Pair Live Chat with Helpdesk/CRM Software

In life, there are certain things that just go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Salt and pepper. Batman and Robin. Live chat and CRM software. That last combo might be new to some, but the two are a match made in heaven when it comes to improving the customer experience.

Theoretically, live chat and CRM and helpdesk software (referred to as CRM software from here on) can function without each other, but combining the two will unlock their full potential. Live chat by itself is a convenient engagement tool, but without a way to record conversations, exchanges over chat are fleeting. On the other hand, a CRM software platform can be the lifeblood of your sales and support teams, but adding contextual information from chats can supercharge the usefulness of CRM data.

Modern sales and support organizations know they have to be multichannel, and live chat is a perfect complement to phone and email, providing immediacy, convenience, and context. The key is making sure the chat platform is properly integrated with a CRM system, whether starting from scratch or feeding an existing system.

Live Chat Increases Sales

The key to live chat is that it makes people happy on both side of the screen. Customers find it highly satisfying because it's quick, efficient, and personal. Businesses like it because operators can help multiple customers simultaneously, capture complete transcripts of conversations, and talk to customers while they are on your Web site. This means that these operators will help more customers and capture more leads than they would using the phone, resulting in more happy customers, more sales, and more return visits.

Nearly every facet of live chat is ideal for CRM integration. Live chat feeds very clean data (full conversation transcripts) into a CRM system, often with additional context around the conversation, such as what page the customer was viewing when the conversation began, what ad campaign brought the customer in, what pages were viewed during the conversation, and an overall sentiment when the conversation was finished.

So how do we achieve this harmonious bliss between chat and CRM?

How to Integrate Live Chat and CRM

Most live chat software now comes ready to pull and push data in conjunction with a CRM system, pulling a customer's information at the start of a chat and pushing conversations into the database when a chat concludes. Even if you're not using a big-name CRM solution, live chat platforms make it easy for developers to add basic push functionality with minimal programming.

Once the basics are in place, you can take advantage of other workflow tools within your CRM solution. For example, Salesforce.com lets you use triggers to have new cases from the chat channel enter into a particular sales automation workflow. Most of our customers like to start with a simple lead creation integration, and rarely add more automation.

As your use of chat grows, it will become important to develop a system to segment chats for sales or support. Many of our customers choose to create cases for support, and leads for sales. In some cases they use a CRM solution to manage their sales leads, and helpdesk software to manage their support cases. In most live chat software, you can assign actions based on groups of operators, for example pushing sales chats into Salesforce and customer service chats into Desk.com.

It is most important to segment these interactions so that you can do the appropriate follow-up with sales and support contacts. In many cases the typical follow-up method will be email, but quite often, you will want to place sales leads into a sales process.

Live chat and CRM can also help move a customer more quickly through a sale to full adoption. The additional context from a CRM database should be integrated so that chat operators can grab data to see where a customer is in the adoption funnel, and streamline onboarding to provide more help along the way.

Closing Thoughts

At the end of the day, if you have a CRM solution, you should put chat on your Web site. It will integrate nicely and help you get more value from your existing marketing.

If you currently have live chat and are satisfied with your method for managing contacts, you probably are not at a scale where you need a CRM system. However, if you are finding it hard to handle the volume of conversations and manage follow-ups for your chat channel, it's time to bring one in.

Live chat is an essential weapon in your arsenal. Bottom line, if you are spending marketing dollars driving traffic to your Web site, you need to be there to close the sale.

Zach Steindler is the chief Olarchitect at Olark, a producer of live chat software.

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