Design & Development

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.

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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