Digital marketing has seen quite a few innovations in the last few years.
One of those methods caught my attention: Live chat.
You’ve seen it before. You may have even used it!
For example, here’s what happened when I visited one website while researching this article.
I saw a “Chat Now” button at the bottom of the page.
I clicked it and boom — instant customer service!
When live chat was first becoming popular, it made so much sense to me. There’s a lot of power in being able to interact directly with customers in real-time on a homepage or landing page.
It also helps you build personal connections with your customers. If customers can reach you directly for a personalized response, they’ll automatically be biased toward you.
The only problem? I see a lot of businesses using it poorly.
Live chat can be a game changer when you use it correctly, but it’s so new that most businesses don’t know how to make the most of it.
Even I’m still learning new ways to use live chat to its fullest. But so far, I’ve settled on some strategies that really work, and they’re easy to implement.
In fact, I helped one of my clients use live chat to up their conversion rate by 45%.
That’s not an isolated success. I’m going to share with you some of the tips I shared with my client, and you’ll be able to use it right away to increase your conversion rates.
Why live chat works
In marketing, I think it’s absolutely critical to know why things work. That way, you can understand why you succeeded and replicate those successes.
Live chat is no exception. So let’s take a look at exactly why live chat works so well.
At first, a live chat box looks unassuming, and many times it might be hiding in plain sight. Here, it’s hiding in the little comment box in the lower right-hand corner.
Click on the icon, and the chat box will pop up.
This little box is a big deal to your visitors.
Before live chat, you had two main options to contact companies if you had any questions: phone and email.
This was problematic. Phone calls could turn into a game of “listen to the automated prompts, press the right keys, and wait for 10 minutes.”
I don’t know about you, but that kind of annoys me. It takes a lot of time, too!
And besides, many people just don’t like talking on the phone.
Email is great, but it often takes a business a few hours or even a few days to respond.
Neither choice is ideal if you’re on a site and want to learn more about a product or service. And that is the gap that live chat filled.
Now, instead of dialing a number or composing an email, you can type a quick message into the chat box and have it answered almost instantly:
You know me––I wouldn’t make these claims without substantial evidence to back me up. So here are some statistics that emphasize the power of live chat.
If you’re thinking “live chat can’t be that good,” prepare to change your mind.
Here’s exactly why customers love chat and the science behind it.
Live chat is super convenient. When customers want to learn about a product or service, live chat is one of the easiest ways to do that.
A chat box sits calmly in the corner of the screen (usually the lower right corner) until the user decides to bring it up. And when someone types in a question, that question usually gets answered in a flash.
That’s why most people (about 79%) use live chat.
Interestingly, this chart shows that the #2 reason people use live chat is because they can multitask.
That’s another case in which live chat is convenient for customers. They don’t have to stop what they’re doing to call or write an email.
Live chat helps in the customer’s decision-making process. Many times, customers who use live chat are either considering making a purchase or in the process of making a purchase.
Communicating with customers at this point is crucial, and it works. Forrester Research found that roughly 44% of online customers say that having questions answered by a live person while purchasing something is one of the most important features of a website.
That’s right––the simple act of answering a customer’s question can mean the difference between a sale and a bounce.
Here are some statistics from SoftwareAdvice.com that back this up:
Live chat leaves customers feeling satisfied. Because customers get questions answered quickly and easily, they leave the interaction with a positive view of the site.
Live chat outranks many other forms of B2C communication:
People just love the ability to communicate in real-time and get questions answered in a jiffy. If your customers are on your website, they’ll be able to get instant help without waiting at all.
If you follow the steps I’m going to share with you, I’m absolutely confident that live chat will do just that.
Here’s something that doesn’t get mentioned too often. The average conversion rate is actually pretty low, only about 2.35%.
At the same time, the top 25% of sites have conversion rates of about 5.31%, and the top 10% are at around 11.45%. (These stats are from WordStream.)
A chat study released by ApexChat revealed that “live chat can increase online leads by an average of 40 percent.” And that’s just an average.
I wouldn’t be surprised if you actually increase your conversion rate by more than 45%.
Live chat is no magic spell, but it can transform your conversions. Let’s take a look at what you need to do to make that happen.
Use the chat box to communicate value
When you think about using live chat to increase your conversion rate, you probably think about interacting with customers.
But did you ever think of using the chat box itself to help increase conversions?
Here’s what I mean. Most live chat boxes look more or less like this one:
And while that’s fine, you could do so much more with your live chat box.
After all, what goes on chat boxes? Ad copy. Whether or not you’re trying to write ad copy for your chat boxes, that’s what’s happening.
So why not take advantage of this? Your chat box can do two things at once: 1) serve as a live chat and 2) serve as an ad or popup.
Music retailer Prymaxe does this incredibly well. When you visit the site the chat box is closed, but there’s a caption that’s hard to say no to:
Their customers know from the start that they can not only get help but also a deal. This kind of language is especially appealing if you’re selling big-ticket items like Prymaxe.
But you don’t have to take this exact approach, of course. For example, Mailgen uses simple copy that invites visitors to introduce themselves:
If you see the actual chat box itself as a way to reach out to customers via a text-based message, you can start the conversion process early on.
Including the right copy on your chat box can also help your customers start off on the right foot. They’ll feel welcomed and will have good thoughts about your business from the beginning.
Train your chat support team
This is one aspect of live chat that not many businesses think about. They know it’s important to have good live chat reps, but they don’t realize just how crucial it is.
Your customers aren’t going to remember the chat software––they’re going to remember the interaction with your rep. In short, great live chat reps will help you boost conversions like crazy.
Since live chat is so new, it requires a certain skill set. In fact, when it comes to live chat, inside salespeople generally do better than customer service reps.
Live chat reps also need to be able to speak a customer’s language.
Generally, you’ll want to use a semi-formal voice. Here’s a good way to start out your chat conversations:
Simple enough, but it gets the job done.
You’ll also need to be flexible enough to identify how your customers are talking and speak like they do.
It’s a tough line to toe. You don’t want to talk down to your customers, but you also don’t want to seem unprofessional. This is where communication skills come in handy!
For example, you might encounter a live chat situation like this:
Notice how the live chat rep starts out with a helpful yet professional voice. That’s great!
If I were to continue this conversation, I would use language that’s just a teeny bit more casual. Maybe something like: “Perfect! I’m glad you like them. What size do you need?”
It’s still professional, but it’s a little bit more conversational. And often, you want to be conversational in live chat.
On the other hand, if the customer is formal, you should be too. Any live chat rep should be able to adapt to the customer’s voice without a hitch.
And don’t use any jargon or inside lingo. Your customers might know nothing about your product or service.
You shouldn’t talk down to your customers, but you should assume that they don’t know much about your product just to be on the safe side.
If you assume too much, you could alienate leads.
Create a seamless chat protocol
When I consult and talk about live chat, my clients are often surprised at how much work goes into building a great live chat system.
It’s not a set and forget deal. You have to create a protocol to follow and be able to modify that protocol.
Here are the exact steps I recommend for making the best chat protocol.
Create friendly greetings. “Greetings” are just automatic chat box popups. Many chat providers let you set triggers for greetings.
For example, if you know someone is a first-time visitor, you can cue the chat box to popup. You can also trigger it to pop up after a certain amount of time.
Many chat providers also allow you to set different opening sentences based on the type of greeting.
Have templates ready––but be ready to tweak them on the fly. Boilerplate templates can be lifesavers when you’re doing live chat.
But the obvious problem with templates is that they don’t always work.
Here’s what I tell my clients: Have a list of FAQs prepared complete with answers. It’s best if you use a document so you can copy and paste the prepared answers.
Most of the time, these readymade answers will need to be customized a bit. You might have to spend just 10 seconds changing a few words around, but that can make all the difference.
In fact, if you want to have the absolute best live chat ever, I suggest not using boilerplate answers at all.
Customers can usually sense when a live chat rep is using a template, and that’s a big turnoff.
On the other hand, customized answers can go a long way as long as they fit your brand.
If customers know they’re talking to a living, breathing human, they’ll be a lot more open to making a purchase, and they’ll have a better view of your company.
Take proactive actions toward your goals. You can use live chat several ways, and each path might lead to a conversion.
For this article, we’ll focus on selling via chat. If you’re interested in other applications of live chat (like SaaS, lead generation, and customer service), check out this article over at Kissmetrics.
Essentially being a live chat salesperson can get tricky. You don’t want customers to feel like they’re being “sold to.”
At the same time, you don’t want a warm lead to disappear without getting contact information. That’s why it’s necessary to steer customers in directions that will help them and also get their details.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
This is a perfect response, and it makes sense because email is a great medium to use to deliver product information.
This kills two birds with one stone. It helps out the customer and gives you permission to get their details and/or contact them.
However, you shouldn’t be pushy or try to find ways to contact customers when it doesn’t make sense to.
It helps to make a list of opportunities to organically retrieve someone’s contact details. You could do that when the customer:
- Asks about pricing plans
- Asks about custom solutions
- Requests detailed information about your product or service
- Expresses uncertainty but wants to stay in touch
If the customer is about to make a purchase, simply guide them to the finish line.
This isn’t a very mysterious process, but it’s crucial to a great live chat system.
By creating a protocol like this, you’re preparing for any and all situations, and you have a clear goal in mind.
You might not believe this, but this system is the secret sauce of live chat. All the companies who use live chat to boost conversions have similar systems.
This is what will separate you from everybody else. You’ll be recognized as having a first-class chat service, and people will be raving about your company.
Many of my clients have told me that they don’t want to use live chat because it seems too complicated.
But when I tell them live chat cuts support costs in half and increases conversion rates by almost half, they’re much more open to the idea. (Imagine that!)
It seems like the benefits of live chat are too good to be true, but if you put the work in to create a winning chat system, you’ll see just how real those amazing benefits are.
The businesses that complain about live chat are usually using it the wrong way. Their chat systems are dull and robotic.
Live chat only works when there are real, responsive humans creating customized answers for visitors.
Is live chat for every business? Honestly, I’d say it’s helpful for most types of online businesses out there that require some level of customer interaction.
Here are two questions to answer if you’re considering live chat:
- Does your business sell products or services online?
- Does your business require a sales or customer support team?
- Does your customer support team regularly interact with prospects or customers via email, social media, or other online platforms?
A “yes” to all of these questions means that your business is a good candidate for live chat.
There are plenty of simple, low-cost, transactional SaaS products that don’t need a customer support team or live chat.
But there are hundreds more that could benefit from live chat.
If you want to build personal connections and increase your conversions, then you should definitely try out live chat.
If you’re looking to get started, here’s a list of reviews of some popular live chat services.
What are some ways that you’ve seen live chat being used strategically (or poorly)?