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Differentiating Your Business Through Proactive Chat

February 19, 2013 By Jeff Mason
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In today's retail marketplace, businesses are facing unprecedented levels of competition. Price and product features are very similar to competitors and differentiating your brand can be a huge challenge.

In order to entice new customers and increase customer loyalty and profits, ensuring exceptional customer experiences is critical. Excellent customer experiences in the age of social media can go a long way in setting a business apart from the pack, as well as help boost the bottom line even more than advertising dollars.

An excellent way to accomplish superior customer experiences is to intelligently implement a proactive chat solution. Proactive chat is at the convergence of multiple functional areas, including call-center operations, e-commerce, IT, sales, website design and marketing, and is becoming one of the most important and powerful e-commerce tools an online retailer can use.

Proactive chat occurs when a website visitor is invited to engage in a conversation either manually by an agent or automatically using a rules-engine trigger rather than waiting for visitors to click on a chat button themselves. Proactive chat can help in decreasing shopping cart abandonment and uses predictive behaviors to intercept buyers at critical points in the sales process.

With proactive chat, retailers use real-time customer engagement tools that provide a buying experience that surpasses anything that could even be delivered in a brick-and-mortar environment. When used effectively, proactive chat can be viewed as providing an extremely valuable service during the shopping experience rather than being an annoying pop-up offer to sell you something.

In addition, shopping cart abandonment has become a major headache for online retailers, but proactive chat can sharply reduce abandonment issues. According to a MarketingSherpa case study, there can actually be a 20 percent decline in cart abandonment with proactive chat.

Furthermore, brands can trigger a chat invitation when something does or doesn't occur — e.g., a user spending an inordinate amount of time on a page with complex information about a product; when a visitor already has a product in their shopping cart and they leave a page featuring product add-on options for their product without adding any of these options to their cart.

Other tips for using proactive chat include the following:

  • Customize chat invitations so that they're specific to the consumer's experience. Different customers have different experiences.
  • Make offers (e.g., special discounts or free shipping) with proactive chat invites to engage visitors who have never chatted before.
  • Empower chat agents to offer solutions and make choices in how best to handle a situation so that they're able to exceed customer expectations.
  • Consider using a pre-chat questionnaire to provide the agent with actionable intelligence that can lead to a much more personalized session with the consumer, significantly improving their overall experience with your brand. The unique information about the consumer can be accessed before the agent begins the chat session.

However, there are some rules on how not to use proactive chat. For example, don't use chat as a way to improve poorly designed web pages or online selling processes. Proactive chat should enhance the customer's experience with your business, not be a cover-up for bad website design. Also, one invite is often enough. No one wants to feel obligated to chat. Also, make it easy to accept or decline an invitation. When a proactive chat invitation pops up, it should get the consumer's attention but allow them to continue their shopping.

Using proactive chat increases revenues by helping to reduce shopping cart abandonment and sell additional products. By combining knowledge of customer behaviors with tailored messages that speak directly to them, proactive chat will enhance the customer's experience and loyalty to a company, ensuring it's differentiated from their competitors.

Jeff Mason is the vice president of marketing for Velaro, a live chat software provider. 
 

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