too. We don’t know yet what product edition the final Twitter functionality will be in.
Some Bugs. The purpose of the Beta is to get feedback from BoldChat users. The product is usable right now, but not finalized, so there will be bugs. Why release a product with bugs? Releasing it to you at this point allows us to incorporate user suggestions in the final incarnation of the product.
Some Missing Features. It may not have all the features you want – yet. Let us know what you think is missing! (And each time you do, you’ll be entered in our contest.) We can’t guarantee all suggestions will be incorporated, but we’d like to know how you’re using Twitter and what you want in a Twitter management solution.
Lots of Support. When you experience issues, we want to hear from you. Send us a tweet or DM with simple feedback. Some issues will be escalated to email or phone support when necessary.
*You can send as many suggestions as you like during the Beta test, each will count as a separate entry for the iPad, but to be entered into the drawing they need to contain constructive suggestions or quality feedback.
By now, we’ve all seen customer service go bad via social media. Customers (myself included) are impatient. It’s not uncommon for a consumer to go through all available channels of communication and, by now frustrated, turn to the world of social media – Twitter, in particular.
What this means in today’s world is that brands should be managing their online presence via Twitter – not just broadcasting. It seems only natural that an integrated communications solution is the way to go, but how do you cut through all of the clutter? BoldChat’s managed Twitter solution (which releases in Beta later today) can help by setting up a workflow for Twitter. To find out more about the Twitter integration, check out this 6-minute demonstration. You might also want to take a look at a webinar we presented with Website Magazine, 5 Ways to Immediately Engage Website Visitors. The Twitter integration is covered in that presentation as well!
We’ll be managing the beta program by monitoring Tweets that come in on @BoldBeta, so if you’re planning on participating, follow us there!
We’ve been publishing data about live chat for a number of years. We know that there are individuals from some brands who download every piece of research that we put out. Although some don’t use our services, this tells us that we are regarded as a leader in live chat and an industry expert. We’re proud of the work we do in live chat research and we’ll take that compliment!
“Normally I would be pretty skeptical of white papers from a SaaS vendor, will they really report on all data? or will they cherry-pick to make the data say what they want? Reading the methodology in the white paper I do have to give them credit, they are on their game and the level of disclosure in this section does give me a comfort level with their data.”
He has a great point. Consumers and businesses alike are right to question sources when researching a product or service. The Internet gives us access to a great number of white papers, research reports, product reviews and much more. If looking at a product review, is it a paid opportunity or is it from an unbiased third party? If it’s paid, it may (or may not) be a fair comparison of the reviewed products and services, but it is almost definitely not a comprehensive review of comparable products or services in the spectrum. White papers and research reports, while well-written, can present similar problems. Where does the data come from? How large was the sample?
At BoldChat, we’re transparent about our research partnerships and we talk about our methodology as it relates to the data being presented. It may be impossible – or at the very least, extremely difficult – to get completely unbiased data, but one thing you can do is look for transparency from the source.
Those of us at BoldChat are, not surprisingly, big fans of live chat. We love this technology not just because we make it, but because we know how powerful it can be for businesses. Put simply, live chat works. As consumers, we love it for the same reason – it’s efficient while simultaneously putting the chatter in the driver’s seat of the conversation. I personally prefer live chat above any other method for communicating with Internet merchants. We describe “live chat fans” in our annual Live Chat Effectiveness research and, without a doubt, I am one.
Except when I’m not.
Despite my love of the technology – how easy and fast it is to get my questions answered – even I know that the technology is the easy part. Without a properly trained and empowered agent on the other end the experience is almost not worth having.
Here’s proof – an actual chat I had just a few days ago. Note the date and time of the chat – it’s Saturday at around ten in the morning.
So here’s 7 minutes I can’t get back. Oh, and there’s a new membership this merchant didn’t get. Why this particular chat software didn’t auto-correct the spelling error is beyond me, but I actually don’t mind it. That error is about the only thing that tells me I was speaking to an actual person. Given the way this chat was going I half-expected that I was chatting with a bot.
These types of interactions depress me. While I applaud this merchant for deciding chat is a channel they want to offer, they must be scolded for not providing their agents with what they need to succeed. This wasn’t, thankfully, my first chat experience. If it had been, I doubt I’d ever try it again.
How many of your chats lead to a sale? How many visitors download your newest piece of collateral? Which of your operators have the highest close rates?
If you’re using BoldChat, you can easily find out the answers to these questions through our proprietary conversion tracking. Find out more about conversion tracking and the edition it’s available in here, on our website.
Conversion tracking is HTML-based and allows you to set up a wide variety of desired website actions and track them in relation to your live chat or click-to-call implementation. Two views of conversion data are provided – a grid view which allows at-a-glance performance analysis, and the inclusion of the metrics into the reporting engine. Conversion tracking passes value information and shared operator data enabling accurate commissioning of agents.
Earlier this month, we released our Live Chat Performance Benchmarks report. An updated version of our 2009 report, it queried the anonymized data of our customer base, including tens of millions of chat records, hundreds of millions of website visit records and billions of unique page URL recorded visits. BoldChat has access to one of the largest live chat communities in existence. This massive base of real-world data allowed us to extract the findings presented in the document.
A sample of the results featured in the report:
Chatters are 7.5 times more likely to convert than visitors who don’t chat. Up from 4.1 in 2009.
Chatters that engage via proactive invitation are 8 times more likely to convert than visitors who don’t chat. Up from 6.3 in 2009.
Chatters spend about 55% more per purchase than non-chatters.
Proactive invitations appear to be critical for higher traffic websites. Among these sites, proactive invitations had an average acceptance rate of 9.7%.
Websites in the top 20% for post-chat survey satisfaction scores had a 266% greater change to convert a chatter than an average site.
We originally published this piece in January 27, 2009, but it still rings true today.
There might be a temptation to run some reports on your live chat implementation and hand those out, showing who has had the most conversions, who types the fastest, who took the most chats, etc. But quantity of interaction is only one of the benefits you can garner from using live chat.
You probably ignore that voice that says “calls may be recorded for quality purposes” – that’s because call centers have been working on quality for years. Live chat should be no different.
Creating a Chat Quality Assurance program isn’t hard or overly time-consuming. I’ve done it several times over the years. Done well, it not only improves the quality of your interactions with your customers, it can give you a chance to salute your high performers and use incentive systems to boost morale. It’s a win, win, win.
The best part about implementing a program is how much easier it is with live chat than in a call center. In a call center you either have to listen realtime and score the call or you have to have recording and playback capability. Then, if you provide feedback, if you don’t have the call recorded, it can easily be a he-said/she-said about what happened on the call. In live chat the entire interaction is all there and you can coach on tone, timing, inquisitiveness, accuracy, professionalism, closing skills – or any other elements critical to organization. You will find that providing feedback to your agents on their chat performance is faster, easier, more accurate, and less prone to misinterpretation.
To get started, follow these easy steps.
Create a matrix of the 10-20 elements you really want your agents to get right. Include some simple-yet-essential elements such as greeting and closing as well as some subjective elements that will help you mold the voice your want your agents to represent you with.
Assign a number of points possible for each element. (Hint: if you make the total equal 100, the paradigm will be easier for agents to connect to).
Decide how many chats you will review per agent and how frequently you will review them. (Hint: 2-3 chats per day is not too much feedback; 2-3 per month isn’t really a program – shoot for something in the middle).
Create a simple recognition program in which everyone one who achieves gets rewarded. You want all your customers to have a great experience, so don’t dis-incent all the non-top-agent by only rewarding one prize.
Make the incentives fun, inexpensive, and quickly rewarded. Certificates, coupons, mugs, food, etc.
Review the program with the agents so they understand how the program works and what matters to you.
Salute excellence weekly or monthly for all who qualify and also with a quarterly award that gets lunch paid for by the boss. You can also try to get an executive to agree to take your annual star to lunch. One of the best ways I ever got the corner office to understand the value of what agents were doing was when they took one to lunch!
Quality was important years ago when call centers started recording and scoring calls for training – in today’s ecommerce world of many available options, quality can be the single biggest difference and the one you have the most control over.
Make sure your live chat tool keeps chat histories and allows your supervisors to make notes to the agent about them within the chat record – enabling you to focus on the quality critical to your success with your customers and prospects.
Get started now, it will only take a couple of hours to craft and short period of time each day or week.
It makes sense that a company who’s been helping individuals organize their personal spaces since 1997 would be interested in live chat.
Organize-It, an online retailer of storage and organization products, now offers customer service support via live chat in addition to their 24/7 phone support. Like BoldChat, Organize-It is committed to making customer service more accessible and to continuously increasing the quality of service offered.
“Within hours of implementing live chat we were receiving questions from customers and effortlessly addressing their issues,” said Catherine Parent, Senior Customer Service Representative at Organize-It.
Organize-It General Manager Chris Nylen is also excited about the expanded hours and the new communication channel. “Live chat offers an immediate and personal connection with our customers,” said Nylen.
“Having live chat is a sign that a business is genuinely dedicated to the highest levels of service both before and after the sale,” said Ross Haskell, Director of Marketing for BoldChat. “Our research shows that once a consumer uses the technology, they start looking for it everywhere they shop. We are pleased that Organizeit.com has embraced our live chat solution as a way to actively engage their website visitors.”
In the fast-paced and ever-changing world of ecommerce, meeting the demands of consumers is a key to success. Organize-It is one ecommerce company that gets it!