E-Commerce Success Rests with Real Time Chat

Real time chat is a valuable asset to any e-commerce operation.
E-commerce companies have seen tremendous success with real time chat.

Last week, E-Commerce Times shared the most recent stats from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ASCI). In short, e-commerce continues to grow, specifically for smaller online retailers. According to the ASCI, satisfaction increased 8% to 81 for these smaller businesses. David Johnson, CEO of Strategic Vision, attributes this to communication channels like real time chat: “For smaller online retailers, the ability to provide highly customized service and communications is how they are able to compete with the Amazons.”

How Real Time Chat Impacts E-Commerce

How does real time chat allow for highly customized service and communications? And why does that translate into e-commerce growth? The answer is exceptional customer service provided by real people.

We know that customer service is a major differentiator for online shoppers. When it’s as easy as a swipe and/or click to go to a competitor’s website, the company providing the best customer experience wins. But why must it be provided by live representatives? Highly customized service and communications requires a human component, and a well-trained one at that.

At its core, customer service needs to satisfy three demands: 1) address the issue the customer came to your company for help with (obviously) 2) be fast and convenient 3) be respectful (at a minimum but ideally be pleasant and engaging).

Real Time Chat Enables Exceptional Customer Service

Real time chat provides customers with an immediate means of communication, usually as simple to initiate as clicking a button. This level of speed and convenience cannot reliably be surpassed by other communication channels.

To support being respectful in conversations with customers, chat agents can be equipped with premade messages that balance professionalism with customer engagement. More experienced agents may be given the liberty to tailor their messages with customers as well. While establishing a personal connection is undoubtedly valuable for customer engagement, professionalism is key.

Premade messages can also support addressing the issue that brought the customer to your customer service team. However, if your real time chat software can integrate with your knowledgebase software, your help desk ticket software, and/or your CRM, that’s actually even better. This puts any number of solutions right at your live representative’s fingertips, as well as provides the comprehensive history of interactions with this particular customer (both at the contact level and the organization level).

Real Time Chat and Omnichannel Customer Experience

This latter capability (integrating real time chat software with help desk ticket software and/or CRM software) is an essential precondition of omnichannel customer experience. The idea of omnichannel customer experience offers that no matter what method a customer uses to contact your company, your staff should be able to provide consistent information, and have access to the same, full history of the customer as context for the conversation. This has come to be an expectation of many customers, and increasingly, many believe, will become just as important as being fast, convenient and respectful to customer service.

Learn more about real time chat software here.

Four Training Tips for Real Time Chat

Real time chat is only as effective as the tool you use and the agents who’ve been trained to use it.

Real time chat is a great tool to help you close or upsell opportunities.
Real time chat is only as effective as the tool you use and the agents who’ve been trained to use it.

Live chat software for businesses is a proven communication channel for delivering customer service. For many consumers it is the preferred method of communication with a company, as it is usually quicker and more responsive than speaking directly with a call center agent.

Although live chat agents often handle many of the same issues that were once only handled through the call center, the rules and etiquette are different between live chat and a call center. Besides the obvious difference of spoken vs. written skills, there are a number of other areas in which live chat agents need specific training so they can deliver exceptional customer service and close or upsell a sale. As live chat has become a more mainstream option for companies, there are a number of best practices that can be deployed so that your agents are delivering the best chat experience to your customers.

Real Time Chat Tip #1–Engaging the customer

No matter how you connect with your customer, whether in person, over the phone, or via live chat, before you can offer help, you must first understand their needs. When working with customers in person or by phone, it’s easier to pick up on their verbal and physical cues, to know how to guide them to the best outcome. With chat, the challenge is that there is no way to “read” the customer, so knowing how to effectively engage with them is important. Live chat agents need to remember that their communication with the customer needs to remain professional at all times, so using emoticons or short hand slang is discouraged.

For customers, the value of live chat is realized when they can engage in real time chat with an agent while in the decision making process regarding a purchase. Being able to offer your customers a solution or suggestion in real time often leads to higher conversion rates for sales. Live help software that gives the agent insight and background on the customer helps agents tailor their interaction with the customer, so that what they are offering is relevant and personalized.

Just because live chat conversations happen without ever speaking to or seeing the customer, doesn’t make it any less of a personal experience. Finding the right balance between scripted conversations and “free flow” conversations is important so that customers can trust that they are being “heard” and responded to appropriately.

Real Time Chat Tip #2–Knowledge at the ready

In order for live chat agents to deliver the best possible customer experiences, they need to be knowledgeable about what your company offers and how they can best match your product or service to the customer’s need. Live chat agents need to be clear about what they can sell, provide, or offer so as to not over-promise and under-deliver.

An agent’s knowledge extends beyond the company’s products or services, it also encompasses spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Having strong writing skills is important to convey to the customer that there is a level of professionalism and detail upheld by the company.

Agent knowledge is not about wowing the customer by using acronyms or jargon that may be unfamiliar to the outsider. Some of the best outcomes in live chat occur when the agent and customer are on the same page and communicating seamlessly. Even if the agent is engaged in some off-screen wizardry to address the customer’s issue, what gets communicated should be clear and easily understood.

Real Time Chat Tip #3—Providing solutions

Once a live chat agent has connected with the customer and demonstrated product and service knowledge, the next opportunity to enhance the customer’s experience is by providing solutions that are relevant. If a trust level has been established, the customer will be more open to solutions that may be more expensive than originally budgeted, but provide better value overall.

Offering solutions may not always be sales-driven and if a customer feels that their questions or issues were answered without a pressured sales pitch, he may be more likely to upgrade at a later date, knowing that he can receive good and helpful customer service in the future.

Real Time Chat Tip #4—Closing the sale

Knowing how to close a sale requires skill and training, especially for live chat agents. New agents, especially, are more prone to trying to close a sale without first connecting with a customer, providing solutions and really evaluating what the customer’s needs are. A sure way to turn customers off to your brand or product is to pressure them into something they don’t want or need. Effective training in how best close a sale via chat should include teaching key phrases or communication tracks that can indicate a customer’s willingness to complete a purchase. While live chat agents should be trained in effective sales closing techniques, often just having a live agent available at key moments in the decision making process leads to more sales. Shopping cart abandonment is often a result of the customer not being able to ask a question or being unsure about completing the purchase. If a live chat agent can reach out at these critical junctures, the sale is more likely to go through.

When it comes to delivering excellent customer service, live chat is a powerful tool. There are numerous benefits to your company and customers when live chat is part of your omni-channel service. Like any investment you make regarding customer service delivery, live chat requires planning and training. With customers preferring live chat over other communication channels, now is the time to introduce this option on your website.

Using Ecommerce Live Chat to Become a Top Performer

Ecommerce live chat can make doing business with your company habit-forming.

Ecommerce live chat can make doing business with your company habit-forming.
Ecommerce live chat can make doing business with your company habit-forming.

Ecommerce live chat, when it’s done right, does more than invite a customer to journey further down the sales funnel (“Is there anything I can help you with?” for instance- but I’ll get back to that at the end).

Earlier this week, the Shopify blog featured an article about what sets the top performing e-commerce companies apart from their contemporaries. The key components discussed were: 1) following a pre-launch strategy, including a plan to secure market penetration and hook their customers into making a habit of buying 2) developing their business around their best customers 3) growing as fast as possible in their first 6 months (too late for 6 months? Don’t worry, we’ll talk about that in an upcoming post).

Ecommerce Live Chat is Habit-Forming

Online storefronts find value in ecommerce live chat because their shoppers find value in it. Competitiveness in online shopping has become a war over convenience and over customer experience. Live chat software removes the pain of searching and can remove the pain of decision-making, making the customer experience as simple as:
Customer: “I want X.”
Chat Agent: “Here you go!” (sends appropriate link, or pushes the customer to the relevant page directly)

By making it as easy as possible, you are removing the roadblocks that give customers reason to change their mind about buying from you immediately. This reduces shopping cart abandonment but also exit rate on your website from visitors who don’t even make it so far as to have a cart. Increase revenue in the short-term by removing roadblocks. Increase revenue in the long-term by making the convenience of buying from you habit-forming.

Ecommerce Live Chat Helps You Identify Your Best Customers

By taking advantage of a live chat integration with Google Analytics, with your ecommerce software platform, and/or with your CRM tool, you can use ecommerce live chat to take advantage of insights you have into which visitors have already completed and/or which are likely to complete larger or more frequent purchases. You can read more about live chat integration here (specifically: what is a “need-to-have” vs. a “nice-to-have”).

These insights allow you prioritize and/or escalate (to a more senior sales rep) conversations with site visitors. Live chat reporting can also help you keep an eye on rep performance, so you know whose tactics are most effective, who needs more attention/training, and what time periods demand more or fewer reps to optimize efficiency without compromising capacity.

Ecommerce Live Chat Helps Jumpstart Growth

Though I was quick to move past using ecommerce live chat to “invite” a customer further down the sales funnel (as it is a basic function), it is basic for a reason. In order to increase revenue you really only have two “levers” you can adjust: 1) increase the number of customers purchasing (conversions) 2) increase the revenue per customer purchase. This latter option need not be a price increase but could represent an upsell opportunity.

Live chat software can assist in improving conversions (# customers purchasing) through proactive chat especially, but also through improving retention as discussed above.

In terms of revenue per purchase, ecommerce live chat can help in three ways:

  1. The sales rep can use live chat software to push the customer directly to the page for the higher-end product offering, making it easier for them to purchase it as they’re already on the page.
  2. Related to the first point, ecommerce live chat can help agents/sales reps determine the best opportunity for upsell. Many live chat software products update a rep when the visitor moves to another page, letting the rep know what the visitor is currently looking at. By utilizing this information, reps can get a sense for the upsell opportunities any given customer is most likely to be interested in.
  3. Through live chat integration, a chat prompt can proactively spawn when customers add certain items to their cart that remind them about relevant accessories (e.g. “I see you’re buying a flashlight – will you need batteries for that?”).

Feel free to contact us if you’re interested in learning more about how live chat software, such as ecommerce live chat, can increase conversion rates, improve retention, scale proven successes, and improve upsell transactions.

The Business Chat Software Ecosystem: Live Chat, Email, Call Centers, etc.

When is the right time to use business chat software vs. a web form or email? When is live chat more effective than phone support?

Business chat software exists in a bigger ecosystem of contact methods consisting of live chat, email, phone support and more.
When is the right time to use business chat software vs. a web form or email? When is live chat more effective than phone support?

Getting the most out of business chat software demands understanding more than just live chat best practices.

Last week, Joe Landers, Client Success Manager at Oracle, shared a great article about customer experience on the International Customer Management Institute’s website.

In it, he focused on customer self-service, phone support, live chat, email and web forms. The article consisted primarily of questions to help you understand the customer perspective on what it’s like to contact your organization for information and/or assistance.

“Don’t always assume that a live voice is the preferred medium to solving customer needs. We simply didn’t know what we were missing in 1984. Live agents have a place in delivering great experiences; it’s important to know when and for whom.”

What Joe Landers is saying about call center representatives is also true for live chat.

You can read a full guide here about using live chat well: Live Chat Best Practices. And also here: How to Enhance Customer Experiences and Increase Company Revenues with Proactive Chat.

But briefly, when is it appropriate to utilize live chat vs. other mediums?

Using Business Chat Software Effectively

From an industry perspective, e-commerce and customer service (particularly software support) are the most no-brainer places where business chat software must be deployed. These two fields have a big stake in making things as convenient for customers (or potential customers) as possible—and while that’s true for any business, nowhere is it more painfully true than in e-commerce and customer support.

In terms of where/when on your site to utilize live chat, look at what pages site visitors seem to be spending a lot of time on, especially if that behavior is followed by exiting your website (this information is easily available through Google Analytics). These represent situations in which providing the opportunity to speak with a live chat agent could help clarify whatever confusion the would-be customer may have had.

Additionally, in e-commerce, live chat must be available (and prominently available) on checkout pages. One study from Forrester notes that 45% of consumers will abandon their transaction if they can’t get a quick answer to a question or concern they have.

The Limitations of Business Chat Software

Business chat software can help you hold someone’s hand when they need help, but it can’t help you bring a visitor back to your website. Courtney Eckerle, Manager of Editorial Content at MarketingSherpa, shared a great case study last week on how email can help recover business lost to abandoned shopping carts. The focus of the case study is A/B testing, but I found it relevant because of the results: 400% increase in revenue, due to targeted emails triggered by abandoned shopping carts.

While live chat is excellent at salvaging an at-risk transaction, it isn’t mind-control. When an abandoned cart cannot be prevented, it’s time to utilize another medium to recover that revenue.

Business Chat Software and the Customer Experience Big Picture

The ideal scenario would have you reaching the customer at precisely the right time via precisely the right medium. As an organization dedicated to the optimum customer experience, this is certainly your goal. But how to get there?

For starters, consider the mediums you’re using already (e.g. self-service, live chat, phone, email, social media, etc) – what trends are there in usage, effectiveness and efficiency? Does this vary by type of request or time of day, for instance?

When you introduce a new medium, make sure you communicate that it’s a new thing you’re trying (to give it some press and to minimize dissatisfaction if you end up not continuing to use it)—and also make sure it can be well-staffed if it ends up taking off. Again, track how popular it seems to be (usage) but also how effective (close %) and how efficient it is (time to close). If you can track more granularly (e.g. the type of request or issue, the time of day, etc.), that can help inform best practice as well—maybe self-service is better than live chat for password reset requests, email is better than SMS text messages for order confirmations, etc. You won’t know until you start paying attention to the data.

Once you get a sense for what it is your target market in particular prefers, you can start to impress them with your seemingly supernatural awareness of what’s most convenient for them.

For more on improving customer experience with live chat specifically, check out: How to Enhance Customer Experiences and Increase Company Revenues with Proactive Chat.