Improving CRM Through Next-Generation Live Chat

With the continuing rise of online sales-rates today have actually surpassed in-store sales-businesses are facing an epic challenge in determining which CRM tools will help increase brandy loyalty and enhance sales conversions.

Without the right combination of CRM tools, many businesses could start seeing online sales drop. When a customer feels that they have not received the attention and service they deserve, they will simply do a Google search and shop from a company's competition. It's that easy to lose a sale online.

Yet many online retailers are missing a major opportunity to enhance their business and improve sales with a simple and yet often overlooked tool: live chat.

Live chat, better known as click-to-chat services, offers a simple, cost-effective way to humanize the user experience of a company's website, and most important, to convert the interested but undecided online visitor into a paying customer. Essentially, customers can be serviced faster while shrinking overhead costs.

Many organizations make the investment in live chat software but often lack the tools and training to leverage it fully. With the right live chat system, and guidance from a knowledgeable source on how to use it, it can go a long way in increasing a company's customer satisfaction, and ultimately revenue. In fact, according to Forrester, 44 percent of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a web site can offer.

Halloween Express

Halloween Express, a costume retailer, is an online business that is mostly busy in the months of September and October. With a major increase in visits during this time, there's also a huge increase in customer service-related issues. Therefore, a few years ago, the retailer decided it needed to improve the efficiency of its customer service operations, which are handled in-house with seasonal workers during its busy period, with a live chat system.

The company determined that the phone was not an ideal customer service solution because agents can only fielding one phone call at a time and the calls generally took more time than text-based chats. Live chat proved to be much more efficient (and effective) because consumers could log on and ask a quick question and get off, all in a timely manner. And, with live chat a single agent can typically handle 3-4 customers simultaneously. The agents, nor the consumers, had to deal with all the formalities of the phone.

As a result, the live chat system handled 2,000 chats a day. And yet since making the switch, Halloween Express has not had to add agents, despite sales having nearly doubled.

The Importance of Social Media Feedback

As more online shoppers are looking to engage in live chat, retailers are increasingly looking for features that help agents quickly resolve customer service-related issues, and close sales. Retailers are anxious to make the process run even more smoothly, knowing that will cut costs and please customers.

Unique social media feedback tools are a good way to do this. The tools can mine customer insights and serve them up in real-time to the call center specialists. Having customer details on hand makes live chat capabilities more effective.

The way these new tools work is very simple. Online customers and prospects fill out a pre-chat survey. Based on the responses, the call center support person is provided with a real-time response from the overall knowledge base. As opposed to having canned answers at their fingertips, these live chat operators are armed with the right knowledge and insights required to meet the customer's expectations.

In addition, the insights from the crowd-sourced knowledge base are also provided to the customer once they complete the pre-chat survey - allowing customers to have the information they need even before the chat begins. Or if the data provided is sufficient, the customer can move on with their purchase online without corresponding with call center personnel.

Cell Bikes

In another example, when Cell Bikes, an Australian online bike retailer, launched live chat on its site so that agents could track their customers' activities. For instance, they could see if the customer logging in is a returning customer, or see how the customer landed on the retailer's site. This helped the agents to garner information such as if the customer had bought from the retailer before, what products they ordered, etc. The agent was prepared to answer relevant questions about which sets of bike tires are compatible with the rims the customer bought a year earlier. And, if the shopper previously had a question about maintaining his bike, the agent could see how the issue was resolved.

When the chat is over, the agent could then save the details of the conversation, so that the customer's questions or complaints are stored with their account for the next time they contact the retailer.

This has made for a much better customer experience and has helped Cell Bikes enhance overall revenue.

Live chat is efficient, and saves both consumers and businesses time. Today's consumers don't want to sit on the phone or wait for an e-mail that could end up in a black hole. Executing a thoughtfully laid-out online experience for visitors will go a long way in increasing sales conversions and attracting repeat visits and devoted customers. And the additional use of social media feedback is especially useful to maximize the use of live chat software.

About the Author: Jeff Mason is vice president of marketing at Velaro, where he oversees the company's entire marketing function. Previously, he served as vice president of marketing at Social Solutions and cofounded Artifact Software. He was also vice president of corporate communications and marketing at Sequoia Software.