For most businesses, the holiday season means more than untangling that bundle of twinkle lights and stringing them up in a display of holiday cheer.
I listened to a webinar recently on preparing your retail business for the holidays. It featured a great case study by a big box retailer and had a lot of valuable information… on how you should have started months ago. There were some great pointers, but I wondered if it left anyone else wondering, “But what about this year? What can we do NOW?”
There should always be something you can do now. In a recent survey conducted by BoldChat, our customers indicated the following website changes in support of the upcoming holiday season:
1. Moderate Design Changes
2. Site Navigation
3. Landing Pages
4. Optimization of live chat / Site search (tie)
5. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) efforts.
It is true, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest shopping days of the year and there is no doubt that it pays to plan far in advance and have a strong sales period leading into the holiday season. But we’re delighted to see live chat top of mind in preparing for the holidays, even ahead of SEO.
Looking specifically at live chat optimization, among companies that use live chat, these areas are where they focus their attention in preparing for the holidays:
And if you haven’t added live chat to your site, focus your attention there to start. A live chat implementation takes minutes to install and gives you instant access to customers who are on your site now.
An inspiring story for any marketer is the oft-cited, and still partially utilized Avis tagline, “We’re #2 – We Try Harder,” the first incarnation of which was introduced in the 1960s. The idea was to portray the company as delivering superior service in comparison to its competitors – especially its #1 competitor, Hertz. The successful campaign worked and remains today a solid example of “positioning.”
I’m unsure if anybody ever tried the “We’re #3 – We Try Hardest” approach or even the “We’re #4 – Bordering on Desperation” angle, but it makes a nice blog headline so perhaps we’re #1 in the #3 game. In any case though, it’s also true. Internet Retailer Magazine has listed us among the top three live chat/click-to-call vendors based on the number of Top 500 Retailers we serve. This is a proud accomplishment for us for two reasons. In just one year, the number of Top 500 e-retailers that decided to place their trust in us went up by over 100%. That’s right; we more than doubled it. You don’t do that by trying hard. Or even harder. You’ve got to try hardest to do that.
The second reason we think this news is momentous is because at the same time we grew, we’ve been able to maintain a superlative level of high-touch customer care. We’ve increased our staff, made technology investments, and recently launched a new support portal on our website all aimed at delivering tailored, hands-on care to all of our customers.
The best accomplishment of all isn’t that we doubled our Internet Retailer Top 500 customers, it’s that one of them recently told us, “I love working with the people at BoldChat – it’s just a pleasure.”
It’s comments like that that make us work so hard. The hardest, actually.
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.