Chat Up Your Customers for Increased Web Sales

Business communication options are expanding at breakneck speed, especially when it comes to online options. As a result, today's "connected" consumers are putting pressure on businesses to deliver timely and personal communications, at the same time bringing heightened expectations when it comes to service. In this environment, consumers are growing less tolerant of inferior service and are more likely to move to a competitor as a result of a poor customer experience.

Businesses that are successful at retaining clients have more opportunity to maximize the revenue they can generate from their installed client base. Additionally, a loyal, happy client is more likely to spread the word to others about your product and drive additional, cost-effective sales leads to your doorstep. And since it costs far less to sell to an existing client than it does to find a new client, paying special attention to pleasing and retaining your clientele should be high on your priority list.

You may think that maintaining customer loyalty can be as simple as a clear, effective, and relevant online communication plan. It goes without saying that driving traffic to your site is the first step in winning over clients. However, businesses whose marketing plans stop here are doing themselves a disservice. Executing a thoughtfully laid-out online experience for visitors will go a long way in increasing sales conversions and attracting repeat visits and devoted customers.

Organizations seeking to improve customer satisfaction should take a serious look at live chat for their customers' online experience. The benefits are tangible—live chat helps to reduce costs and improve operational efficiency while enhancing the customer experience.

Live Chat

Live chat, also known as click-to-chat services, offers a simple, cost-effective way to humanize the user experience of your Web site. Customers have access to immediate assistance with just a simple keystroke. Not only does live chat improve customer satisfaction levels and increase online sales conversions, but it also empowers businesses to significantly reduce expenses by improving the productivity of customer support staff.

Today, live chat goes way beyond offering a window to communicate with customers on a Web site. Here are several next-generation features of live chat that can help enhance customer satisfaction.

Premade messages. Premade messages are convenient, easy to use, and ensure that a process or service is consistently explained. These messages can also help reinforce brand messaging and position. Archived chat transcripts can give you a sense of the varieties of uses for premade messages.

Shared transcripts. Transcripts are a great way of letting customers know that you take their satisfaction seriously. Consider emailing customers copies of their online chats with agents. Not only is this helpful for record keeping, but it also gives them a chance to re-read any vital information.

Proactive chat invitations. Online shopping cart abandonment is a significant issue for anyone selling products online. Many times, carts are abandoned because the consumer has a question or concern that the Web site can't address. With proactive chat, you can configure a chat invitation to deploy when something occurs—or doesn't. For instance, a chat invitation can be set to trigger when someone is idle on a Web page for a specified period of time or when a shopping cart contains a certain financial value. This type of proactive interaction has been shown to reduce shopping cart abandonment. Not using this type of functionality is akin to running a brick and mortar store that doesn't have any employees available to help customers.

Bottom Line: Increased Customer Satisfaction Means Increased Sales

It's important to understand that today's online consumer is impatient, has high expectations, and is willing to seek support across a variety of communication channels.

In addition, the old adage "the customer is always right" will always ring true in the Internet economy. And when customers feel that they have not received the attention and service they deserve, they will simply do a Google search and shop from your competition. It's that easy to lose online sales.

Online consumers are expecting Web sites to be nothing short of engaging, interactive, and, most important, helpful. Consumers want to feel empowered and attended to at the same time. Businesses that do not respond to this call will find themselves falling short of targets and goals.

Given chat's dramatic growth in consumer adoption, businesses have a tremendous opportunity to increase customer satisfaction and thus increase sales conversions. In addition, next-generation chat solutions offer a variety of ways to connect with customers online in ways that until recently could never have been imagined.

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.

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