For many organizations, live chat software is an additional avenue for communicating with customers and prospects online. Here's how it typically works: A customer or prospect clicks on the "Live Chat" button and is instantly connected with a service representative who can help meet her immediate needs.
It's a very simple process that allows service representatives to be more passive and wait for customer inquiries to come rolling in across the transom. However, in addition to having "on-call" service representatives for customers and prospects, much more can be done to enhance sales conversions when it comes to live chat.
New advances in the areas of proactive chat allow organizations to use it in dynamic ways that decrease shopping cart abandonment, which often happens when the consumer has a question or concern the Web site cannot address. Proactive chat allows agents to send chat invitations to visitors as they navigate a site. Invitations can be sent manually as they monitor visitor behavior, or triggered automatically based on preset rules.
When combined with marketing automation and intelligence tools, proactive chat allows organizations to determine which visitors to a Web site have the highest propensity to buy and which may need more information or an additional prompt before they convert. By using a marketing intelligence solution behind live chat, organizations can move well beyond using their sites as a passive medium to being a highly proactive sales venue.
Many CRM and marketing automation tools can process this information in real time, allowing sales representatives to have the actionable intelligence they need to quickly create a meaningful discussion that contributes to a better online experience for the customer and higher conversion rates for the organization.
In fact, online CRM solutions are surpassing anything that could be done in the brick-and-mortar world at a blistering pace. If you walk into a retail outlet to buy a pair of shoes, does the sales representative have a world of intelligence about you at her fingertips? Of course not. The only proactive thing that a sales rep can do is simply ask, "Can I help you?"
With proactive chat, organizations can configure a chat invitation to happen when something does or does not occur. For example, if a prospective customer is idle on a Web page, a proactive chat invitation can be automatically triggered, allowing an organization to engage with an otherwise unengaged customer. However, the most important thing to remember is that live chat solutions that are integrated into CRM offerings provide the actionable intelligence needed to bring in more sales.
In addition, there are next-generation solutions that allow organizations to use deeper analytics based on data available from online networks. Many large organizations have broad, active, and vocal communities of users, which provide a massive reservoir of information that can be quickly and easily searched.
When sales representatives have the right customer data to launch an effective proactive live chat, combined with the ability to answer the prospect's questions quickly and easily, sales conversions will increase exponentially.
Also, many of these fully integrated solutions are cloud-based and provide users with enhanced flexibility and increased efficiencies. All businesses need is a browser to proactively chat with customers, access the real-time customer analytics, and even access reporting and other insights to measure true return on investment.
By taking a proactive approach to using live chat—which is often viewed as a passive tool—organizations can meet and exceed customer expectations. And, when armed with the right customized customer intelligence, organizations have a unique opportunity to bring more sales in the door—and isn't that what e-commerce is all about?
Jeff Mason is vice president of marketing at Velaro, where he oversees the company's entire marketing function. Previously, he served as vice president of marketing at Social Solutions and cofounded Artifact Software. He was also vice president of corporate communications and marketing at Sequoia Software.