MARKETING TECH ROUND UP
18 SPRING 2013 WWW.CHIEFMARKETER.COM
SPOTLIGHT ON: LIVE CHAT
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW BEFORE STARTING THE CONVERSATION
By Laurie Petersen
Speed, lower cost and customer
adoption are making live chat an
increasingly popular method of
delivering online customer service.
In its latest survey of 100 retailers
during fourth quarter 2012, the
e-tailing group found that more
than half the surveyed merchants,
56%, are now using live chat.
up from 47% in the same period
Customer participation is
on the rise as well. Shoppers like
live chat because convenient.
They can multitask and get their
questions answered on the spot.
Nearly 70% of all Internet shoppers have now engaged in live
chat, and 20% prefer it to any
other method of contact, according to the 4th annual survey conducted by BoldChat.
So-called proactive chat, in
which a strategically timed question is put to the customer at
some point in his or her site visit,
is also on the rise, says BoldChat,
with 23% using it in fourth quarter 2012, versus 21% in 2011.
Timing and approach are
everything where proactive is
concerned. Customers who are
lingering on a product page or
with their shopping cart may
appreciate the appearance of a
support query asking if they need
help, whereas inserting an agent
when the customer first arrives
can come off as too intrusive.
Some retailers, such as Best
Buy, have eliminated email customer support altogether and
are relying on live chat to provide the service.
So if live chat is now expected as
part of the customer experience,
what does a live chat operator need
to know, and how do you build the
service into your budget?
Lord Taylor: Nearly 70% of all
online shoppers have engaged in
live chat, according to a survey
While fewer agents can
answer more questions, a chat
skillset is not the same
as a telephone skillset.
For starters, basic spelling
knowledge required in addition
to product knowledge.
Many systems have a
spellcheck function, but contextual language understanding is still required. Also,
the need to be able to respond to
which is what can make live chat
a cost-effective option.
Prices vary depending on the
number of seats required and the
WHAT TO ASK
What should you include in an RFP for a Live Chat vendor?
Are you a specialist or an integrated solution? Does
your company offer live chat only or as part of a suite of
If integrated, can live chat be separated out?
How can the experience be customized for branded
Do you understand our industry?
Specify how many agents you are starting with.
Can we easily add agents?
How does agent assignment work?
Does the ability exist to insert an agent photo?
Is the service SaaS based or does it require IT involvement?
How does it integrate with social?
How does it integrate with mobile?
Is there a video option? (Note that audio or video eliminates an ability to handle multiple clients simultaneously.)
Can screens be shared?
What reporting is provided?
Can conversions be tracked?
What is the security, particularly for regulated industries
such as financial services and healthcare?
Does it integrate with other messaging systems? (AIM,
Google Chat, other)
What training is included? How is it provided?
What hours is customer support available?
What is the performance record (up time) of the chat platform?
Is service priced at a flat per-agent fee or per transaction?
Is there a minimum fixed contract?
Can you supply references in our industry?
complexity of the feature range
offered by the live chat vendor. A
typical starting point ranges from
$49 to $89 per month for one seat,
and a reduced cost after that for
each additional seat. However,
each vendor has a specific price
structure and enterprises are
priced on a consultative basis.
IF YOU DO IT YOURSELF
Mo bi capabi liti are
increasingly important as
tablets and smartphones become
devices of choice. Consumers
expect the same capabilities in
their mobile shopping as in their
In the smallest businesses,
where proprietors might actu-
ally be the ones answering the
questions, mobile takes on
another magnitude of importance because the flexibility to
answer questions wherever you
are is important. (Think of it as
the equivalent of a pager.)
If not going to man
your live chat service consistently, better not to have it
at all. Or, make it crystal clear to
customers when this service is
available and then deliver during those times.
STELLAService, a customer
service measurement company,
clocked a live-chat-agent wait
time of 1.5 minutes at electronics retailers in October 2012. In
the week of Cyber Monday and