I shared how we got our first 3 customers for our website live chat service, and ended up getting 20,000 people seeing the post and ton of questions.

The most common question was:

“How can you possibly answer questions for people on my website if you don’t know the inner workings of my business?”

The answer is surprisingly simple, so I thought I’d share it in a detailed post so you can outsource website live chat yourself, or hire a company to do it for you- ahem, we can help ; )

Don’t Over Complicate Live Chat

If you aren’t using live chat, or have tried it and not been able to easily manage it throughout the entire work day, then here’s the secret.

  1. The goal is not to be on long conversations with visitors, slowly gathering information, catching up, or otherwise “chatting”.
  2. The goal is to be there for them, give answers when you can, and turn the website visitor into a lead that you can followup with.

This is where most businesses over-complicate having someone else manage website live chat for them.

You Don’t Have to Answer the Question

This over simplifies it a little bit, but consider this.

  1. Most people on your website leave without contacting you or completing a purchase (Forrester Report said 96%). They’re not leaving because they don’t want to do business with you — they’re just not ready to finish up yet.
  2. Most people aren’t ready to buy yet, especially in markets that are research-heavy. So if you’re expecting them to come to the website, look around, and pull out their wallet, that’s just not realistic. Think of how you research yourself for complex products- you visit multiple sites, look around, come back to the ones you remembered, and possibly buy.
  3. Generating a lead is tough if you’re offering a free report, a coupon code, or some other “wait! don’t leave without giving me your email address” offer.

Visitors with Complex Questions Don’t Expect an Instant Answer

We manage website chats for businesses ranging from a manufacturer of custom parts for machine shops, a software company providing tools for adding supplemental information to large amounts of data, and even a website that sells blueprints to build houses.

It wouldn’t be realistic to expect someone to come in and have technical discussions about these things right away.

But we’re realizing that this is not what visitors actually care about.

Being There is What Matters Most

If you can be there precisely when visitors need help, and show a committent to helping them, then you can (easily) turn a visitor that was going to leave and never come back into a lead in your system that will remember you when they’re ready to buy.

Here’s a Real Example of a Chat

I mentioned the manufacturer of machine parts that we manage website chat for. In short, it’s a super complicated industry, and something that takes years to understand.

  1. A visitor asked “I have a 5c closer that was on a Chinese 12×36. I would like to get an attachment that would mount it on a Clausing L00 mount.”.
  2. I recognize the “closer” part, as I know our customer sells something related to those, but the rest is pretty much gibberish.

My response?

“I think we can help, but I need to check with Ron (the owner) to get you the right answer. Is that ok?”

We always ask “Is that ok?” as that softens things up a bit.

Of course if we can answer the question, we will (and often can using the website info). But this shows that we are committed to getting an answer.

How Does This Turn Into a Lead?

We take the visitor from asking the initial question, building some trust based on us committing to getting them an answer, to giving us their contact info so someone on our customer’s team can connect.

Here’s how:

  1. The visitor said “ok, that’s totally fine”
  2. I asked for his email and name, and got it. At this point, I have specific notes about what he needs, and a name and email.
  3. We usually try to get the phone number too, especially for certain customers. I said “do you want me to have him call you? We might need a few more details after sharing these notes with him.” and got the phone number too.

In a 7-minute chat that I happened to run from my iPhone while at my in-laws on Christmas (hey, we had just launched the company), I got a lead for our customer that will turn into a $800-$1,000 sale and repeat business.

Easy Process for Outsourcing Live Chat

There are quite a few tips and tricks we’ve learned managing website chats for a diverse group of customers, but here’s a simple workflow you can use if you want to run live chat yourself.

Proactively Offer to Help Based on Site Activity

You can configure some website chat systems to trigger a message to a website visitor when they’re on your site for a certain amount of time or take certain actions.

If certain criteria is met, our chat tool pops up and says:

“Hi. Sorry to interrupt you, but I wanted to let you know I’m online. Do you have any questions I can help with?”.

The majority of the time, we end up in a chat. Or sometimes, we get a “no thanks, just browsing”. Sometimes people just close the box or reply with “no”, but the reception is positive 99% or more of the time.

Proactively offering to help is key — don’t just leave the “click for help” as the only option for visitors.

We also configure some rules to not repeatedly invite the same visitor, including if they come back in the future. This ensures we don’t repeatedly bug someone that doesn’t want to chat with us.

Reply FAST and Don’t Go Silent

As soon as the visitor replies to our “sorry to interupt” invite above (it’s automated), we reply in 3–4 seconds maximum.

This wows the visitor as they see that we’re actually here and ready to help.

There’s nothing more frustrating than to be offered live chat assistance, and then have to sit and wait for a response. We make sure that doesn’t happen.

Throughout the conversation, we keep them informed:

  1. If their question contains a bit of detail that will take a minute to understand, we reply with “Thanks! Give me a second to review this.”
  2. If we need to look at the website or our notes for answers, we let them know we’re going to do this (i.e. “I’m going to check on the page really quick. Be right back.”).

We don’t go more than 15 seconds without updating them if we’re searching for something in our notes or on the customer’s website.

  1. Of course we won’t keep doing this if they say “no problem. take your time.” or something like that.
  2. But keeping them informed as we find an answer for them is crucial.

Again, there’s nothing more frustrating than a slow live chat operator.

Chats Usually Get to “I’ll Get You an Answer by X”

We’ve tested a wide range of approaches managing website chats for businesses, and the best approach for most chats is to end up at some variation of “I need to check with John Doe (the owner), but I’ll make sure to get you an answer by (time 2–4 hours from now)”.

  1. This means that the visitor sees the attention they’re getting and the committment to help, and feels confident they’ll get an answer quickly.
  2. But it also makes it much easier to outsource your website chat to someone that doesn’t know the business in great detail, but is able to be online at all hours of the day.

And of course now you have a happy lead in your inbox.


Preview Live Chat On Your Website

Using a website chat system is a great way to turn your website visitors into leads, but it can be tough to manage yourself.

Use the above tips to streamline this if you do the chat yourself

If you want to take us for a test drive to see how we can manage your website chat for you, here’s an instant preview.

(image credit)

Jon Tucker

CEO, HelpFlow.com

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.