A recent customer service webcast about B2B chat was so popular, they couldn’t get every question answered. Here John Ragsdale answers some of those questions, including how companies can use chat functionality to drive sales as well as customer satisfaction. Republished with permission from Ragsdale’s Eye on Service.

You know you are onto something when you have 800 people register for a customer service webcast. And no, it wasn’t about social media. It was about an even a hotter topic, believe it or not: Web chat for B2B support. Tuesday’s webcast, sponsored by CitrixOnline, included the “Top 5 Web Chat FAQ’s” from me, and a great case study about deploying Web chat by Judy Bendy, End User Computing Practice Director, Long View Systems. For those of you who missed it, here is a link to register for the OnDemand version of the webcast.

There were lots of audience questions we didn’t have time to answer live, and I’m attempting to make up for that with this post. Here are some of the questions we received:

Q: Can chat be used effectively as a sales tool as well as a support one? Do you have any strategies for implementing this successfully?

Absolutely. Proactive chat is commonly used for sales. The best example is retail websites, including Amazon. If you are browsing high end products, or have a certain dollar amount in your shopping basket (at one point the Amazon threshold was around $300), the customer is prompted with a chat option, such as, “May I answer any questions for you?” In this way, a sales agent can help push the customer toward purchase by answering any questions they have or reassuring their fears.

But sales can also be successfully incorporated into a support chat interaction, easier than by phone or email. For example, instead of just asking the customer if they are interested in your new service option or an upcoming training class, since you are connected via chat you can push a webpage to the customer advertising the offering, or take them to a product page for something you want to try upselling to them.

The key, and this is a topic for a whole other blog post, is incorporating soft sales training into customer service training, so support employees begin to see selling as part of the service transaction. And as one company told me after successfully implementing sales offers into support calls, “When agents hear ‘YES’ often enough, they stop thinking they are selling. It is all just part of servicing the customer.”

Q: Could you elaborate on the Proactive Chatting? You mentioned something about asking users on a website where if they are repeating some actions, the website will prompt a question for additional service/chat.

Proactive chat uses a rule engine in your web self-service portal to detect when certain things happen. When a rule is met, the customer is proactively prompted with an option to chat with an agent. Rules can be defined to be very inclusive, or very restrictive. Common rules for proactive chat include:

  • Customer value. For ‘platinum’ level customers, or other customers designated as high value, proactive chat is a great way to give these high profile customers the best possible experience. In fact, proactive support could be an option included in a premiere support package.
  • High value purchase. As I mentioned in the first question, you can also proactively prompt customers for chat when they access web pages about expensive products, or when they have a certain value of merchandise in their shopping cart.
  • Unsuccessful self-service. You can also get very creative in writing rules that detect when a customer is unsuccessful with self-service, and ask if they need help. Rules can be based on amount of time on the site, number of searches, number of articles viewed, etc.

To read the rest of this chat, including common mistakes companies make when they first set up a chat program, go to Ragsdale’s Eye on Service.

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ABOUT John Ragsdale

John RagsdaleJohn Ragsdale is vice president of technology and social research for the Technology Services Industry Association. He writes a regular blog, Eye on Service, for the TSIA.