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What Live Chat Can Do for You

They've got questions, you've got answers. Now you can reach out to your prospects and keep them happy with live chat on your site.

Have you ever been lost on a website while hunting for information? Your own website visitors might be experiencing the same frustration, but with live chat, you can help them while taking customer service to a new level.

Once it's integrated into your site, live chat can be initiated by visitors or your company. For visitor-controlled communication, visitors click on a button or link to launch a pop-up chat box. Consider labeling it "Live Help" to let visitors know you're standing by.

If you prefer to ask visitors if they need help, your customer service team can monitor the site and then activate the chat box. By initiating a chat on product pages or order forms, you can answer questions that might have kept shoppers from completing a purchase.

This website tool, however, isn't limited to e-commerce sites--researching services can be just as confusing for potential clients. And your company can outshine competitors by offering live chat. According to a survey conducted in May 2004 by Connell Associates, a market research consulting group in Glen Rock, New Jersey, 65 per-cent of participants were generally satisfied with live chat, which outscored other customer service channels.

By offering instant, customized information to visitors, live chat can shorten the sales process and increase average order amounts. Plus, personal communication creates loyalty--customers will know they can return to ask other purchase questions.

Fortunately, live chat is affordable. Monthly programs start as low as $20 to $25 per month, and per-usage programs can run 30 cents to $1 per chat session. Basic reports typically include chat transcripts so you can learn about the needs of your prospects and customers; more sophisticated reporting features, such as the tracking of keywords visitors type into search engines to find your site, may be available. Try InstantService, Livehelper, LivePersonor Velaro, or type "live chat" into a search engine for more vendors. There's ample competition, so you'll find a package that meets your needs.


Speaker and freelance writer Catherine Seda owns an internet marketing agencyand is author of Search Engine Advertising.

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This article was originally published in the March 2005 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Go Live.

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