Live chat can be a great conversion driver for your e-commerce store. But having an effective live chat strategy is not as simple as signing up for free live chat software and adding it to your website. You need to be methodical with your approach to get best results.
In The Definitive Guide to Live Chat for eCommerce Stores, we break down everything you need to know about running an effective live chat strategy on your website. This is based on over five years running live chat for hundreds of e-commerce stores with millions of chats.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1- Why Live Chat Works?
Chapter 2- The Basics – How to Use Live Chat Effectively
Chapter 3- Common Live Chat Mistakes to Avoid
Chapter 4- Advanced Tactics to Get the Most From Live Chat
Chapter 5- Measuring Live Chat and Improving Results
Chapter 6- Live Chat Tools
Chapter 7- Taking Action – What to Do Now
If your laptop charger broke right now, the battery was going to die in 2 hours, and you needed to finish a project for work by the end of the day, what would you do?
- You go to the local store that sells computer accessories to look for a charger. For example, Best Buy, Target, or maybe even Wal Mart.
- You know how to use a computer, but seeing 5-7 different computer charger options on the shelf that all look the same is confusing.
What happens next?
- You see a store employee nearby and ask them for help.
- Or even better, they see that you looking a bit confused and ask if they can help.
The employee is going to need a bit of information in order to help you. It’ll probably go something like this:
- He’ll ask “What type of computer do you have?”
- Then he’ll look at the technical mumbo jumbo on the charger packaging
- And success! He’ll hand you the right one while saying “This is the one that will work for you since you have an older computer”
This guy did exactly what his company wants him to do: he turned a you into a paying customer by helping you with questions in the store.
Brick-and-mortar businesses have the advantage of being able to answer basic questions before expecting customers to make a purchase.
But how can you answer your customers questions if you only have a website and not a retail store? In this case, the online business may seem like it can’t compete. But that’s not true!
You can use live chat!
Live Chat Basics
Having a Live Chat system for your online business enables you to do just what the person at the electronics store did: answer questions for potential customers in order to turn their visits into sales.
When people have questions on your site, Live Chat can:
- Allow them to click a box to say they have a question.
- Open up a Chat conversation with someone on your team.
- Make the sale by answering the customer’s questions.
Okay, you may not always make the sale, but having access to Live Chat on a website is the closest you can get to having employees in a retail store. Your staff can answer simple visitor questions and turn them into buyers.
Why Live Chat Works
Your website probably lists a phone number where visitors can make a phone call to ask their questions. But really, are they likely to do that? Especially if they just have a quick question and are multitasking?
Or maybe you have a contact form where visitors can reach out to you and then wait for an email reply. But in this day of instant results, your visitor may not be willing to wait.
Not having a simple way to get answers fast is is the equivalent of having a “Closed” sign on the door of your retail establishment. People might figure out how to get in contact with you, but will probably just go somewhere else to get what they need.
And this is not just our opinion, since we’re obviously biased…
Visitors Prefer Live Chat Over Phone or Email
Live Chat has the highest satisfaction score of all support channels:
(image / data source: https://econsultancy.com/blog/63867-consumers-prefer-live-chat-for-customer-service-stats/)
A Live Chat option allows your visitor to get immediate results, which is particularly important if they have decided they want to buy an item today. This “fast answer” is the main reason people use chat, based on a survey of visitors that use Live Chat.
(image / data source: https://econsultancy.com/blog/63867-consumers-prefer-live-chat-for-customer-service-stats/)
Without Chat, Few Visitors Convert
Turning visits into sales or sales leads can be very difficult if you’re expecting prospects to do everything themselves independently on your website.
WordSteam.com, a leader in the online advertising industry, published a study analyzing website conversion rates. Data was consistent across various industries, including e-commerce, legal, and B2B.
Here are some humbling results:
- On average, only 2 out of 100 visitors turn into sales or leads.
- The top 25% of websites convert 5% of visitors.
- The top performing 10% of websites convert 11 out of 100 visitors into sales or leads.
(image / data source: http://www.wordstream.com/blog/ws/2014/03/17/what-is-a-good-conversion-rate)
So even for the best websites, there are 89 visitors out of 100 who don’t engage immediately by buying or offering contact information!
That’s a lot of untapped potential for your business! It’s likely that many of these 89 visitors have questions that need to be answered before they are willing to buy.
Seizing the opportunity to interact with a visitor through Live Chat is a way to increase those conversion statistics as you’ll see below.
Quick and Easy Answers Produce Sales
Expecting someone to pick up the phone or wait for an email response to a question is probably unrealistic.
- Actually speaking on the phone to a customer service agent often feels like a big commitment to web browsers.
- Email is easier but the time frame between the question and answer may allow for the person in question to make a purchase elsewhere. Sales can be lost and the story ends sadly.
However, instead of using the phone or email, Live Chat allows you to engage with visitors instantly and seamlessly, directly on your website. No phone calls. No opening an email window. This seamless transition (and perceived anonymity) makes it easy for your visitor and removes obstacles that might keep the visit from converting into a sale.
A study from eMarketer found that 27% of visitors that used live chat ended up purchasing more than they planned and 65% were more likely to return to the site. These metrics are from 2009, so it’s likely that they numbers are even higher today as the public becomes more tech savvy.
For the customers that we manage website chat for, we typically see visitors we chat with convert at 3-5X the conversion rate of visitors that don’t chat.
Here are screenshots from a few different customers’ Google Analytics:
This customer had a pretty average conversion rate, and we were able to get a 5X better conversion rate:
This customer was already converting really well, and we nearly 3X their conversion rate to 19% for visitors we chat with.
The data is strong but here’s a few examples to help you see exactly how live chat can impact your business.
Example of Live Chat: “How Much is Shipping?”
No matter how clear you may have made your “free shipping” policy, visitors are still going to ask how much shipping costs.
- Visitor clicks the Ask a Question button.
- Visitor: “How much is shipping?”
You can see the specific product they are viewing as well as where they are located geographically.
- You answer: “Shipping is free to all continental United States. You’re in Florida, right? Shipping will be free when you go through the checkout process.”
- “Thanks!” replies the visitor—and buys in the next few minutes.
Live Chat is so much simpler than calling or emailing. The visitor asks a questions, you have the context you need to answer, and they are able to buy immediately.
Example of Live Chat: “Which Product Do I Need?”
Some questions won’t be quite as simple as asking about shipping costs. Even so, Live Chat is still the best way to begin the conversation.
Broader questions such as “which product do I need?” may be more difficult to answer immediately, but a discussion can move the purchase forward.
In this example, let’s assume you sell accessories for electric scooters:
- Visitor: “I don’t know which electric scooter battery charger I need—can you help?”
- You see they are in the category Scooter Battery Chargers and have looked at some specific models already.
You ask a few specific questions so you can recommend the correct product (remember the search for the computer charger mentioned before?).
- You don’t have to ask what brand they have because you know that they were searching for “Acme Brand Scooter Charger” on Google to arrive at your site.
- So you proceed to ask what model scooter they have, sharing a few links on your site for them to be able to identify it.
- Visitor: “That’s the one!”
You are then able to recommend the specific charger they need based on their model.
The visitor can then look at that specific charger, ask more questions such as shipping cost or payment methods, and you can observe them going through the purchase process while they are chatting with you.
It’s that easy since you are right there to help.
Example of Live Chat: Questions You Can’t Answer Immediately
Have you ever called into a customer support line to answer a question, only to have to wait on hold and then it turns out the representative can’t answer your question? Frustrating, right?
Wouldn’t it be nice if, instead of having to wait on hold, they could simply let you know when they will have the answer and call you back to finish up?
With Live Chat, this is exactly what happens. Even if you can’t answer the question immediately for your visitor, you can build serious trust and rapport with them. This, of course, leads to more sales.
Here’s an example of how it works:
Your visitor asks a simple question, such as the cost of shipping, and you are able to answer immediately.
Then the visitor asks a more complicated question, maybe about a unique way they plan to use your product and how that would impact their purchase decision.
Right away you realize that you need to speak with someone on your team to get the best answer.
- You say: “In order to get you the best answer, I’ll need to check with John on my team. He’s the expert on this product. He can answer you within two hours by email. What’s your email address?”
- Your visitor responds with their email address, asks some other simple questions, and ends the chat.
- An hour later, you email a response after you’ve discussed this with John.
- Visitor: “Thanks so much. “That’s exactly what I needed.”
And…the visitor completes the purchase. Happy Endings all around!
Live Chat is the best way to handle any type of question your website visitors have:
- It’s seamless for the visitor and doesn’t require a commitment like a phone call
- You can build trust and rapport with visitors by answering simple questions immediately
- And it can be used as an opportunity to convert them to leads with contact information for more complicated questions.
All of these results of Live Chat lead the visitor to exactly the place you want them to be: ready to make a purchase.
This is Chapter 2 of the Definitive Guide to Live Chat.
As a company who services a variety of clients with thousands of live chats per week, we’ve learned first hand the processes that work well.
WARNING- Live Chat is one of the few marketing tools that could actually hurt your business if not done well.
A savvy ad campaign means wasted money if sales are not produced for your business, but otherwise nothing is lost.
However, if you implement Live Chat improperly, then you could actually end up hurting your business reputation through bad customer relationships. This loses not only current revenue, but future revenue as well.
Before we cover advanced tactics for Live Chat, let’s make sure you have the basics down.
Avoid Required Pre-Chat Forms
When you enter a retail store and ask a question, does the employee require you give personal information upfront before helping you? Never!
So why would you require a visitor who has a simple question to give their name and email address?
If a visitor clicks the “ask a question” box, the best experience for them is to simply be helped by your team without having to commit to providing any information. Many websites do make this mistake. But you shouldn’t be one of them.
Make the Live Chat Option Easy to Find
Staying with the example of a retail shopping experience, because this is what most people know, imagine that you have a question while shopping at the Apple Store. It would be unusual if you couldn’t find an employee to answer your question, wouldn’t it?
Some websites make the mistake of having Live Chat available only on certain parts of their websites. Others make the mistake of having Live Chat someplace other than the lower right corner, where visitors are accustomed to finding it.
Here’s what not to do:
- Don’t make the only option a small “live chat” button in the top of your website
- Don’t rely only on sidebar “live chat” banners to show people that you have live chat
- Both of the above are helpful, but having chat available on all pages in the bottom right hand corner is the best practice that the world has come to expect- visitors will get lost if you don’t do that at a minimum.
If visitors can’t find it right away, then they are much more likely to leave your website without asking you the question that is keeping them from buying. And you end up with a lost sale.
Don’t Ignore People- Duh!
Imagine that you are in a retail store and an employee walked up to you asking,”Do you have a question I can help with?” This is probably a good experience, at least so far.
But imagine that you ask your question, and the employee literally turns around and walks away–completely ignoring you. That’s a seriously bad experience, right?
Many businesses make this same mistake with their Live Chat systems.
- They put the Live Chat box there for visitors to use,
- But when the visitor asks a question- they get the silent treatment. No one is there to respond.
That probably sounds like something you would never want to happen, but it happens all the time with businesses that otherwise have great customer service intentions:
Here’s how this could happen to you:
- You add live chat to your website.
- You stay logged in whenever you can.
- Sometimes you forget to logout when you’re away from your computer or on a phone call.
- When a chat comes in, you’re not easily able to respond in just a few seconds to start the conversation with the visitor.
- The visitor gets impatient, feels ignored, and leaves your site.
The Solution? You Need Someone Dedicated to Live Chat
One of the main reasons that this happens is that the person responsible for managing the Live Chat systems is also responsible for managing many other aspects of the business (answering phones, doing sales demos, etc.).
- While this might seem logical since you may not get a ton of chats at every hour of the day, it sets you up for getting into a situation where visitors aren’t replied to quickly.
- Also, as the live chat system starts to work well for your business and produce good sales leads, the person responsible for managing chat and converting leads to customers ends up in a difficult situation: they get more leads, which leads to more time closing deals, which means they’re not available to chat on the website, which means less leads come in. In short, it’s impossible to do well at both roles, but both roles are extremely important to each other.
How Fast is “Respond Fast”?
A good “first response time” for Live Chat is between 4-6 seconds. The absolute maximum is 20 seconds. In a later section, we’ll share ways that you can measure and reach these targets. For now, focus on give your visitors a great experience by not leaving awkward silences in your Live Chat box.
Make Sure Visitors Are Confident You Understand the Question
Unfortunately, many people’s experiences with Live Chat include some scenario of chatting with someone overseas who represents an enormous corporation but hasn’t been adequately trained to respond appropriately to a variety of questions.
An Example of Poor Customer Service
Here’s a laughably bad example from Amazon.com (Full transcript published by Business Insider):
- Someone created an Amazon account using Chris Williams’ email address.
- He got a notice about this in his email account, and started a chat with Amazon to have them delete the account.
- Chris had to ask multiple times to have Farah, the Amazon Chat Agent, delete the account.
It became apparent that Farah didn’t understand the question.
And once Farah finally did start to understand, she told Chris to delete his entire email account rather than help him delete the Amazon account that was created.
This obviously led to Chris being frustrated, and in this case a public example of Amazon’s poor customer service. I’m sure they’ve improved since that time, but the story lives on online because of how laughably poor the situation was handled.
Sadly, this is not an uncommon experience with Live Chat. This means that visitors who are chatting with you may be skeptical at first. Because of situations such as this one, you’ll need to earn your visitors’ trust when you chat with them.
How to Understand Complicated Questions
At first it probably seems like understanding a question would be easy. However, customers don’t always ask questions in a clear, concise manner. You’ll likely need more information to clarify the question before giving an answer.
If your Live Chat system is configured well, which we’ll discuss later, you can see the context from the visitor so you’ll have the information you need to give a good answer.
Here are the things you should be able to see while chatting with your visitor:
- What page they are viewing currently.
- What pages they have already viewed.
- What has been discussed in past Live Chats that may be relevant to the current question.
- What, if anything, they have ordered from us in the past. If they have submitted support tickets to us in the past. If so, what the details of those transactions have been.
(Image / Data Source: https://www.livechatinc.com/tour/)
All of this information should give you the context you need to understand the question the visitor is asking. And if it does not, then there’s a simple solution- ask for clarification.
Although simply asking for clarification might sound silly, you’ll find that visitors appreciate it when you do. They want you to give you the information you need to get them the answer they need. It’s a win-win. As long as your clarifying question is reasonable, of course.
Here’s an example of a clarifying question scenario:
Imagine you run the scooter company mentioned previously. A visitor sends you a Live Chat question:
Visitor: How much does this battery cost?
You can see from your side that the visitor is looking at two batteries for a certain model scooter.
You reply: Model A59 costs $179 and Model B59 costs $199. Do you have questions about which model will work for your scooter? If you tell me which scooter you have I can help you determine what you need.
Visitor: I have the red scooter.
You reply: Okay, there should be a model number on the silver plate on the back that will help me get you the right battery,
Visitor, after a pause: It’s XZ404.
You reply: Okay, great. Then the battery you need is A59. That one costs $179 and we have free shipping. What other questions can I help you with?
Visitor: That’s all. Thanks.
You reply: You’re welcome. Have a good day.
Once you correctly understand the question the visitor is asking, you can supply the answer. Your visitor will feel more confident and you’ll be one step closer to making a sale.
Turn Chats into Leads and Sales
Live Chat allows you to truly help your visitors by being available any time, responding quickly, and giving good answers to questions. The mindset of customer service should always come first, but you can also use the opportunity of Live Chats to get the leads and sales.
Look for Opportunity Indicators
If you are a seller of shipping supplies and products to businesses, then you know a business that ships 100 units per day is ultimately going to be more valuable to you than a small business that ships only 2 units per week.
Live Chat provides an excellent opportunity to engage with a future customer and gain information without being too “salesy”. You can learn a great deal about a prospect simply by listening to the questions that they ask and the details they are willing to share with you during the conversation.
Learning to ask specific questions in a strategic way allows your team to gain information that will be helpful to future relationships with this client.
Here’s an Example
Visitor: I’m looking for a supplier for cardboard boxes. I see they are 6.92 ea. Is there a price break at any
As the first question the visitor asks, this offers two big hints that this is a potential buyer of large quantities of these types of products.
- The most obvious: “Is there a price break at any quantities?”. This indicates that the visitor has plans to order more than just a few items.
- The word “supplier” indicates that this visitor is looking for more than simply a one-time purchase. They need someone from whom they can make frequent purchases.
Of course, this example is fairly specific since the visitor basically handed the information to you. Sometimes you may have to work a little harder to get the information you need, but the idea is to always be learning about the visitor’s potential as a customer for your business.
Here’s an example of a more subtle exchange:
We run the live chat system for a website that sells payment systems and equipment for brick and mortar retailers. We frequently get chats with basic questions about terminals, but sometimes a visitor will ask more complicated questions such as:
- Can this payment terminal integrate with (industry leading/premium priced retail inventory system)?
- How long is the installation process to change from a previous system?
- What equipment is needed at each store location to sync with headquarters’ reporting system?
You know that these questions would only be asked by a serious prospect because they are so detailed.
The kind of visitor who would ask these types of questions usually fits the below profile:
- Already using (or considering a purchase) the industry leading/premium priced retail inventory system. This shows that they’re serious about creating the best infrastructure for their business.
- Already invested in infrastructure in the past.This means they already have an established business, and they are more likely to move quickly to change systems.
- A company that needs to supply multiple locations with products, which means this is a lead for multiple sales.
The moral of the story is that it is vital to read between the lines when people ask complicated questions. Not only should you be seeking to give them answers, but you should also be looking to determine the amount of potential this visitor has to turn into a big sales lead.
Build Interest & Trust While Gaining Insight
When a visitor asks a question, you can learn a great deal about them and their business. If they don’t readily share this information, you should try to seek it out in a professional way whenever possible.
Keep the conversation going by engaging the visitor’s interest. Otherwise the visitor will simply become annoyed. Here are some simple, but effective, ways to keep visitors engaged in Live Chat:
- When answering questions, ask for a few more details that might impact the answer. For example, if a customer asks about how long shipping takes, give the standard answer but also ask leading questions such as “When do you need it to arrive? We might be able to find a better shipping option.” This desire to go above and beyond will build rapport with the visitor and keeps them engaged. This can also give you insight into their specific business needs.
- Share additional resources when answering questions. For instance, if a visitors asks what brand of mobile payment terminals you recommend, give them your specific brand recommendation, but also link them to a brand comparison post from your blog. This will keep them engaged while giving them more context.
- As you keep the conversation going, ask strategic questions which give you information about potential sales opportunities. For example, if a visitor asks if the payment terminal syncs in real-time with headquarters reporting system, you can ask how many locations they’ll need before providing the answer. This will give you context regarding the size of the business while answering their question.
Close the Sale – Get the Purchase or Lead
Helping visitors is the main priority of Live Chat, but there are a few steps you can take to turn as many chats as possible into revenue for your business.
The Hard Close
If you have answered a question for a visitor through Live Chat and it seems like they are ready to make a purchase, offer to help them through the process. This allows you to ensure they get through the process successfully and complete the purchase right away.
But how can you tell if a visitor is ready to make a purchase? Typically you can tell by the questions they ask or by seeing the pages they’re on.
Here’s some obvious signs to look for:
- They ask about shipping times. This indicates they are trying to find out when they’ll get the product- they’ve already decided that they want it.
- They’ve already placed the item in their shopping cart. This means they are likely to purchase today if you can help them through the final steps of the process.
At this stage, however it is important to be careful not to push the person too hard. In a retail store you can read a person’s body language or if they are walking toward the cash register. In a Live Chat, you need to read between the lines of what they’re saying and doing on your website.
The Followup Close
A common scenario is that visitors will ask questions about a product via Live Chat and then return later to make the purchase. The fact that you helped them with their questions allows them to feel trust has been built, meaning they are more likely to return to make the purchase. But it’s still not a guarantee.
If it seems like a visitor might be ready to make a purchase but is pausing, do your best to get their contact information.
- Don’t just ask for it, but offer something valuable in return. Maybe offer to email some more detailed specifications, recommendations related to product choices, or other expanded information related to their original question.
- That way, even if it doesn’t turn into a sale today, it at least converts to a sales lead, allowing you to follow up and eventually finish the sale.
We track revenue produced for the websites we manage chat for, whether the sale happens during a chat or in the hours or days after a chat. We’ve found that a simple but effective follow up process from our customers (i.e. the websites we manage chat for) significantly improves the likelihood of converting chats into future sales.
This is Chapter 3 of the Definitive Guide to Live Chat.
We’ve discussed the basics of using Live Chat effectively. If you’re already using Live Chat you may have skipped that chapter since you already know the basics, right?
However, most of our customers who hire us to run their Live Chat system for them originally ran it themselves. They can attest to the many mistakes that they made before, and how much more effective their Live Chat is now that they have our help.
Here are the main mistakes we see businesses make with live chat that you should avoid.
Slow Response Times
This is the most common situation we see:
- You have the chat system on your website
- You stay signed in throughout the business day
- You get busy with others things. When a chat comes in, you may be on a phone call or in a meeting, and you can’t reply within just a few seconds.
- You configure an automatic invitation to chat for website visitors that pops up
- But then when the visitor replies to the invite, you’re not available to reply within seconds. This is like having someone call you on the phone, ask you a question, you reply, and then they hang up on you. Extremely unprofessional.
If you do decide to run your own Live Chat system, be sure to set up “first response time” tracking and aim for 4-6 seconds. Or at the very most, 20 seconds maximum.
If you come in at any longer than 20 seconds, this will turn Chat into a negative experience for visitors- ultimately damaging the performance of your website.
Not Inviting People to Chat
If you only allow visitors to use Live Chat by clicking the chat box themselves, you are missing out on many visitors who have questions. Take the initiative by inviting a visitor to chat.
You can base this invitation on their web activity, which can be extremely powerful if done properly. You can see detailed examples in the chapter on Advanced Tactics.
- In general, you should invite visitors to chat if they start the checkout process but then leave,
- Or if they click back and forth between multiple products which indicates they’re trying to compare features.
The goal is to invite visitors to chat at the “perfect time” when they have a question, and to make the invite low pressure and personal – not salesy or robotic. We’ve tested a lot of greetings and found the below to be effective.
Manually Inviting People to Chat
If you are already inviting people to chat, that’s great. But if you are doing it manually, it’s an incredibly bad use of your time. Manual invitations to chat are time consuming and can cause you to miss out on many potential customers.
- Yes, you can observe visitors browsing your website and then manually click a button to invite them to chat.
- But this takes a lot of time and can be easily configured into your chat system. Why waste time doing something manually that can be done for you automatically.
By making certain configurations in your Live Chat software, you can invite people to chat automatically. This ensures that you are making the invitation at the perfect time, every time. And you won’t miss any opportunities. We’ll go into more detail of how to do this in the chapter on Advanced Tactics.
Inviting People to Chat More than Once
Automatic invites are great, but it is important that you don’t overuse them or you’ll end up with visitors who are annoyed.
- Wait- don’t configure an immediate invitation to chat right when visitors arrive on your site. Visitors need some time to browse your site and get an idea of what is on your site. If you seem too eager, you’ll come off as annoying or automated. Wait until a visitor has done something that indicates they may have a question, such as clicking back and forth between products or hitting the FAQ page.
- Configure only ONE chat invitation per visit. If a person doesn’t respond to your first invitation, that means they don’t have a question or they don’t have to chat. If they do eventually have a question, they know where to find you (i.e. they can click the chat box).
Sounding Like a Robot with Templates
If you’ve chatted on a large corporate website, you’ve probably had the experience of feeling like you’re chatting with a robot. This is almost always a negative experience. The responses are obviously “canned” and typically don’t actually solve your problem.
Templates have many complex issues, but here are some basic guidelines for scripting templates:
- Don’t try to script human emotions – It’s a dead giveaway that it’s a pre-written message when someone reads: “I’m sorry about this. It’s our goal to make sure you’re satisfied. Please allow me to address this concern for you”. This is immediately identified as a script, rather than an actual person actually feeling sorry. This causes the visitor to bristle and believe that there may not be a human behind the interaction or that the Agent is simply using templates from their corporate leadership.
- Keep it professional but casual – Type the way that you would talk to someone in person. Make it personal and professional, but definitely not robotic. Use conjunctions and other signs of humanity. For example, instead of, “How may I be of service to you today?”, go with, “Hi. How can I help you?”. This gives a more conversational tone. Or try, “It’s going to take me some time to get that information for you. What’s your email address? I can respond within an hour,” instead of, “We are not able to provide that information to you at this time. Please enter your email address.”
We’ll go into more details on how to create effective templates, but if you’re already using templates make sure they are worded similarly to what you would say in person.
Avoiding the Question to “Get the Sale”
Always remember that the main function of the chat box is to answer questions. If a visitor asks a question that can be answered via chat, then answer it right away. Don’t procrastinate giving the answer just so you can coerce them to give you contact information. The visitor is likely to feel tricked and you may have just lost a sale.
If you can frame the answer in a format that leads to further discussion, and eventually a sale, that’s great. But never leave the customer dangling by avoiding the answer to a question, simply to get their contact information. This feels annoying and betrays trust for the visitor. We’ll share examples of how to use this directly in chats in the Advanced Tactics section.
This is Chapter 4 of the Definitive Guide to Live Chat.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, and helped you avoid the most common chat mistakes, you have a better understanding of how to make Live Chat convert into strong sales.
It’s time to move on to the Advanced Tactics that come from our experience of managing thousands of chats per week for a wide range of customers. As you learn and apply these tactics, you’ll find yourself with stronger ultsults from your chat efforts.
Don’t just take our word for it that live chat, done well, can improve your business. Our system integrates with Google Analytics, which means we can analyze the activity and purchase behavior of website visitors we chat with compared to visitors that don’t chat. We’ve gathered a lot of data based on our work with customers and summarized it below.
Let’s start with the difference in purchase activity of visitors who engage in chat versus visitors who don’t.
Visitors we chat with convert significantly higher than visitors that don’t chat:
Visitors we chat with buy more than visitors that don’t chat:
Visitors we chat with are far more engaged on your website than visitors that don’t chat:
If you manage your chat program carefully, your company can see similar conversion results. And if we manage your Live Chat system for you, the return on your investment is guaranteed with a money back refund (shameless sales plug…).
Sure, you might be able to manage it yourself, but we are the professionals and here’s the reality:
- Clients pay us hundreds of dollars per week and we directly generate thousands in revenue for their business.
- This is based on hard data tracked directly in Google Analytics for visitors that haven’t purchased before, chatted with us, and then after that completed a purchase.
- This data actually underestimates our impact because it does not include visitors who convert by placing a phone order.
But if you’re dead set on managing the chat system yourself, take the time to get it right and do a great job using the advanced tactics in this section.
Back to our retail store scenario, let’s imagine you are the employee. If you saw a customer walking around the store looking at signs with confusion on their face, or holding two products and obviously trying to make a decision, you would assume they have a question and offer help.
A good salesperson wouldn’t simply allow the customer to wander around the store confused, they would try to help. You can do the same on your website.
You can configure your Live Chat system to know when people have questions, and invite them to chat automatically. You’ll receive a notification from your Live Chat system only when they respond to the invite. This leads to an experience of perfect timing for visitors–and a perfect sales opportunity for you.
Here are some examples of when people should be invited to chat:
- Comparing Products – If a visitor is going back and forth multiple times between two products on your site, they are likely comparing them. Configure your system to track this, and automatically invite them to chat and offer help to explain the differences in the two products. They’ll appreciate the help since they are already trying to do this on their own.
- Looking for an Answer – If a visitor heads to the FAQ page, shipping policies, or other informational page, they are probably looking for an answer to a specific question. Track this in your Live Chat System and automatically Invite them to chat based on their page view and offer to answer their question directly to save time.
- Purchase Process Problems – If a visitor begins the checkout process but then backs up, this may indicate a problem or some confusion with the purchase process. You can track this automatically too and Invite them to chat so that you can help them through the purchase process.
Most chat systems can be configured to invite visitors to chat automatically based on their site activity. When a visitor acts on one of these triggers, your box will pop up automatically, inviting them to chat.
Use Low Pressure Personal Greetings
Even though you are setting up your chat to offer an automatic invitation, you don’t want it to look automatic.
You can customize your Live Chat system to look personalized, so it flows straight into your reply once they actually start the conversation.
We constantly test how to get strong response rates. Here are some guidelines you can use:
- Keep it Casual – Stay away from message such as: “Greetings! My name is Sarah Jones and I’m a Customer Service Agent here at Acme, Inc. How may I be of service to you today?” This is professional, but too formal and too long. This results in lower response rates.
- Low Pressure, But Professional – You want to avoid the impression that you have an obviously scripted system. A low pressure message puts your visitors at ease and makes them more likely to respond. For example, “I wanted to let you know I’m online. Do you have any questions I can help with?” This type of low pressure, professional invitation allows visitors to feel like you manually reached out and does not demand an answer.
- Customized Messaging – Basing your invitation messages so that they are directly relevant to what the visitor is doing can extremely helpful. For instance, “I wanted to let you know I’m online. Do you need help comparing these Widgets?” This feels personal and helpful, but not pressured.
Boost Efficiency with Carefully Worded Chat Templates
There is a balance between using carefully crafted chat templates that are efficient but personalized. Templates that sound too scripted or robotic will not result in high response rates.
This doesn’t mean that you should avoid templates all together. Chat templates are efficient and allow for increased response time.
- While in a chat, you can pull up a list of templates.
- You can also use keyboard shortcuts to quickly filter this list.
- But of course you can modify the template prior to sending to make sure it sounds natural in ths conversation
Here are some guidelines on creating templates to make them sound as natural as possible:
- Create templates specific to certain questions – For example, there will be common questions that are asked often on your website. Create templates that sound personalized to save time in answering these questions, without sounding too scripted.
- Use templates as a starting point – Having the option to modify a template allows you to make it a perfect fit for the conversation. The template saves time but should be modified unless it answers the question perfectly and sounds natural.
Apart from the wording of templates, it’s important that they remain structured, updated, and accurate since they’re a tool that your chat team needs to rely on.
- Use clear naming to make them easy to find since you’ll use keyboard shortcuts and quick search filters to find the right template during a chat – you shouldn’t be scrolling through a gigantic list looking for the right template each time. Examples of potential naming structures are: question_shipping_free, question_shipping_international, question_product_widget_dimensions, etc.
- Maintain and revise templates regularly so they are accurate and up-to-date. Communicate with your chat team about revisions and updates.
- Assign one team member to be responsible for revisions to avoid duplications.
Using templates for Live Chat is a critical, time-saving tool. But it’s important to design and maintain them in a manner that keeps them functioning effectively and efficiently so that your customer has the best possible experience.
Integrate Your Other Business Systems with Live Chat
Imagine you are making a phone call to a customer service department. You’d be pretty impressed if the representative already knew about your order, the issue you were calling about, and how you’ve tried to solve it, right?
With Live Chat, you can make this experience happen every day, providing a truly amazing experience for your visitors.
Past Chat History
When a new chat starts, you want to know if this is a visitor you have chatted with previously. You can configure your Live Chat system to show you past chats from this visitor in the same window. This quickly allows you to be able to see previous discussions and catch up on the conversation, then helping them to move forward.
(Image / Data Source: https://www.livechatinc.com/tour/)
Order Numbers and E-Commerce Data
Integrating your shopping cart to Live Chat allows you to see a visitor’s full customer information, order history, open orders, and much more.
This not only saves you time in asking for order numbers, but also lets you know if a visitor you are chatting with is a large customer so that you can act appropriately. It also provides valuable context to make product recommendations based on past order history and products they’re currently reviewing on your website.
HelpDesk Tickets and History
If a visitor visitor asks a question via Live Chat about an open support ticket which has already been submitted, it is helpful to have support tickets available for the chat team to view. This helps them to answer questions knowledgeably, with up-to-date information.
Some Live Chat systems include help desk features, but they’re not as robust as dedicated help desk systems like HelpScout.net, Zendesk, etc. We recommending using dedicated help desk solutions, but you can integrate support ticket information from these systems into the chat system so you can see ticket information when a chat occurs.
CRM and Contact Management Systems
If you use a Customer Relationship Management system, it is possible to connect it with your Live Chat system. This allows you to track your chat activity in the CRM system, as well as directly accessing the CRM data during your chats, such as order history, open sales opportunities, and much more.
For instance, maybe you are working on a big sale with Bob from Company Z. Bob visits your website, engages with a chat agent, and then leaves. You can have a rule configured within your CRM system to notify the sales representative assigned to Company Z of this touch point so they can consider following up soon after to close the sale.
Advanced Customer Analytics
Platforms such as KISSmetrics and MixPanel use advanced customer analytics to track all of the touchpoints a prospect has made with your website. This give you details on how many visits they made before giving you their contact information or making a purchase.
Vital data from these types of platforms can be integrated with your Live Chat system, giving you the ability to see these touch points and milestones that have been reached already in the purchase process. This allows you to understand the context surrounding the visitor’s questions on chat so you can move them forward in the purchase process.
Integrating your other systems with Live Chat allows you to give your visitors a great experience on chat while also giving you access to valuable business intelligence which can be used to turn chat into a huge driver of sales for your business.
If you’re looking for resources on how to configure the above integrations, contact us and let us know what systems you’re using and what you’re trying to accomplish. We’ll get you pointed in the right direction to create these powerful integrations, as it’s a bit more complex than we were able to go into in this guide.
Improve your Business with Insights from Chat
A question that one person asks on chat is likely a question that at least ten other people have wondered about but not actually taken the time to ask. Even if a visitor doesn’t directly ask certain questions, you can discern details from their behavior.
Whether related to another question they’ve asked or the pages they are visiting, you can use your observation skills to discover issues that visitors might be having with your website. For example, if you find that visitors often seem to back out from your checkout funnel over to the shipping policies page, you may find that you need to make your shipping information more clear within the checkout funnel.
Getting insights from chat can come in a variety of ways, and you can use this important information to improve your website and your business.
Ask for Feedback Directly on Chats
You can configure your Live Chat system to ask your visitors for feedback when the chat is complete.
- This can be an extremely effective tool for gathering large volumes of feedback in a simple, structured way that allows visitors to choose options on a web form.
- This lets see issues and trends that visitors may be experiencing with website features or other problems that you can correct.
If you want, your chat staff also has the option to ask for feedback as part of the chat, depending on how the conversation is going. This kind of qualitative feedback can be useful, but also may be a bit time consuming and inefficient, depending on how it is constructed.
Watch For Trends During Chats and Website Browsing
With a Live Chat system, you can see what the visitor is doing on your website (pages visited, etc.) while also of course chatting with them. This can lead to powerful insights you can use.
Comparing Products – If a visitor is bounding back and forth between two similar products,this typically means that they are making a comparison to see which one they want to purchase. If you see this happening often, you may want to consider creating a “compare products” feature on your site to do the comparing for them.
[Image / Data Source: www.verizonwireless.com]
Shipping Options – If you see that many people exit the checkout process during the shipping options stage and heading over to the FAQ or Shipping page, you may have found a place for improvement. Visitors most likely do not understand their shipping options, or maybe their preferred option for shipping is not available. You could use this information to consider listing shipping options and FAQs within the checkout process, allowing them to easily answer questions and continue with their purchase.
Issues with Mobile Phone Visitors – Most chat systems will allow you to see the type of web browser that your visitors are using. If you find that multiple mobile users add items to their shopping cart but do not complete the sale, this could indicate an issue with your website’s mobile usability. At this point, it’s important to consider optimizing your checkout process for mobile users
Search Problems – Although search tools are available from many e-commerce sites, they often must be carefully configured and tweaked over time. For example, you may realize while watching visitors on chat that visitors search for unique keywords when trying to find products you have but your website search tool doesn’t show the correct product results. You can use this insight to make your search feature better for visitors.
[Image / Data source: https://support.bigcommerce.com/articles/Public/Store-Search-Best-Practices/]
See New Business Opportunities
Many questions visitors will ask on chat can be anticipated. However, other questions may be surprising- and could lead you to new business opportunities!
For example, one of our customers is in the business of selling large industrial scales. Days after helping them launch their Live Chat system, we noticed quite a few questions about rental services for scales. Although this client did not yet offer rental services, this new insight into the needs of their customers is an option for a profitable expansion of their business.
Organizing and Implementing Feedback
Gaining insights through gathering feedback is only useful if you use it to improve your business. As feedback may come to you from a variety of sources, it needs to be organized in a way that can be easily understood and prioritized, so that you can pursue opportunities at the right time.
Here’s some guidance on how to gather feedback in structured ways.
For feedback from web forms:
- If feedback comes in via a web form with specific options, add these as rows in a spreadsheet.
- If web forms include text comments, include these as part of the spreadsheet of web form data.
For feedback from visitor comments in a chat:
- Convert chat comments into a web form structure. This allows you to add it easily to a spreadsheet.
- Create a simple web form that your chat team fills out when they receive visitor comments. Include the comment, chat agent initials, and chat ID, so that you can easily integrate this information into the spreadsheet structure.
For trends your team sees during chats:
- Create an internal team form where agents can describe trends they see.
- Include agent initials and chat ID for easy reference to the original chat.
- Categorize feedback so that chat agents can choose from trends, allowing you to route these concerns to the appropriate team members to review and implement for the future.
Live Chat gives you the opportunity to gather all types of feedback. Whether structured or unstructured commentary, direct from visitors or indirect from your team, you can convert this information into a format that allows for easy review and prioritization so you can use it to improve your business.
This is Chapter 5 of the Definitive Guide to Live Chat.
Now that we’ve gone over basic and advanced tactics, you can see that it’s possible to get strong results from Live Chat. But how do you define “strong” results?
In order to actually be able to determine the results, you need to know what metrics matter, measure them, and focus on keeping them strong. This section shares what we’ve learned matters based on managing 1,000’s of chats per week for a wide range of customers.
Sales vs. Customer Experience
Although the revenue that Live Chat produces directly is important and should be measured, that’s not the only factor to consider for success.
Positive visitor experiences not only produce revenue for your business, but also creates good will. That may not mean dollars in the bank today, but it is an important metric that leads to future sales, referrals, and word-of-mouth growth for your business.
It is critical to measure the sale as well as the customer experiences generated by Live Chat and focus on improving both areas.
Measuring and Improving Customer Experience
If a visitor has a negative experience when chatting with your team, this not only means a lost sale today, but potential lost sales for the future. People who have negative experiences are much more likely to share those with friends and neighbors, steering them away from your company.
[Image / date source: http://www.getspokal.com/examples-of-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly-of-customer-service-on-social-media/)
Here are the main factors that influence the customer’s experience, and what you can do to improve them.
First Response Time
A few seconds can make a lot of difference. This is truly one of the most important metrics that impacts the experience a visitor will have on your site. It sets the tone for the rest of the experience.
The first response time is the number of seconds a visitor waits before receiving a response to their first chat message in the chat box.
- When a visitor clicks the chat box and types in a question, your next reply is the “first response”.
- When a visitor responds to a Live Chat invitation based on their website activity and they ask a question, your reply to their message is the “first response”.
Possibly the worst outcome you can have in Live Chat is for your system to invite a visitor to chat, they reply, and then the chat agent takes too long to respond- or doesn’t respond at all. If your automatic chat invitations are worded well, your visitor will not realize they are automated. This makes it even more frustrating when “you” started the conversation and now you aren’t there to help! That’s not only rude, but it’s a terrible business practice.
You should have a first response time of 5-10 seconds. The absolute maximum should be 20 seconds.
- Twenty seconds may not seem like a long time, but try this experiment. Stop reading this article, and look at your computer screen while counting out loud to 20 seconds.
- 20 seconds is not a lifetime, but it’s an awkwardly long time to sit and stare the screen waiting what comes next.
- If you take more than 20 seconds to respond to a new Live Chat message, your visitor is going to sit there feeling awkward wondering if you’re going to respond – and they’ll eventually leave frustrated.
Chat templates are an effective way to quickly reply to a visitor’s first message before moving on to answer their question.
- For example: “Thanks! Let me take a look and get you an answer….” or a similar templated comment allows the visitor to see that you’ve received their question and you’re working on it.
- Create 2 or 3 first response Live Chat templates that you can use, depending on the way their first message is worded. This way your message seems customized and appropriate. For example, if a visitor writes, “What city are you in?” and you use the above reply, “Thanks! Let me take a look and get you an answer….”, it may seem a bit odd. Imagine the scenarios of questions and then base your templates on those.
A crucial aspect of an online customer experience is that the visitor must feel like they are being well taken care of. They need to know that they are getting the support that they need in order to consider the chat experience helpful.
Of course, in the best-case scenario, the visitor will get complete answers to their questions immediately on Live Chat. However, some questions do require additional research and follow up. In such cases, the visitor should still leave the chat feeling that it was a helpful tool in moving towards a resolution to their question.
Measuring the helpfulness of a chat session can be done two ways, directly and indirectly:
Measuring Helpfulness Directly: Ask visitors to give their experience a score after the chat ends. This can be configured to happen for all chats, or for a random sampling of chats.
Measuring Helpfulness Indirectly: Conduct manual reviews of chat transcripts after the fact. Observe whether visitors expressed any frustration or difficulty, or if they expressed sincere gratitude (something beyond a cursory “thanks”). You can then assign a score to the chat based on this manual review, similar to the outcome of asking visitors to score chats directly.
You can improve the helpfulness of a chat in a few ways:
- If you are not able to provide an immediate answer to a complicated question, explain why. For example, maybe you do not have access to in-depth product specifications, but you know who does. Explain to the visitor that you need to contact a specific person to get the answer.
- Show your commitment by telling them a specific time frame in which they receive the answer. Even if you can’t give them an answer right away, most visitors will appreciate knowing that you are committed to a certain deadline. This makes them feel confident, assuming of course you following through with that commitment.
- Provide answers to questions that you can, right away. Even if you can’t answer in-depth product specification or compatibility questions immediately, be sure to address other general questions that you can, such as shipping time, shipping, cost, etc. This will build trust and confidence with the customer, which gives you some flexibility and time to get answers to their more complex questions.
This is Chapter 6 of the Definitive Guide to Live Chat.
There are literally 100’s of Live Chat software providers in the market. If you want to manage Live Chat yourself, instead of hiring an expert to do it for you, at the very least you should commit to choosing a tool that is effective.
We’ll share a resource you can use to compare tools, but these are most important features that matter.
Can you invite people to chat automatically?
An important feature of Live Chat is the ability invite people to chat automatically based on their specific website activity. For instance, if a visitor starts the checkout process and then leaves, or if a visitor is teetering back and forth between two items, they may have questions.
This feature may be called various names such as “proactive chat”, “greetings”, “popups”, “invites”, etc.
One of our customers, prior to hiring us, had been engaging in this activity manually. While watching visitors browse may be entertaining (or not), it’s an extreme waste of man hours when you can have your system do it automatically for you. It simply takes a bit of configuration magic, based on the visitor activity you choose.
Can you route chats strategically?
Some chat systems are only able to send chats randomly to various agents who are currently signed on. But this can lead to a poor experience for customers who are in certain situations.
Strategic routing allows your visitors to be sent to the perfect chat agent to meet their needs.
- If a visitor was chatting with Jane just 10 minutes ago, new chats from this visitor should automatically be sent to Jane as long as Jane is signed in to accept chats. This allows for continuity and a smoother experience.
- A visitor who is browsing a specific product category that is complex should automatically be routed to a chat agent who is experienced with that product. Agent “groups” can be configured within many chat systems to accomplish this.
- Agents should have the ability to transfer visitors to other available agents who are more qualified to help with a specific product. Receiving agents should be able to easily view the previous conversation to avoid having to ask for information the visitor already shared.
- If for some reason an agent becomes disconnected from chat or is inactive, the chat should automatically be transferred to another online agent.
- And of course if a visitor asks to speak to a specific Agent, you should be able to transfer the chat seamless to that Agent.
Can you easily create and use chat templates?
Templated responses are great tools for generating quick responses, assuming your templates are worded well. A strong Live Chat system will offer easy-to-create templates that are simple to organize. They should be easy to use within the chat box, either by manually selecting from a list of ideally using keyboard shortcuts.
Are chats optimized for mobile devices?
With mobile website activity increasing, it is vital that your chat system is designed to work on various mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.
For mobile devices, the chat box should be smaller and automatic greetings should be carefully designed to avoid interrupting the visitor’s mobile browsing experience on your site.
Can you chat with visitors from your phone?
If you are the person managing the chat system yourself, you’ll need to be online and available no matter where you are throughout the day. Some chat software allows you to be notified of new chats, and manage them, from your phone. Even better are the platforms which allow you to move directly from your mobile app chat to a computer, without losing any of the chat history or connection to the visitor.
Recommended Live Chat Tools
Don’t get overwhelmed with choosing the right software – the industry standard ones are very similar unless you have a really extensive live chat workflow and customization needs.
We’ve shared the top 3 below – move forward with one of these, and revisit the software options once you’ve got live chat launched in your business.
Live Chat Inc.
When we launched our done for you website chat service, we built our entire platform on Live Chat, Inc. The core platform is extremely user-friendly and has all the features listed above. More importantly for us, the platform allows tremendous flexibility to customize your workflow using their programming interface.
Yes, it does have a higher price tag than other solutions, but it also has every feature you’ll need to implement what we have shared with you in this guide, plus much more.
To see a full review comparing Live Chat Inc. to other chat software, check out Chat Tool Tester.
Zendesk / Zopim
Zendesk / Zopim is a powerful live chat solution and is more cost effective than other software on the market. It offers customizable chat boxes to match your company’s style, allows for integration of various software programs, and provides metric tracking capabilities.
To see a full review comparing Zendesk / Zopim to other chat software, check out Chat Tool Tester.
Olark is a very common live chat solution. It’s well formatted with flexible customization, software integration, and a variety of language options.
To see a full review comparing Olark to other chat software, check out Chat Tool Tester.
Again, don’t get overwhelmed by choosing the most perfect software on the planet – focus on getting the live chat approach right, and use one of the industry standard tools listed above. Once you have your live chat process dialed in for your business, you can start exploring other software options that might fit a more customized workflow you develop.
This is Chapter 7 of the Definitive Guide to Live Chat.
It’s clear that Live Chat works, and is something that will impact your business.
- Visitors prefer live chat over other support channels
- Chatting with a visitor significantly improves the chance of converting them to a buyer, and
- Visitors you chat with spend more than visitors that don’t chat
There’s really 2 options to take action on what you’ve learned in this guide:
- Setup a live chat tool on your website and start doing live chat yourself
- Or give our Help Flow done for you website chat service a try – We can manage your chat system for you and have a rock solid process to learn your business so we can truly help your visitors.
If you choose to do it yourself, use this guide to get it right and comment with any questions – we’re happy to help!
If you want us to get this up and running for you right away, schedule a demo and we’ll talk through next steps.
Jon Tucker is CEO of HelpFlow, a provider of 24/7 live chat and customer service teams for 100+ eCommerce stores. Launched in 2015, their team of agents has produced nearly $100M in chat revenue for a wide range of stores using a conversion-focused approach to live chat.
Your Store Needs a 24/7 Live Chat Team
HelpFlow can drive sales by having our team of human agents available on live chat 24/7 to predict and save abandons before they happen, proactively reach out and engage with visitors via SMS and email after they abandon, and by answering visitor questions live on your website to convert visitors.