Use Rule-based Chat to Improve Satisfaction, Sales

Online stores can actively encourage live chat, sending relevant greetings to site visitors, improving customer satisfaction, and reducing shopping cart abandonment or lost sales.

Proactive live chat, which is the practice of sending chat greetings to online shoppers, is loosely analogous to associates greeting shoppers in brick-and-mortar stores.

Customers at the local shopping center can be fickle. When they know just what they want, shoppers would probably rather not speak to an associate, other than saying “hello.” But the moment that shopper has a question about how to use a product, what is included in a package, or even how a product might work in a particular situation that shopper wants to have a knowledgeable person ready and willing to help.

For online retailers, proactive live chat is similar to the friendly store associate who approaches a shopper and asks if there is anything he can do to help. If the customer is fine, she’ll probably say so. But if she does have a question, she can get the assistance that may improve her shopping experience or help her make a buying decision.

For online retailers, proactive live chat is similar to the friendly store associate who approaches a shopper and asks if there is anything he can do to help.

Proactive Live Chat Should be Rule-based

In the brick-and-mortar store environment, the store associate — either consciously or unconsciously — uses a set of rules to decide how and when to greet a shopper.

As an example, try walking into a store at a very brisk pace, head directly to a particular product, grab it, and immediately go cashier. Odds are good an associate won’t try to interrupt you. Your pace and focus tells the associate that you don’t need much help.

Next, enter a store and linger in one particular aisle, pick up one product and then another, and, if you’re in a good store, an associate should approach offering to help.

In each case, there is a rule set, if you will, based on shopper behavior that tells a store associate when it is appropriate to greet the shopper. Similarly, there are rules that online retailers can use to decide when to try to start a live chat session with site visitor.

Common Chat Greeting Rules

Recently, chat solution provider, LiveChat, analyzed proactive chat greeting effectiveness using data from 810 companies. The sample data that LiveChat used included more than 32 million chat greetings — attempts to initiate a greeting with an online visitor — and some 2.4 million actual chat sessions collected over a six month period.

LiveChat was able to identify common rules for sending online visitors proactive chat greetings.

  • Shipping and location. Online businesses that sent proactive live chat invitations based on the customer’s location, were able to initiate customer chat sessions about 11.36 percent of the time on average, according to LiveChat. This “geolocation” trigger worked best when the greeting helped the customer, like explaining a free shipping offer relevant to the shopper’s location.
  • Time on page. Some proactive live chat greetings can be triggered based on how long a shopper spends looking at a particular page. This is the Internet equivalent of having a customer stand in an aisle staring at some product. About 10.21 percent of greetings sent because of how long the shopper spends on a page resulted in a chat session, according the LiveChat data.
  • Time on site. A similar, and more common, rule looks at the shopper’s total time on site, including any and all pages, rather than just a single page. This approach resulted in a chat session 6.89 percent of the time on average, again according to the LiveChat analysis.
  • Number of page views. This rule sends a chat greeting to shoppers who have visited a particular page a set number of times. While merchants will want to experiment with parameters for this rule, LiveChat found that it resulted in a chat session about 8.87 percent of the time on average.
  • Referring page. When chat greetings are sent to shoppers based on where they have arrived from, those greetings resulted in chat sessions about 8.23 percent of the time on average. This rule could be used to marry chat with other marketing or promotional tactics. For example, when a user visits from a particular how-to blog post or from a particular ad.
  • Visited URLs. Sending a chat greeting after a shopper has visited a set number of pages lead to live chat sessions about 10.05 percent of the time on average, according to the LiveChat data. An example might be a potential customer who visits the URLs for two similar products two or more times each.

The Underlying Assumption

Each of these rules are a way of deciding when it is a good time to say hello to an online customer in an effort to initiate a chat session.

It is important to remember that there is an underlying assumption involved here. That assumption, of course, is that live chat sessions are beneficial for both the customer and the online retailer.

Fortunately, there is some good data that supports the idea that live chat is helpful.

Consider the often cited 2010 study from Forrester, called “Making Proactive Chat Work,” that found that some 44 percent of “online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer.”

In November 2013, Graham Charlton, editor-in-chief of the Econsultancy blog, wrote that “live chat currently has the highest satisfaction levels” relative to email, social media, apps, or other forms of customer service, with 73 percent of shoppers who used live chat, being “pretty happy” with the experience.

Making customers happy can go a long way toward improving their shopping experience and making more sales.

Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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