The tide is turning toward chat. Should you jump in? Putting a chat window on your website could push your company into the 21st century – or be an epic customer service fail.
Now is the Time
Sometimes you just know something. That is how I feel about chat on websites. Based on my years of experience with and exposure to websites, I think now is the time for most B2B businesses to explore chat.
I’ve been on the fence with this in the past. I’ve tried a few, watched a few crash and burn, and used most of the systems out there. But there is something coming right now that makes me want to go all in on chat. And that “thing” is purely momentum.
How to Fail at Web Chat
So, the biggest problem with website chat windows in the past is how horribly managed they have been by our clients or prospects. It feels like a great idea – until the logistics and management come into play.
Having a chat window is like having a receptionist or salesperson on the phone all day. If your volume of inquiry is not high enough, you run into the “sit and wait” problem, where your sales team sits around waiting for a chat to come in. Or you have the inverse problem, where a new website inquiry is treated like a call and whoever’s responsible for that channel is to drop everything and respond.
In case you are wondering, both of those methods fail. Here’s why.
The first one is obvious: it fails because of the pure capital and resource output without return. It’s costly to have someone sitting around.
The second scenario fails because it’s not treated any differently than a call and the expectations are misaligned. Your sales team loves inbound calls, but they are also moving toward a meeting, because inbound calls are usually high intent.
Chat is different. The intent might just be to learn a bit more about a product or service without any intent to buy or meet at that time. Comparing chat to a call is a problem because chatters are much less consistently positioned in the lower part of the sales funnel, and that can throw the sales process off.
So you can see that chat is not just “another phone” or “faster email”, or even “like text messages”. It needs to be treated based on its own qualities, not according to the expectations you have of other channels.
The Expectations of Chat – a.k.a. The Chat Success Recipe
Now that we’ve started to think about chat as its own channel, we can really dive into what makes a good chat channel work. Every company will have its own deeper playbook, but here are the main things to think about.
- It’s chat – it’s timely. The biggest fail in chat is delay. You must be quick in acceptance and response to the first inquiry. This also means chat needs to be enabled during the right times of day that your prospects are hitting the site.
- It’s human. Good communication is as key in chat as it is in real life. Bots are great, and I’ll discuss those a little later, but your chat channel operator needs to be a good communicator in real life as well.
- Being helpful is the key. Be helpful above all else and win the channel.
So how does all of that translate to your office or sales team using chat?
- Owning the Channel. You need to figure out who is going to own it. “If everyone owns it, no one owns it” is very true here. I’ve seen teams do chat well if the software supports round-robin style interfaces, but that is a more advanced feature. Otherwise, someone needs to be on top of every chat that comes in. This person needs to have a plan for coverage when doing other tasks and be consistently available. If they are in lots of meetings, they can’t be managing a chat channel. This person needs to be more available than not.
- Using Bots. The technology has evolved quickly where good chatbots exist and can be the marketing automation of the chat channel. We’ve used Drift before and enjoyed the experience. You can take some of the mystery out of the chatbot using a simple tool that they offer. But the key is to have bots aid, not own, the chat channel. Humans are still needed to make this channel work. Use bots to start conversations, gather basic info, but move to a human as quickly as possible and you’ll have better success.
- Open windows before opening doors. By this, I mean try using chat in a smaller window of time – say, noon to 5pm on a few given days. Baby step into the process. This will help you establish your activity and expectations, and start to evaluate some responses. Chat happens at certain times of day more often than it does during others. You’ll need to find that sweet spot for your business as well. Gather data in your process so you can evaluate your marketing.
- Use a basic service. There are many free and basic services for website chat. I’d start as simple as possible before making the big investment. You might want to go a bit deeper if you plan on having a few people on the channel, but otherwise, mitigate cost and risk.
- Plan ahead. We don’t advise using scripts per se, but having some quality responses can help keep the conversation going and optimize the time spent on the channel. Never “can” the small talk, only the technical conversations that need to happen and information around services. Always keep your intended CTA in mind. Don’t agree to a proposal in chat if you want to have a phone call first. You should have a goal – or a few goals – with a chat session. Always be moving toward the close of those conversions.
- Don’t work it late at night. It’s not worth it.
- Block anything outside the US to start. You will get chats from other countries. They’re not your entry into being an international business. They’re just people trying to mess with you.
- There will be tire-kickers – a lot of them. Don’t waste time in a conversation if you don’t feel its moving in the right direction. Again, move toward your conversion.
- Expect something in return. Do request an email or phone number before you start a chat. Otherwise, you’ll get lots of junk.
- Use the mobile app if possible, so you can always have it with you in case you need to go to the bathroom and a chat goes on.
I hope this has been a good intro into adding a website chat functionality on your website. I think it will be imperative soon for businesses to add this to their sites. Now’s the time to get aboard before your competition.