January 18, 2010

Online Chat Could Help Sales


Hostway Team

By Simon Wright

Businesses spend a lot of money on attracting people to their Web sites, but that’s often where the hard work really begins. The ability to convert Web traffic into sales is what really matters, with sales funnel leakage being the bane of many failed businesses. Online chat technology offers the alluring promise of improved sales conversion, but careful analysis is required to determine whether it is right for your business.

How Does Online Chat Technology Work?

The concept behind online chat is very simple. If a customer gets stuck or has a question while browsing a company’s Web site, they can click on a chat button to instigate a real-time Web conversation with a sales agent. As an alternative to this, the company can serve a Web chat window proactively to a customer; an example might be where a customer has been on a screen for over one minute, indicating that they are maybe having difficulties with the checkout process.

The customer is then able to type any questions that they have and the agent will respond, often copying and pasting standard answers to frequently asked questions.

Online Chat’s Power as a Sales Tool

Online chat can be used as a customer service tool, but it really comes into its own in supporting sales. While the online channel is lower cost than running a bricks and mortar business, a limitation is the fact that you are relying solely on your Web content to persuade the customer to purchase your goods. Incorporating interactive dialogue between the customer and a sales rep should significantly increase the probability that a sale will result, and also offers the opportunity to cross sell other products that are relevant for the customer.

Another approach that some companies take is to look for opportunities to transition from a Web chat session to a phone conversation with the customer. Speaking directly to the customer, via the phone, may increase the chances of securing a sale and may offer the ability to secure valuable cross sells.

Co-browsing Capability

As well as answering questions and pushing appropriate Web links to the customer, companies can also offer to temporarily take over control of the customer’s computer screen. This, then, enables the sales agent to directly type details into the Web page that the customer is viewing. This advanced Web chat functionality is not utilized much, but may be appropriate where a customer is really struggling to complete the necessary form details.

Is Web Chat Right for Your Company?

There’s no doubt that online chat can and does increase sales conversion from Web sites. However, like all good things, it comes at a cost, so it’s important that you do your sums and work out whether the increased revenue that you expect to receive will outweigh the combined cost of buying the online chat technical infrastructure and assigning sales agents to support it. In part, this will be determined by how effective your existing sales process is.

About the Author

Simon Wright works as a Mobile Delivery Manager for Royal Bank of Scotland and helped co-ordinate the introduction of Web chat functionality across the bank’s Web sites.

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