8 Reasons Why Every Local Chicago Business Should Use Live Chat

Offering live chat to visitors is certainly nothing new, but the latest SaaS chat clients, targeted at small and medium-sized businesses, offer a number of benefits at an appealing price point. Here are 8 reasons why we believe all local businesses can benefit from live chat.

1. Live-chat is easy for businesses to use

Most local businesses, whether they’re in Chicago where we work or elsewhere, don’t have the time or energy to learn another program, so it’s a good thing customer service chat solutions are dead-bang simple to use and manage. (Your Webmaster will need to install the code.)

online-chat-for-local-businesses-01First, the chat “operator’s” interface is normally just a web browser (LiveHelpNow screen shown). On one side you will likely see a real-time list of visitors on the site. On the other side is a chat window that offers basic information about the user such as how a visitor came to your site, their geographic location, etc. When a visitor clicks on button to initiate a chat, a chime will ring to let you know someone wants to chat. That’s it! You’re chatting with a potential client!

Of course, it does take some time and effort to set up and customize the system. For example, you’ll want to customize the message that pops up to greet a visitor. You’ll also want to include your logo in the chat welcome screen.  We also customize our client installations to alert when a user is from Illinois or from a tighter service area like a suburb of the city.

2. Chat is easy for visitors to use

Screen Shot 2014-04-04 at 3.11.25 PMAt 2.0heads we’re always preaching that deep, useful content is critical to attracting and engaging an audience. Unfortunately, all of the effort is wasted if that engagement isn’t transformed into action. Chat is an effective conversion tool for several reasons including:

  • It offers the immediacy that users crave
  • It strikes the right balance between anonymity and intrusiveness
  • It does not interrupt the user’s online experience

Consumers have been trained by Zappos and other large retailers to expect an immediate response to their questions. Chat provides an opportunity for an SMB to extend its hours in a virtual way that helps to meet this demand. And because after-hours availability is likely not the norm in your competitive space, responding at 10pm to a prospect’s question is often seen as exceptional customer service.

Chat also offers a sense of social distance that makes it easier for visitors to reach out to you, giving you a virtual tap on the shoulder. Most chat implementations require a user to enter their name and email address before engaging a customer service representative. That’s a logical and reasonable hurdle for most consumers and leads to a higher rate of participation.

And while most would never consider hanging up in the middle of a phone call, disconnecting from a chat is acceptable social behavior. Being able to leave a chat as quickly as one has entered, encourages the use of chat.

Finally, visitors appreciate customer service chat is that it does not interrupt the online experience. Indeed, you can enter a chat and still continue comfortably browsing the web, half of your attention engaged and half not. Chat’s slower pace and lower demand on the user’s attention fits perfectly with our habit of multi-tasking when online.

3. Live chat is personal

Online chat is a one-to-one communication tool that can humanize and personalize a visitor’s experience. The intangible assets of your brand – sincerity, empathy and integrity – can and should be communicated through chat.

online-chat-for-local-businesses-05Here’s where the interaction of the latest chat technology with your customer service and sales skill can pay huge dividends. Let’s start by remembering what you’ll know about a visitor before the chat begins.

  • City and state  (i.e. Chicago, IL)
  • Whether they’re a new or returning visitor
  • How they found your site (Google, direct, referral, etc.)
  • What pages they have visited
  • How long they have been on the site
  • What technology they are using (device, browser, ISP)
  • Social profile (If the email address is linked to a public profile)

With this information, the ability to match, mirror and lead a chat conversation into productive areas is simply unmatched by phone calls, emails or any other conversion tool. And by capturing this information into your CRM, (you do have a CRM as part of your marketing program, don’t you?) you will have demographic and behavioral information that can be leveraged into future sales.

4. Chat encourages a visitor-level analysis of behavior

Google Analytics is a powerful tool for showing visitor behavior and dimensions in the aggregate. Unfortunately, the visitors who you care most about are anything but average and their behavior is often masked using standard analytic tools.

Chat programs are real-time and typically show a list of visitors as they synchronously come to your site. This granular, one-at-a-time view of visitors offers the opportunity to discern patterns in behavior that might otherwise be hidden.

Here’s an example. Intuitively you might expect that someone visiting five pages is more open to your marketing message than someone visiting just one page. However, using chat as the conversion KPI, one of our clients learned that visitors to a particular page, even if it was the only page they would visit, are five times more likely to engage in chat than those who, on average, visited five or more pages.

While it would be possible to glean this information from Google Analytics using some fairly sophisticated analysis, anyone responding to chat requests would pick up on this in just a few days.

5. Chat allows you to survey visitors on their experience

One of our pleasant discoveries is that chat offers an opportunity for you to survey users in with open-ended questions. If you’ve endeavored to give the visitor the answers to their questions, most are willing to answer one or two of your questions. For example, you might ask about the organization of the site, what query initiated their search, what other sites they have visited, etc.

Open-ended questions are usually effective only when presented face-to-face or through phone conversations. Chat dramatically expands your ability to ask penetrating and follow-on questions to gather actionable marketing intelligence in a way that typical email surveys cannot match.

6. Live chat doesn’t feel like it’s about sales

Most chats begin with a visitor looking for a solution to a problem they’re having. Whether it’s a question about cleaning a hardwood floor, or confirming a tax filing date, the premise of the visitor’s chat is, “can you help me?”

Online chat positions you as a resource, not as someone trying to sell the visitor on something they might not want.

7. It really is about sales

Make no mistake about it, online chat for local businesses is about sales – repeat business from great customer service, or new business by engaging prospects in a more intimate way. Sales chat done well is the same conversation you would have if someone walked into your showroom from off the street and asked you for help. And because you’ve got an email address, you can nurture that initial relationship by sharing useful, relevant information over time.

8. Helping visitors through chat is Kharma positive

If you’re offering content that is well written and informative, it’s likely that you will be answering a lot of questions with visitors who are never going to become your clients. Then, you might ask, “Why do it?” First, even if someone is not in your market, they still share the profile of a consumer who would be interested in your product or service. They can and do provide useful insight into their journey to, and experience on your site. Second, the more you practice your “pitch” with visitors, the better you’ll be when a well-qualified consumer or business owner comes to chat.

Finally, it feels good and is good to help others. You will be surprised by the depth and sincerity of appreciation from someone you’ve helped.

There are many tools available to local businesses to help them convert web traffic into paying clients. Online customer chat (in our case using LiveHelpNow) is one of the most powerful and effective ways that 2.0heads has found to move visitors down the sales funnel from attraction and engagement to conversion and enchantment.

David Shiba

David Shiba is a partner at the sales and marketing consulting firm 2.0heads in Chicago and operates under the guiding principle, "If you can't measure it, you can't improve it."

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