Online Chat: How to Start, What to Expect
Benefits, costs, and tips for implementing chat to connect with your customers
For years, Apple, REI, Disney, and many other industry-leading companies have been using online chat to achieve superior customer experiences and increase sales effectiveness. Research shows that visitors who chat are 7.5 times more likely to complete a purchase than visitors who don’t chat. Chat also leads to greater customer satisfaction and more frequent repeat business. But, is it right for residential service companies?
The theory behind chat is fairly simple — make it easier for potential customers to communicate with your company, interact with a greater number of potential customers, and schedule more service calls. Though the theory of chat for your company is simple, the practice of chatting professionally is difficult to execute. So, is it worth implementing in your company? What are the costs and the benefits of chat? Should you manage chat in-house or outsource the management of chat? What’s a budget-conscious way to get started?
After serving more than 4 million annual website visitors, we have answered these questions and many more. Since our beta test period and our launch in April, we are now serving businesses in more than 300 market areas internationally and have used all of the data from our clients to compose these statistics. Our clients range from small, rural, one-truck, one-location companies to seventy five-truck companies in the urban core. Because of our fast growth, we expect the data to change over time as we learn more and acquire more robust data.
Just like transitioning from time and material to flat rate pricing, adding online chat is simply a change in approach. Would you prefer to close the deal and install same day or have them schedule out a month? Would you prefer your web visitors to be in control of calling you for an appointment with a technician, or would you prefer to collect their information and have your best new customer service representative call them?
What Should You Expect?
- Interact with new customers outside of normal business hours and increase web-conversions — Lower communication barriers help increase the frequency of communication with new customers on your website. Our statistics show that 3-6% of non-bounced web visitors are likely to engage with online chat and over 35% of them are new customers.
- Better organic search ranks due to longer user session duration — When customers chat with your company, they stay on your site for a longer period. Longer session duration leads to higher organic Google search results.
- Increase in customer satisfaction — Your office will be more accessible to customers throughout a greater portion of the day. When accessibility increases, customer satisfaction increases. Not only will new customers be impressed, current customers will use it during your busy days and while they are at work.
- Professionally managed chat is a financial investment — If you chose to have a professional manager for your chat service, expect the starting rate to be $249 monthly.
- Increased website bounce rate — We noticed a slightly higher bounce rate after installing chat on company websites. However, the evidence suggests that the benefit of session duration outweighs the negative effect of the slight increase in bounce rate.
- (Potential) Customer frustration for poor chat execution and framing — Chat is easy to do poorly. If done poorly, customers get frustrated, CSR’s get frustrated, and chat is ineffective.
HOW CAN I START?
There are three options for implementing online chat for your company.
- Outsource chat to industry insiders — This option is best for offices without large call centers. Agents are trained to handle curve-ball questions about residential services, which will lead to better customer experiences.
- Outsource chat to industry outsiders — There are hundreds of options to outsource your office’s chat. Service can range from per minute fees, to a flat monthly fee. However, be aware that these chat agents do not know anything about residential services or specifics about your company. They often chat for businesses in wildly different industries.
- Manage chat in-house — Chat software can be placed on your site very easily. There are services that range from free (Tawk.to or MyLiveChat) to more than $100 per month (BoldChat, LiveChat). This works best for companies with a large call center already established for 24-hour service.
BEGINNER MISTAKES TO AVOID
- Having a pre-chat survey — Do everything you can to decrease new customer barriers…that’s the whole idea of chat!
- Making the chat box look “spammy” — You want the box to look trustworthy, not like a cheap service outsourced from another country.
- Not tracking your results — Make sure you are keeping track of the effectiveness of your chat
- Not having a custom greeting — Pop-up greetings are generally annoying and detract from the web page. So, it’s important that your pop-out greeting is tasteful and it looks like a real human is on the other end.
Just like direct mail, Facebook marketing, and Google AdWords are not for everyone, chat is not for everyone either. However, when chat is implemented deliberately and correctly, it can be an extremely effective tool for driving revenue and “wowing” existing customers.
Publication date: 5/8/2017