Five approaches for integrating promotions with live chat

Instant and text messaging has been around for a while now, and so people are used to sending messages to each other and to the organisations with whom they have a relationship.

An increasing number of people are therefore comfortable with communicating via live chat: a web service that enables customers to chat with sales representatives, technical support engineers or customer service agents via a company’s website from wherever they are, and at any time of day. 

Amy Scott, a director of customer insight-driven consultancy Sedulous, claims that live chat has “evolved from just being a tool for customer support to one that if used right can help lead to business growth”. She says if it is used to its maximum potential, live chat can improve customer engagement “in new and creative ways by generating sales leads, improve sales or build brand loyalty.”

Graham Charlton writes in his 23rd November 2013 article for Econsultancy, ‘Consumers prefer live chat for customer service: stats’, that live chat creates the highest customer satisfaction levels compared to other customer service channels. Live chat customer service levels sit at 73% compared with 61% for email and 44% for phone.  Forrester Research finds that this is because consumers want convenience more than they desire long conversations.

“Live chat is preferred for its instant nature which is ideal for asking small questions that are hardly worth a phone call or email”, says Gary Martin, managing director of Click4Assistance. He says it is also a great channel for young people because picking up the telephone is not their preferred form of contact. He adds that live chat is also useful for those who may have hearing impairments or for anyone who finds social interaction over the phone stressful.

“Text-based communication is preferred for navigating individuals as a direct link can be provided, unlike phone where the details can be misheard”, claims Martin who asks: “Why is live chat the better text-based method for directing customers?” The answer, he says, is that it’s instant and customer service representatives are on hand in real-time to continue the interaction.

Live chat like any communication channel has its advantages and disadvantages, so while there are many benefits it’s also important to consider the technology’s drawbacks and how to overcome them to ensure that the integration of promotions can be effective. Before we look at that aspect of integrating live chat, here are five approaches to integrating promotions into it:

  • Understand customers’ pain points and needs to create positive results – including more empathetic and happy customer relationships while increasing brand value, sales, and profitability.

  • Map out your processes according to each type of customer journey to offer customers something to cross-sell, upsell, or for retention, re-purchase, loyalty, etc.

  • Provide a chat button on your organisation’s website within a webpage to allow visitors to request assistance while they are browsing.

  • Send out a proactive invitation that only appears when a defined set of rules are matched, inviting the website visitor to chat. This could occur after 30 seconds of browsing a website equipped with a live chat solution – depending on the time parameters set and web pages chosen by the organisation. 

  • Make sure that landing pages are both relevant and engaging. Karen Levett, Live Chat team manager at Which? also thinks it’s imperative to work with software that delivers the best consumer experience. Yet she still believes that there is a place for other channels – including email.

Gemma Baker, marketing executive at Click4Assistance, admits that there are some drawbacks to live chat, but she says the issues affecting live chat can often be resolved. Here are five drawbacks and her tips on how you can fix them:

  • Human Resource limitations. The majority of businesses run from 9 am – 5 pm, but most customers are available in the evenings and weekends. So, if your organisation doesn’t have any live chat operators online during these periods, it could miss out on gaining leads and sales. One solution is to allow people to work from home during these hours to provide support. Alternatively, live chat could be outsourced to a contact centre.

  • Internet connections aren’t always present (e.g. with mobile devices being in a poor signal area). Customers have busy lifestyles, and many will be ‘on the go’ when they start a chat, so relying on a mobile internet connection can be unsustainable and if their signal drops out, the chat can be interrupted. She says the solution is to optimise the pre-chat form to collect customer contact details, such as their phone number, email address and so on. This allows you to follow up with the customer whenever a connection is lost to carry on with a conversation where it was left off.

  • Live chat be too robotic. If an organisation teaches its agents to use predefined replies/canned responses, they can become overused and relied on, therefore the conversation becomes scripted and reduces the visitor’s satisfaction. Fix this by encouraging live chat operators to only use predefined responses when absolutely necessary – welcoming the visitor, sending a link, and for sending in-depth information. If the use of these replies cannot be avoided, then the operator should be able to edit them before sending them, so that they can reply personally to the visitor and add a bit of personality to it.

  • Too much repetition. Visitors get annoyed when they have to repeat themselves in chat. The solution is to conduct more training in how they approach customers. If an agent doesn’t fully understand what the enquirer is asking, they could phrase it as ‘could you confirm that you are looking for…?’ This gives the visitor a chance to correct the representative in a different manner, rather than repeat themselves and continue the confusion, which adds to the frustration. If a live chat is transferred to another agent, the first thing an operator should do is inform the visitor that they are just reading through their enquiry as the full transcript will be available to ensure that customers’ question(s) won’t have to be repeated.

  • The generation gap means that not every customer is tech savvy. Some generations may be unfamiliar with messaging, therefore live chat can be an alien concept to them, so it’s important to offer instructions on your contact us page about how to begin a live chat, how to send a message, and there should be details of other ways to contact your organisation.

Martin concludes that to profit from promotions and live chat it’s vital to constantly review how well customers are receiving and accepting the promotions they are offered. Much may depend on the timing and the messages used to communicate with them. However, there is also a prerequisite to not push live chat on customers. Live chat must, therefore, be part of an omnichannel approach that permits customers to communicate according to their own channel preference. This may not always be via live chat and even telephone calls still have their role to play.

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