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Would You Run a Retail Store with No Salesclerks?

November 25, 2011 Jim Iyoob

Maintaining an internet presence costs companies billions of dollars each year. In addition, the marketing costs incurred to drive potential customers to the company web site increases the overall costs exponentially. It seems illogical then that after successfully generating interest from prospects in a product or service and guiding these prospects to an expensive and well designed web site, these same companies allow potential customers to leave without completing a revenue producing action. Even more surprising is the lack of knowledge companies have as to why prospects leave the web site.

Interactive functions which allow for live web communication provide companies with tools to reach out to their web site visitors, answer questions, guide these prospective customers through the order system, and provide a heightened level of customer service. Many companies are discovering the benefits of adding interactive chat to their web sites to better engage their visitors.

Service and Sales

Customer satisfaction surveys show that the customer experience is improved by providing Online Chat Representatives to answer questions provide additional information and resolve customer issues. In addition to improving the customer experience, deflecting inbound phone calls to a more cost effective service channel has reduced some companies’ phone call volume by more than 20%. Rather than speaking with one customer at a time by phone, an experienced Chat Representative can service up to six online customers at one time. Redefining inbound customer service can make a substantial savings to the bottom line. For those companies who include the cost of customer service in the price of a product or service, this reduction in overall service costs can be passed directly to the consumer in the form of lower prices.

43% of surveyed consumers in the 18 – 39 age brackets find online chat an appealing option to talking over the phone.

Genesys Consumer Survey Sept. 2006

While service issues are the initial driver in implementing chat for many, conversion metrics can be so successful that using chat as a selling tool is becoming a cost effective avenue to generate additional revenue. One Internet Service Provider is experiencing a 10% conversion rate with chat visitors versus a 2% conversion rate with self service. Another company is seeing nearly 100% increase in close rates on their web site sales, as well as an increase in average order values by 11%. As startling as these statistics are, the reduction in the average sales cycle by 48% illustrates what providing interactive chat can do to improve first call resolution and close sales quickly.

Static versus Proactive

Currently, there are two primary options available to companies when considering adding chat to their web site:

Reactive or Static Chat:

Usually a simple addition of a link to a third party tool which allows a web site visitor to initiate a chat with a trained Online Chat Representative. Static chat opens the communication between the company and their potential customer, providing an online interactive conversation. Chat buttons can be placed on key marketing and customer service pages on the web site.

Proactive Chat:

Through the creation of business rules, proactive invitations can be sent to a visitor to chat based on the browsing behavior, including key word searches, geographic location, and abandonment actions. The invitation can be specific to the behavior. For instance, a university which uses proactive chat, tags a page explaining one of their popular degree plans. Visitors who spend in excess of 30 seconds on that page receive a chat invitation which includes starting salary statistics of graduates with this particular degree. By targeting “hot” leads, companies see much higher conversion rates and maximize the costs of the Chat Representatives.

Determining whether Static Chat or Proactive Chat is best for a company’s web site can best be assessed through a Return on Investment analysis. Chat will add incremental costs to the company. Even though the start-up costs of Static Chat are less, an ROI analysis may show that the investment of Static Chat produces a smaller return than the larger investment to support Proactive Chat.

While the benefits of interactive chat seem obvious, incurring the additional costs seems to counter the mission of the internet; empowering consumers with the information they need to make independent decisions. However, an objective evaluation of the benefits, costs, and risks will guide a company to make the right decision.

Online Chat Representatives

One cannot overstate the importance of the front line representative who is interacting with the company’s customers and prospects. Proper selection through testing and an extensive interview process; thorough training in all aspects of the company, its’ products, and customer interaction skills; and finally, floor leadership responsible for coaching and motivating are critical to the success of any customer contact program.

63% of consumers say the last time they stopped doing business with a company was partly or wholly due to a poor customer service experience.

Genesys Consumer Survey Sept. 2006

The typical chat customer is educated and product savvy. They choose chat as their preferred means of interacting and they expect to chat with a knowledgeable resource. Improper spelling and grammar can cause an unpleasant customer experience as quickly as inaccurate information. It is imperative that Chat Representatives are chosen carefully and tested for spelling and grammar as well as typing skills.

Chat is rapidly becoming a “channel of choice” for its impact on customer satisfaction and sales. Adding interactive chat to a company’s web site will maximize the cost of the internet presence and reduce dependency on other service and sales channels.

About Etech

As a global leader of customer acquisition and service solutions, Etech has a proven history of helping companies cost effectively acquire new customers and maximize profits by servicing and growing existing customers. For more than a decade, Etech has been a pioneer of introducing and supporting innovative business solutions. Whether applying our expertise to customer retention, monitoring efforts, or technical advancements, Etech delivers unsurpassed excellence.

Headquartered in Nacogdoches, Texas, Etech employs over 2,300 employees. Large enough to serve you, small enough to care, Etech rewards every customer with unparalleled client satisfaction. Bringing you results is not just what we do, it’s who we are.

Call us today to learn what Etech can do for you.

Contact Information

Jim Iyoob
Vice President of Global Development
936.559.2258 (office)
936.371.2640 (cell)
jim.iyoob@etechgs.com