Friday, September 2, 2011

Interactive Chat as a support (and sales) channel


I just read an internal memo about the huge success of our (SAS) “proactive chat” feature and was thinking about my masters' thesis, where I stated that the standard triple of telephone, mail and email might not be sufficient anymore and additional channels help to establish a better relationship with customers.

I cannot disclose the numbers here, but in terms of revenue generation, I was actually stunned how the chat feature helps to make money and generate leads. Now given this success, one can only anticipate how this helps improving customer relationships through an outstanding support experience.

While SAS putting a lot of effort into this – like a real-time decision when and how to present the chat feature – and has a large Inside Sales team to handle these incoming chat requests, it is also possible for very small companies to extend their list of channels by a chat.

I recently bought a new TV and while looking for the best price I was stumbling across a very small shop (probably a one-man show) that had a very good price and was pretty close, so I could go there and get the TV the same day while saving the shipping cost.
I had some questions and wanted to get a better feeling (since the price was really low), but writing an email was taking too long and I felt calling him might be a bad idea because it might interrupt too much and I would need several calls to answer questions that were coming up while I was still reading about the TV in the internet and comparing other prices.

The intermediate between a telephone call and an email was a chat. There was no fancy web-chat feature on the store’s website, but he had simply put a Skype-Button on it that was showing if he was online and available..

Cost free and still very convenient!

He could answer my questions, make me feel good about his business and got the deal… simple as that.

Bottom line is that there are many ways to use technology to help build a better / trusted relationship with your customers and improving the customer experience.

Chat is one of the channels that is increasingly getting popular as it fills the gap between phone calls and emails. Chat messages are more interactive and faster than email while still not as interruptive as a phone call.

Have you had a similar experience? Is your company also supporting chat as a medium the get in contact with customers?

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