Chat is becoming a mainstay to most ecommerce online stores because they understand the value of getting answers to questions–and quickly–to drive online sales. But without an authentic user experience, shoppers will become disengaged, never to return again.

If shoppers question who’s behind the chat, if they suspect they are talking to a machine, or if the agent is not engaged, online shops may lose business. Many companies and brands make the mistake of staffing chat agents with experts who are not experts.

Invitations to chat on web pages are not compelling or just plain annoying. Canned answers and chatbots that pull content from knowledge bases don’t truly answer customers questions. Ultimately the consumer can tell if a conversation is real or disconnected. You lose customers, face, and revenue.

So, how do you avoid these mistakes? The first step is identifying them. Here are the 5 biggest mistakes online stores make when implementing chat on their websites.

1. Using phone agents for online sales chat

Phone and chat are very different communication channels. While the messages might seem the same, the capabilities needed to maximize quality and efficiency are entirely different between voice and written communication.

Worse yet, when you use phone agents as chat agents at the same time, they become distracted and may lose focus on the conversations at hand. It seems like a good idea, but can ultimately lead to bad customer service for both your phone and online chat at the same time.

2. Too much concurrency, slow response times

One of the exciting features of chat is the ability to handle many conversations at once. In fact, I once heard a financial services company brag that their agents could handle seven conversations at once on chat, saving buckets of money in deflected calls. But at what cost to brand loyalty and lifetime value?

Customers today expect to find quick answers and get instant gratification, especially online. Their tolerance for waiting is measured in seconds. Most companies are taking over a minute to respond to clients (see previous section).

Don’t be fooled or misled by CSAT scores that seem high. Even if your resolution rates are high, customers will be disappointed that they were not responded to quickly. If you suspect this is happening, start asking your customers “How attentive and quick was the agent in responding?”

3. Using customer support agents for sales conversations

Just because someone is good at customer support doesn’t mean they’ll be good at sales. Yet companies rely on the same staff that’s trained to resolve billing questions to act as salespeople when customers have questions about what to buy.

When a customer needs help choosing a product, they need to trust the person on the other end of the chat to make a genuine recommendation that’s born from personal experience and knowledge. They know when chat agents are merely trying to fill a quota or may lack knowledge with the actual use of the product.

Customers today have access to more information than ever. If they detect a lack of experience and passion, they will be annoyed and frustrated. Passion and experience can’t be trained with a manual – customers expect authentic dialog from advocates and experts when they seek shopping advice.

4. Not using the right technology for pre-sales engagement

Is your chat platform helping you offer a differentiated shopping experience that truly enhances the shopper’s journey? Or does it look and feel like every other ecommerce vendor out there? Can a shopper see pictures of the products they should consider? Are links embedded? Are there multimedia tools? Does it serve an inline engagement? Is the mobile experience slick and intuitive? If not, you’re wasting an opportunity to capture your shopper’s attention, and not giving your people the tools they need to service today’s online shopper.

There is a crowded market of online chat platforms. Some are great, some are cheap, and some are free with the purchase of other platforms. Consider your customers and their needs. Consider who is behind the curtains and make an assessment of who will be your chat agents. Then match the right technology and agent choice to your overall sales chat strategy.

A word about chatbots. Chatbots have their place and can direct chat traffic or answer basic customer service questions. They’ve come a long way in recent years and are only getting better. But nothing beats putting the right two people in a chat room and having authentic, real conversations with the customer.

Make sure you understand the technology when implementing a chatbot, but also give the online shopper the ability to reach a real person. Using technologies that will put live experts at just the right moment in the sales cycle is like a one-two punch. They are interested, investigated the product, did research online, and now they are talking to a live expert. Bam! Sale!

5. Not letting customers chat with real users

Nothing is as powerful as letting your customers speak for you. People trust those who have purchased the product and have good things to say. What do we generally do when we shop? We go right to the customer reviews.

Consider for your strategy around sales chat putting third-party advocates of your product in front of your online shoppers. Services like Needle find and hire third-party advocates and even provides the right tools. Now online shoppers can easily get a hold of a live person who is passionate about your product to ask questions. Advocate chat agents have been proven to increase average order value (AOV), increase revenue, and make lifetime customers of your brand.

When using advocates for online sales chat, make sure you identify them as such. I’ve seen too many chat banners that are not appealing in any way. “Hello, can I help you?” does not entice me to chat with someone about their products. “Hi, I’ve gone on over 50 cruises and can help you pick a cruise” is far more effective in getting your online shoppers to click on chat.

Buyers don’t have a high degree of trust for companies they do business with or their sales representatives. People seek advice from actual users of the products and services through friends, forums, social media, and customer reviews before they talk to the company. The problem is that when customers ignore your marketing messages and go elsewhere to get advice, you run a substantial risk of losing them to a competitor.

This doesn’t need to happen. You should facilitate the engagement they want with real users right on your own site. Enable your best customers who are product and category experts to chat with shoppers, you’ll see a dramatic increase in all critical sales metrics, and your customers will have increased trust in your brand.

It’s worth checking out Needle who can find, hire, and train third-party experts and advocates to chat directly with your online shoppers. This is a great way to avoid many sales chat mistakes and increase your bottom-line.


About The Author

Avatar
Jordan K Pusey is a contributing blogger who brings 20 years of high-tech industry experience to the table. During his tenure, he has worked in IT, systems management, security, IT infrastructure, software sales/marketing, website creation, and online digital marketing. Jordan uses his extensive background in high tech marketing to provide advice and best practices, showing online companies how to attract customers for rapid growth. He's also an avid mountain biker, drummer, skier, and father of three amazing kids.