Practical Ecommerce

The PeC Review: Boldchat is An Easy-to-Use Live Chat Solution That May Improve Sales

BoldChat provides online communication software that allows Internet retailers to actively engage customers and potentially increase both conversions and profits.

The BoldChat software (I tested version 5.20.3240.27126) was a responsive and powerful solution for live chat on any ecommerce website. But I wished for better documentation and was disappointed (very disappointed) to see that the chat button, which I was supposed to embedded on my site, and the chat window were built with HTML tables—a technique that many creditable designers try to avoid. Overall, I am giving Boldchat four out of a possible five stars in this The PeC Review.

Four Stars for Boldchat

For the unfamiliar, live chat is the concept of having operators (real people) actively chatting with customers who are navigating a merchant’s website. These operators can make suggestions, answer questions, and help make the sale. Live chat services have been around for several years, but a February 2008 Forrester Research study, The ROI of Interactive Chat, has made the tactic seem very attractive, predicting as much as a 305-percent return on investment for some proactive chat sessions when measured over a six month period.

In my opinion, good operators, communication, and products are all key factors to developing a successful live chat campaign and are actually more important than any software solution. Nonetheless, the software a retailer uses to power his or her chat campaign should do its best to facilitate and never be a barrier. BoldChat does these things well.

Video Review: BoldChat

Chat in Action

In less than 10 minutes, I was able (1) to load the BoldChat software, (2) generate the chat button HTML code, (3) add that code to a demonstration site, and (4) start chatting. I was happily answering customer questions, pasting images into my chats, and even enjoying the interaction in no time.

When a would-be shopper initiated a live chat session from the demonstration site, BoldChat played an audible sound (like an old fashioned phone ringing) to let me know that a chat session had been started. I quickly selected a scripted welcome message, and began the conversation. It was no more difficult than using any instant messaging software—essentially effortless.

Proactive Chatting to Save Sales or Improve Conversions

BoldChat also allowed me to initiate chat sessions with customers as they browsed the site. I could start the chat myself or set up rules so that the software would invite my potential customers to chat when they clicked to certain pages or took some predefined and measurable action.

This is just the sort of proactive chatting that could boost sales. Imagine a situation where a customer has come back to the same page for say three days in a row. I set up a rule in BoldChat that says, if a customer returns to a particular product page a certain number of times, invite that customer to chat about lay-a-way options. A scripted invitation appears and my frequent visitor might start a conversation with me.

The BoldChat Particulars

As I mentioned above; I found the BoldChat interface to be very easy to use. Its organization, icons, buttons, and behavior just seemed to make sense. I would struggle to say that the interface was great, but at the same time I could not really think of anything I would change. Using BoldChat was just a straightforward endeavor—simple and effective.

Customizable Chat Buttons and Windows

Digging a little deeper into BoldChat, I was able to customize nearly every aspect of chat button design, chat window design and more. The system offered enough flexibility to satisfy web design experts, but at the same time could be successfully implemented by an HTML novice.

Attention to Details

While I found the BoldChat software to be effective, I thought the documentation was wanting in some details. For example, when I clicked to see a Quick Start Video, I was disappointed to find that it did not have any audio (I tried to watch it on December 24, 2008) and wasn’t very helpful. Also, In BoldChat’s Quick Setup Guide, I clicked on a link labeled, “Customizing your Boldchat Button,” but was taken to the “Custom Chat Window” page.

HTML Tables

Years ago, most web designers used HTML tables to layout web pages. But with the advent of cascading style sheets (CSS), it is far better (efficient, flexible) to use style to layout a page. This may seem like a minor point, but using HTML tables for anything other than tabular data has become the hallmark of poor site design. Yet BoldChat used HTML tables for both its default button and its default chat window.

Many site owners and web designers loathe to have this sort code on their site. So in my mind, this is no small matter. To be fair, BoldChat offers enough flexibility that any web designer worth his salt can banish the <table>, <tr>, and <td> tags, but the fact that BoldChat would use such—dare I say—shoddy design was something of a surprise and a disappointment.

Summing Up

BoldChat’s HTML tables were nothing short of irritating. But I was able to code them out. And overall my BoldChat experience was a very good. It was clear that this software was an effective solution for live chat that is worth every bit of the four stars I am giving it in this The PeC Review.

Armando Roggio

Armando Roggio

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  1. rhaskell1 January 13, 2009 Reply

    We appreciate this review of our software and, especially, the reviewer’s recognition of the active role live chat can play in influencing the bottom line both from a cost saving and revenue generating perspective. We apologize for the error in our documentation. We have rectified the issue and it will be fixed in our next release (V5.21).

    As far as our use of HTML tables, we do agree that many designers prefer not to use them, but they are technically sound. We have chosen to use them because many of our customers are business owners, not website designers and the tabular structure of our chat window enables it to be easily customized without danger of “breaking” it. We don’t think any other company provides a more customizable chat product, so while the tables are a tradeoff, we feel they have been considered fully.

    We have implemented the chat button code similarly for the same reason. However, because the chat button is resident on our customers’ websites (the chat window is not as ours is a hosted offering) we do agree that it is worth looking at. As such, having the option for a non-HTML-table piece of button code has been added to our roadmap and again, we expect it to be released in V5.21.

    Again, thanks for such a detailed and balanced review.

    Yours,

    Ross Haskell
    Director of Marketing, http://www.boldchat.com
    ross@boldchat.com

  2. Piper December 30, 2014 Reply

    Great article. I would recommend Live chat to every business. Personally, I think it is the best customer service tool available at the moment.
    However, I think that nowadays there are better and more technological advanced chat providers than Boldchat. For example, the one I use, Visitlead, includes more extra features at a better price. Definitely a better alternative: https://visitlead.com/alternative/boldchat/