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In the world of customer support, it’s fair to say that live chat is having a moment. I mean, what’s not to love about an on-demand customer service tool that lowers costs and increases customer satisfaction? And as it turns out, there’s even more to chat than meets the eye. Even if your company has recently deployed live chat as a support channel, you might not be fully realizing its potential.

Unlike email or phone support which are typically reactive (they depend upon a customer to initiate a conversation) online chat is often most powerful as a proactive support channel. Done well, proactive chat can be the difference between a customer browsing your site and leaving empty-handed (virtually speaking), or making a decision and checking out with a purchase. A shift from reactive to proactive customer support is a change that can yield dramatic results for your company.

Customer clairvoyance

The name of the customer service game these days is knowing what your customers need before they ask. As such, proactive chat is an essential tool. The truth is, we humans are notoriously bad at asking for help. We may need assistance, but unless it’s easy to come by, many of us simply won’t raise our hand. With proactive live chat, agents can jump in as a resource at just the right moment, turning a potentially fruitless online experience into a win-win.

Consider this common enough scenario: A potential customer visits a website in search of a a new hairdryer. After browsing and reading reviews for a while she begins clicking back and forth between two similar items, unsure of which one to buy. Proactive chat allows a customer service agent to open a chat discussion in this moment and offer assistance. A simple dialogue box query such as “May I help you?” establishes the connection. At that point, the customer can ask a question or decline to respond.

Chat analytics

Simply put, proactive chat extends the immense power of online chat as a customer support tool. The more live chat interactions your team initiates, the more customers you’ve touched, and the more information you can mine about what your customers are thinking and experiencing. With chat analytics that data quickly becomes the basis for improvements to your site or your products, to better suit your customer needs.

Proactive chat records provide valuable insight into what may be holding a customer back from completing a purchase. When and what agents and customers chat about–navigation issues, shipping concerns, product details–highlight the information your customers crave.

With research indicating that fifty five percent of online shoppers will abandon a purchase if they can’t quickly find an answer to a question, live chat’s mission is clear. The opportunity to move beyond on-demand support and offer proactive customer support via live chat is icing on the cake.