• March 30, 2009
  • By Anand Chopra, senior director of marketing, Talisma, an nGenera company

Effective Chat

It will take fast, accurate, and appropriate responses to convert your customers into fans of live chat-but if you pull it off, everyone benefits. Jupiter Research found that companies using proactive chat average about a 30 percent increase in order value. Proactive click-to-call and chat interactions have been shown to encourage up to a 20 percent increase in conversion rates.

Here are five questions you must address before implementing the framework of a successful live chat function-one that provides customers an easy interface by which to access value-added, timely responses.

Question 1: What need will chat functionality address?

Your chat application must be in synch with your corporate goals; you need to tailor your chat implementation to focus on the most important metrics to your business. Is it revenue per shopper? Conversion rates? Now's the time to figure it out. By carefully considering your highest priorities, you'll be able to position your chat strategy for success going forward.

Question 2: Where should customers access chat?

The chat application should focus on a point in the shopping experience that directly addresses the goals you determined in Question One.

Certain principles apply to most any chat placement situation: It should not be offered on every Web page, as this can encourage casual and uncommitted visitors to use it indiscriminately. Proactive chat, where a visitor is specifically targeted with an invitation, should especially be approached with care.

Pick locations that make sense toward your key metrics. Is revenue per shopper or conversion rate the priority? Placing the chat interface or portal on shopping cart or application pages may make the most sense. For service, chat should be available at points known to produce high rates of abandonment, such as a particular page in an online application form or a troubleshooting page.

Question 3: What will enable the promptest response?

Ideally, a customer should wait no longer than 15 seconds to begin a chat-even less in a proactive chat that invited a user into a session.

Accordingly, you must ensure staff availability to maximize customer experience. We've found that agents managing two to four concurrent chats results in the highest customer satisfaction rates. For optimum performance, synchronize your efforts with contact center operations and agent availability. Make sure the chat solution can automatically (and manually) turn the availability of chat on and off to match agent availability and queue loads. Also, when chat is not available (outside of contact center hours, for instance), offer alternative channels, such as email, self-service, and phone.

Question 4: What are the technology considerations?

There is a real opportunity to maximize your chat benefits if you build it around your company's IT infrastructure. A successful chat implementation will encourage repeat customers and a high uptake rate.

For growth to take place successfully, you must ensure the network infrastructure has adequate bandwidth-that it's scalable from the get-go. An insufficient network and infrastructure will contribute to outages and low customer satisfaction rates.

Question 5: How will we manage the interaction?

Immediate response is ideal for chat interactions, but in reality that's not always going to happen, particularly at peak volume times or during an unusual event.

Using real-time analytics, organizations should provide an estimate of average hold time and set the chat user's expectations for when they will likely be helped. The Web is also an ideal medium to offer alternative forms of assistance and present information. Display links or direct the user to a page on the Web site with the most likely answer based on the user's activities, or display a self-service page where the user can search for an answer without losing his or her place in the chat queue. Use what your system has learned of the customer to present an appealing and related special offer. Finally, use lively, varied language to present repeated messages in a fresh way to keep your users engaged.


These steps are the bare bones, the all-important skeleton before fleshing out your chat application. A chat option that isn't planned meticulously to meet your strategic goals and your end-users' needs and wants will ultimately result in wasted resources or, at the very least, lost potential. But taking a considered approach in these five areas-overall chat strategy, site placement, response times, the technology backbone, and managing customers' time wisely-will set your chat application up with a strong, flexible, and smart foundation.

About the Author

Anand Chopra is the senior director of marketing for Talisma Corporation, an nGenera Company. Talisma is a leading provider of customer interaction management (CIM) solutions.

Please note that the Viewpoints listed in CRM magazine and appearing on destinationCRM.com represent the perspective of the authors, and not necessarily those of the magazine or its editors. If you would like to submit a Viewpoint for consideration on a topic related to customer relationship management, please email viewpoints@destinationCRM.com.

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