In the past, when asked about a live chat solution for Mac users, the most we could offer was the possibility of using BootCamp with Windows or running a program like Parallels. With the availability of the new BoldChat Web Client, new possibilities are opening up.
With the BoldChat Web Client, the operating system is not a problem. Access to the Internet and a standard web browser like Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome or Safari give live chat agents everything they need to log in to their account and begin taking chats. A PC will still be required to perform most set-up functions, but the basics of taking chats and monitoring visits are possible from any computer.
Being cross-platform is just part of the beauty of the Web Client. With a look and feel similar to our desktop client, it’s designed to reduce training costs. Agents have all the in-chat tools they’ve come to rely on like auto-spell checking and push page. To access the Web Client, existing users can simply go to the BoldChat website, click the link to Web Interface Login in the page header and then use their existing login credentials.
The web client is available immediately to all BoldChat customers using any edition of the live chat product. To learn more, visit the BoldChat website and engage in a live chat with a product specialist 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
From June 8th to the 10th, BoldChat exhibited at the Internet Retailer Conference and Exhibition in Chicago, IL. To all of our customers that stopped by, thanks! It was great seeing you and we look forward to working together for another great and successful year. Next year we’re planning on a much more significant customer-centric event and user group meeting. Be on the look-out for that as IRCE 2011 in San Diego approaches.
We all work very hard to prepare for the largest etailing show in the world, and we extend a thank you to the folks at Internet Retailer who exert tremendous effort to ensure a quality show for attendees and exhibitors alike.
We would also like to extend our sincerest thanks to Jon Abt and everyone at Abt Electronics for their tireless assistance in preparing for this show. On June 9th, Jon, alongside BoldChat’s Director of Marketing, spoke during a session entitled “Is Live Chat Right for You?” The turnout was excellent and Jon’s talk about live chat’s impact was compelling.
For those who took advantage of the cell phone charging station we sponsored, you can now say that you’re “BoldPowered.”
While we always like to generate new prospects at IRCE, it’s not the only reason we attend the show. We also like being part of this industry and attending an event that brings a huge cross section of that industry together. We live and work in an Internet world so it’s nice to shake the hands and look in the eyes of business partners, vendors, and customers alike.
Managing email inquiries is a problem many companies simply don’t realize they have. An inability to manage inbound emails causes organizations to miss sales opportunities and deliver poor service to existing customers. How many inbound email messages does your company get daily and what is your response time?
One article stated that “…poor email handling often affects more than just the customer directly involved; in this era of rapid-fire electronic communication and the blog, perturbed customers have made a sport of sharing with the world their negative service experiences.” Unfortunately, the 51% of companies not responding to customer service inquiries that we noted here, is on a steady decline. A follow-up study, again by Hornstein Associates, reported that in 2009, just 45% of companies responded to customer service inquiries within 24 hours.
BoldChat customers effectively utilizing Email Management are able to simply and effectively route emails into the correct workflow. This post illustrates two typical customers who use Email Management in their daily operations.
SendThisFile.com is a large file transfer service that allows its customers to send and receive files that are too large for email in just a few simple steps. The company has over a million users with over 36 million files sent. With an email volume that often reaches 500 incoming messages per day, SendThisFile had difficulty managing the volume of inbound emails.
Using BoldChat’s Email Management tool, agents can quickly and efficiently respond to messages thanks to canned messages and automatic message threading. Says SendThisFile’s CFO, Michael Freeman, “[Automated threading] is a godsend.”
For inquiries that require more support, agents assign them accordingly and the support team at SendThisFile is able to quickly take ownership of the requests. Emails sent to SendThisFile are responded to within the same business day. “Customers tell us they’re surprised how quickly they hear back from us,” says Freeman.
SalesNexus is a web-based contact management software solution designed for sales people, sales management, and marketing professionals. The company is built on the premise that businesses win when their sales staffs implement best practices through efficient contact management.
Support inquiries at SalesNexus used to be forwarded to five different agents. Without clear ownership of each message, agents were never sure if an email had already been replied to, often translating to multiple replies or, even worse, no reply at all.
SalesNexus now relies on BoldChat’s Email Management tool to manage inbound emails to their support team. “The fact that we can track an email chain is huge for us,” says Bill Treat, SalesNexus’s Support Manager. “In the past, I would end up forwarding emails to another tech. With Bold Software, they can see the whole email chain and it’s so easy to use.”
Reporting capabilities in BoldChat have also played a key role at SalesNexus. “We report on our agents and when they’re logged into the system. We need to make sure they’re there when we tell our customers they will be. We also look at email activity – how many emails did I respond to today versus the other people in my team?”
But the biggest improvement SalesNexus has seen since implementing BoldChat is the lack of missed emails. “Now we know for a fact when something has been responded to. Our response time has gone up, but the biggest improvement is we no longer miss emails.”
For many of us in e-commerce or internet marketing, web analytics and pay-per-click advertising have been amazing teachers. Adwords has given marketers the ability to optimize to the penny, choosing where an ad is located for every keyword. Web analytics has taught us that we can tweak and optimize content on our website as often as we want to respond to consumer or web visitor behavior. Luckily, proactive chat rules have become pretty robust, and your rules engine in your chat application has given you a similar power over chat engagements.
Like your pay-per-click ads though, if your proactive rule is left untouched for too long, it may no longer perform at the same level it did at the beginning. Such a tool is only as powerful as the person wielding it, which means if you are doing proactive chat you should also be reporting, doing regular performance analysis, a/b testing, and conducting rule optimization whenever possible.
3 things you should be doing with proactive chat on a monthly basis:
A/B Test your invites. You never know what people are going to respond to, so if your application allows for A/B testing your proactive message – do it. Rotate new messaging in regularly. Pop the invites in different locations on the page. Redesign the look.
Run Acceptance Rate Reports. These should be analyzed monthly, if not more often. Visitor behaviors change and an acceptance rate that was once 23% might have dropped to 15%. There are enough analytics tools between your chat provider and web analytics to form a decent hypothesis about why and begin to make changes.
Optimize Performance. If you are waiting 60 seconds to invite, would you get more chats if you bumped it to 45 seconds? Test it for a week and see. There is no reason you can’t regularly optimize the performance of proactive chat on your website.
Proactive chat can outperform any other on-site marketing method available from an engagement perspective and a conversion perspective. And like any other online marketing tool, regularly refreshing and optimizing it is key.
Our second annual study on the effectiveness of live chat software has just been released. This year’s report is based on a much larger sample size which enabled some intriguing cross tabulation analysis. Rather than wax philosophic about the intricacies of the report’s methodology and the validity of the analytic approach, it’s probably more useful to simply reveal the end-game. Here are the five conclusions supported by the research:
There is a relationship between certain demographics and psychographics and those who have had experience with live chat technology.
There is a widening gap in attitude and behavior between those who’ve had a live chat interaction and those who have not.
Live chat is effective in both sales and service interactions.
Fear of proactively inviting visitors to chat is unfounded.
Certain types of e-tailers may find live chat relatively more effective.
These conclusions were reached by using multiple data points throughout the 23 page report. Some of the most interesting stats from this year’s research are:
- The number of respondents who’ve had a live chat interaction with an internet retailer rose by 4 percentage points.
- 56% of the sample indicated that live chat technology positively influenced their purchase intent
- Across 6 shopping scenarios, those that have had a live chat before chose “Live Chat” as their #1 most preferred communication method.
- Of those that have chatted before, more than 75% of them agreed that their most recent live chat interaction positively influenced their attitude about the merchant.
- Those whose last live chat interaction was prior to making a purchase rose 7 percentage points vs. 2009.
- 20% of respondents who indicated they recently shopped at an online Jewelry retailer ranked their reaction to being proactively invited as “5” on a 1 to 5 scale.
I spent the better part of last week in sunny Orlando, Florida with two of my colleagues. While we didn’t spend much time enjoying the warm weather (a welcome change from the brutal cold here in Wichita), we did spent hours upon hours inside a trade show booth.
For anyone who’s ever worked a trade show, you already know the following to be true:
Comfortable shoes are a necessity. We’re talking imperative. Don’t leave home without them.
You can never have too many business cards.
Mints, water, and inviting smiles must be available at all times.
But that’s just scratching the surface. With every tradeshow comes more knowledge. Here’s some of what I picked up this time around:
Splurging on extra padding and thick carpet from the trade show supplier is worth every penny. Not only does the booth staff experience less physical anguish, but it keeps their spirits up. A comfortable team is a more productive team. If all you can think about is collapsing onto your hotel bed and resting your aching feet, you probably won’t be as focused on engaging booth visitors. So spend a bit now and get a bigger return later when those leads turn into sales.
Giveaways, while sparse during today’s economy, are appreciated if they are useful and relevant. We gave away BoldChat branded stickers from Foundog.com that can be stuck on cell phones, iPods, laptops, cameras and, really, anything you don’t want to lose. If you happen to, say, leave your Blackberry in a cab and someone finds it, they can call the number on the sticker and report it. Foundog gives them instructions for shipping the phone and the finder receives a reward. The best part of all? You get your Blackberry back. Everyone who picked up our little piece of swag commented on how useful it was. Several booth visitors slapped the stickers on their cell phones right then and there (and grabbed one or two for their kids’ iPods once they got back home). Needless to say, the BoldChat logo now adorns a significant number of mobile devices.
Have fun and make friends. I suppose this seems obvious, but after last week, I can assure you it’s not. Of course scoring a good booth location helps with traffic, but so does enthusiasm and friendliness. After sitting in sessions all day long before making their way into the exhibition hall, plenty of the conference attendees were there just for the open bar. But once they started walking around and checking out each booth, they were way more likely to have a chat with a group that looked like they enjoyed being there versus those who looked like they’d rather be anywhere else. Several booths were staffed by people who never stood up or looked away from their laptops. These booths had very little traffic. Is it any surprise? So smile. Get to know more about the business of each visitor to your booth. Listen and when it’s your turn, teach them about your product and why it’s a good fit. Enjoy making new, meaningful connections. These are the kind that last after you return home.
What are some of your tips for a successful trade show?
Our live chat white paper library has grown considerably in the last 18 months and this post will pick the three “best” ones. “Best”, for this purpose, is defined as follows:
- Ability for the content to impact a live chat implementation in a measurable way.
- Absence of fluff. [We’ve all downloaded white papers that don’t contain anything specific - just grandiose statements of superiority.]
- Real data. [The antithesis of the previous criterion.]
- Cross vertical applicability. [Live chat is in use across industries so our aim here is to provide widely relevant information.]
With these criteria in mind, our Three Best Live Chat White Papers are…
Live Chat Performance Benchmark Report
This report is based on the summative data across our entire customer base. It provides a definitive guide allowing customers to measure their performance against customer medians.
Live Chat Effectiveness Primary Research Report
Fielded a year ago, this report looks at chat from the shopper’s perspective. What it shows is that live chat’s role in the sales cycle cannot be denied. A new version of this report – an even more robust version – is currently underway. Familiarizing oneself with the inaugural report is a pre-requisite to the next version.
Abt Case Study
There are dozens of other choices we considered for this last slot but we ultimately decided that Abt’s real and impressive results were worthy of it. This electronics retailer uses live chat to increase sales, boosts up-sells, and improve customer service. Access to this case study is provided automatically when you download white paper #2 above.
Your live chat operators are often at the front lines of your business. They can provide the first (and last) interaction your customers have. Whether they are providing sales or customer support, your live chat operators should leave a lasting, positive impression. Here are five best practices for operators to ensure they’re doing just that.
Approach a chat like you would a phone call, not an Instant Message. While one of the huge advantages of live chat is the ability to quickly and efficiently assist multiple customers at the same time, you still want each customer to feel like they have your undivided attention, just like they would if they were talking to you on the phone. Answer promptly and greet your visitor, preferably by name. If it will take a few minutes to pull up their account or order or look up the information they are requesting, let them know instead of leaving them hanging. If you are using a canned message and part of the message doesn’t apply to the customer, edit the message before you send it. (Nothing is worse than being at the receiving end of an obviously scripted message.) And remember, while you want the chat to be friendly and helpful, it’s not the same as IMing your friends. Stay professional and avoid any typical instant messaging abbreviations (LOL, BRB, etc.).
Ask permission. If you’d like to utilize the push page feature to “push” a visitor’s browser to a specific page of your website, ask first. If you want to launch an Active Assist session, ask. Even though the visitor will be prompted to give permission to begin the session, make sure it’s something they are comfortable with before taking that step. For some customers, live chat may be an entirely new frontier. Ensure that their first experience is a positive one.
Use BoldChat to help you multi-task. Organize the BoldChat grid using the Group-by and Column Chooser options. Pop out chats into individual windows when managing more than one chat at a time using the View feature. Set up the one-click greeting option so you can automatically greet your visitors when you click the Answer button. Set up hot keys for canned messages. With so much flexibility and so many different ways to configure BoldChat to fit the way you work, helping multiple website visitors gets easier and easier. If you haven’t attended our Getting Started with BoldChat webinar series (dates and times are regularly posted on the BoldChat home tab), be sure to sign up for the next session and get more out of your BoldChat experience.
Send an image before you send a hyperlink or a push page. Whenever appropriate, insert an image into your chat, either by using the insert image button and entering the image URL or by dragging and dropping images into your chats. Keep the visitor engaged in the chat instead of pushing them somewhere else. Plus, the visitor can request an email transcript at the end of the chat and save the images for future reference.
Enable the post-chat survey. Nothing can boost operator morale like positive feedback from customers. Sure, the post-chat survey provides supervisors with a great tool for measuring operator performance, but it also lets operators see how they’re doing. Add the survey fields to the BoldChat grid using the Column Chooser and operators can review the survey results as soon as the chat ends. It’s a proactive way of improving your chat implementation, one chat at a time.
Recently McAfee, the popular anti-virus company, published a paper about the causes of shopping cart abandonment. They cite research from the Eighth Annual Merchant Survey sponsored by PayPal detailing the leading causes of abandonment. The report said high shipping charges were cited by 46% and security concerns by 21%. McAfee goes on to talk about the importance of security in the sales process. Even though McAfee doesn’t cover it, when you look at the reasons for abandonment in detail, you see live chat can be a game changer in your shopping cart.
Here are the top-cited reasons people abandon shopping carts:
46% – High shipping charges
37% – Comparison shopping
36% – Lack money
27% – Want a coupon
26% – Want to shop offline
24% – Couldn’t find the preferred pay option
23% – Item not available at checkout
22% – Couldn’t find customer support
If you read our report on Live Chat Effectiveness, you’ll discover that live chat can reduce shopping cart abandonment. By placing a live chat button and utilizing BoldChat’s proactive chat feature within your shopping cart pages, you get a chance to address #1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8. (I’m not really sure what to do about #3.) We suggest you place a proactive chat invitation on your checkout page with a timer delay based on your knowledge of your abandonment metrics. You can use our A/B testing capability to try special offers like free shipping or a discount code. You can also place an invitation on any page that displays an error code offering to help the shopper resolve the error. If nothing else, at least put a prominent live chat button in the cart and on the checkout page so your visitors can find you when they need you (#8 – 22%).
Our customers routinely report a 30% decrease in shopping cart abandonment by taking these (and other) steps. Don’t wait. Your competitors won’t.
We’re often asked this, or some variant of this question. While we certainly have our own opinions about it, I decided to seek the advice of an expert. I turned to Chris Moschella, President of A Live Answer and here are the results of our conversation:
Steve: I’m sure your answer to the question above (Can you really move sales chat offshore) would be, “it depends.” So, what does it depend on?
Chris: The most important factor is the level of American culture involved in your product or service; some things can be taught, some can’t. Heavily commoditized items like cellular phones and long distance service could be easily off-shored from just about any country. However, products that require some knowledge of current events or in-country sensitivities like weight loss products or specialized brands, on the other hand, might be a challenge.
When you outsource a project you are depending on someone else to produce results. If you add bridging a cultural divide to the equation, here are some factors to consider when choosing a country for your offshore sales operations:
What percentage of the population speaks the languages you require?
How long will it take you to travel to that country?
How stable is the government of the country?
How many reliable forms of internet are available and how much do they cost?
What are the payroll laws? Pay close attention to taxes, holidays, severance pay, holiday bonuses, and maternity laws.
What is the cost to house a manager in a safe and convenient location?
Can you legally participate in the business? (Some countries do not allow you to work at your own facility without a work visa.)
How easy is it to move funds to the country?
What is the common knowledge of American culture? What percentage of the population has visited the US? For how long?
Will your service agreement be legally enforceable in the country?
Most of the items on the above list are factors that I have seen shutdown offshore projects that otherwise were doing well, so consider each of them carefully.
Steve: If you could offer advice for someone looking for an outsourced vendor for their sales chats, what would you tell them?
Chris: Ask for referrals and call them. The bottom line is results and they are not always easy to get, even here at home. In order for a company to sell to your nitch, they’re going to have to be very good at project implementation and fulfillment. You certainly don’t want to be their first project. Remember that the offshore company is not just trying to sell your product or service; they are representing your company.
Steve: What kind of timeline should someone expect to be dealing with if they decide to go offshore?
Chris: I recommend 30 days of due diligence whether your outsourcing or doing it yourself. Another 30-60 days should be allowed for implementation. If you go offshore, you really should consider traveling to the outsourcing company to provide personal training.
Steve: Would you recommend a pay-for-performance structure?
Chris: Most outsourcing companies charge per hour/per seat. This is wonderful for them, but usually doesn’t work well for you. If the company is serious they should be willing to be paid on a performance basis. I usually use 33% of my US cost as a starting point when negotiating the cost I’d like offshore.
Steve: How involved does the company have to be AFTER they outsource?
Chris: You should be as involved as you are in country. If you are watching lead costs and daily sales in country, you should do the same with your offshore company. If you have a sales manager to whom you’ve tasked the items to in the US, then you should expect to be able to task the same to your offshore sales manager. I’ve seen companies completely hand over their sales division to offshore companies with no regrets. I’ve also seen them let go of their well-trained effective domestic staff only to see sales crater in the offshore setting.
Steve: Tell me a bit about your business:
Chris: A Live Answer has been providing telephone answering services since 1989. In 2006 we began providing live chat solutions, primarily as a sales tool. While our competitors have focused on high volume customer service solutions, A Live Answer has built a solid lead generation and sales system. Utilizing BoldChat for our infrastructure we have been able to implement sales projects quickly and have delivered handsome results to our clients