Call Center chat

What You Need to Know to Sell with Online Chat

Countless articles tout the benefits online chat brings to the sales process. The question for many organizations now centers on how to combine the customer service aspect of live chat with conversational selling.

Companies can get lost in the vast array of strategies and approaches for integrating online chat into the sales process. When implementing a chat initiative, keeping true to the basics is central to your success.

Here are the four steps you need to follow to sell with online chat.

  1. Pick the Right Metrics

Online chat that focuses on customer service often also opens the opportunity for software sales. However, without appropriate metrics in place, it’s difficult to know when success is being achieved.

KPIs for live chat sales conversations must include the following:

  • Engagement to lead
  • Lead to qualified lead
  • Pipeline amount (quantity and dollar amount)
  •  Sales (quantity and dollar amount)

Similarly, chat agents must strive to provide a great experience for everyone, be they customer or prospect. Therefore, customer service teams need to measure customer response during and after the conversion process.

Important online chat metrics regarding customer experience include:

  • Customer Satisfaction Scores (CSAT)
  • Customer Effort Score (CES)
  • Net Promoter Score (NPS)
  • Response time
  • Agent Availability measurements

Be aware that customer success metrics like Average Handle Time (AHT) might fall lower in the ranks of importance. Companies should not put much stock in the total length of chat discussions.

Customer service agents need to strive to make visitors happier when they leave than they were when they arrived. If customer success agents can do that in 30 seconds, great. However, if it takes eight hours, that’s fine too, as long as issues are solved, and the level of customer satisfaction opens the way to further transactions.

Train live chat agents not to dwell on non-business-related conversations but to spend all the time they need to solve the problem. That way, they will complete the chat session in a timely manner and to the visitors’ satisfaction.

  1. Extend Your Online Chat Agents’ Duties

Limiting live chat agents’ roles in directing visitors to the content they need can result in your business leaving money on the table. Customer success agents must seek out potential lead opportunities in addition to providing assistance.

Chat agents could offer to pass prospects to an inside sales person for more in-depth discussion. Alternatively, they could find a means to collect prospects’ contact information, for example by directing the customer to a video that requires registration.


Chat agents should be given the opportunity to train and partner the sales team to better understand the product and solutions they are supporting. Often, the first interaction a prospect will have with a company is with the customer support team, so it’s essential that they can effectively triage product related questions and recognize lead opportunities.

Empowering customer service agents with the metrics that focus more around empathy and customer satisfaction rather than chat length is the key to live chat lead generation. Again, it comes back to fostering directed dialogue rather than focusing on how quickly customer care agents complete an online chat session. From training to performance review to the behavior of leaders, organizations can nurture an environment that uses empathy and understanding to drive toward success.

  1. Demonstrate Commitment to Live Chat

Chat implementation can be relatively simple. Just a few lines of JavaScript and away you go. The key to success, though, is a commitment to the program and ongoing training, optimization, and monitoring.

The pitfalls to employing chat usually center on taking an uninspired approach to the medium where the code is thrown up but then not adequately staffed and aligned with appropriate goals.

For true success, implement personalized, interactive, data-driven training programs and provide updated education at regular intervals. Additionally, integrate the management structure into this initiative by having agents give themselves a quality score that they can share with coaches on a weekly basis. Self-evaluation can be a great way to create the opportunity for constructive critique and conversations about improvement.

  1. Don’t Rely on Chatbots To Be Your Brand Ambassador

Chatbots certainly have their place, especially when it comes to directing customers to content that can answer high-level, basic questions. At the same time, chatbots in no way replace the human touch once questions get a little deeper.

Converting visitors into loyal, high margin customers requires a host of conversational skills. A strong live chat agent needs to read between the lines, assess the bigger picture of the sales opportunity at hand, hold multiple parallel discussions at once, and respond to their conversation partner with timing, wit, and emotional intuition.

Moreover, people do business with people they know, like, and trust. The best way to get someone to connect with your customer support agents is for them to develop a relationship with one another.

When salespeople have rapport with clients, they create a mutual base from which to partner and support each other’s goals. Although IBM Watson has drafted ads for Toyota that helped them close some business, chatbots are often inadequate for complex sales applications. Unlike writing copy, customer care requires the dynamic art of two-way conversation.

Chat strategies that leverage artificial intelligence (AI) can serve customer service agents well, but only by augmenting human agents. Through deep learning, natural language processing, and multivariate analysis, organizations can analyze more variables and more extensive data sets than is humanly possible to help customer care agents perform better. Thus, the goal of these systems should focus on arming humans with information they can use to engage the customer more effectively.

Creating the Most Successful Online Chat Scenarios

The very best live chat agents aren’t the ones who are naturally gifted at charming the customer. They’re the ones who record metrics for constant improvement, possess superior situational awareness, and use AI to supplement their instincts and experience as needed. The combination of these traits will pave your way to successful customer care.

About the Authors:

Dean Shaw is the Global Chat Program Manager for SAS, Through innovative software and services, SAS empowers and inspires customers around the world to transform data into intelligence. Dean leads SAS’ Chat Program that focuses on enhancing the customer experience, drive leads, and generates robust Voice of Customer analytics.

Tony Medrano is CEO and Co-Founder of RapportBoost, the leader in applying artificial intelligence to optimize live chat conversations in order to drive dramatic and sustained improvements in conversion rate, order size, customer satisfaction, renewal rate, average handle time, first contact resolution rate, agent retention and happiness and other critical contact center metrics. He can be reached at tony (at)

Digital Chat Agents: Workflow Automation and Constructive Insights

Today’s consumers use online self-service more often than they use voice channels. Digital chat agents are a major part of the online experience, coming in to help midway through the customer journey and quickly picking up where customers left off. Web chats help automate workflow and they provide useful insights for the contact center.

Automating Workflow with Digital Chat Agents

Auto-initiated chats and canned replies can begin the customer-agent conversation without using up much of the contact center’s resources. For customer-initiated chat sessions, pre-chat questions gather preliminary information, including a short description of the problem or question. The session is then routed to an appropriate chat agent who will come into the conversation with background knowledge.

Avoiding Problems with Automatic and Canned Chats

Automated chats should never entirely replace live digital agents. Eventually, the agent should take over and customize the conversation. Canned messages should not be overused because they will eventually make the customer feel like they’re talking to a machine instead of an actual person.

Transferring Conversations to Other Digital Agents

Agents have varying areas of expertise and they should be honest with the customer about what they’re able to do. When the conversation starts to fall outside the agent’s skill set, they should quickly transfer the conversation to a new agent and let the customer know that the transfer is occurring.

Taking Advantage of Typing Indicator Technology

Digital chat software can allow agents to see what customers are typing before they hit “send.” This gives insight into the consumer’s thought process and it helps the agent respond quickly. Digital chat agents are also alerted both audibly and visually when the other party sends their message. This ensures that even busy chat agents know when the customer is waiting for a reply.

Metrics That Improve the Customer Experience and Boost Sales

Digital chat software can determine the pages on which customers spend an immoderate amount of time; often, these are also the pages on which a customer requires a live agent. Brands can use this information to improve the website and contact centers can setup an automatic chat box on the problematic pages. The software also collects agent performance data, including the acceptance rate of agent-initiated chats, which help determine the agent’s skill level in this area. Additionally, live chat windows can show up on pages that have high conversion rates and digital agents can then encourage the customer to make a purchase.

Interview with Craig Borowski — Chat’s Appeal

Recently Craig Borowski, Help Desk Analyst for the online technology consultancy Software Advice, released a new report which studied the impact demographics had on consumers’ preference for live chat service and support. We had the opportunity to talk with Mr. Borowski to learn a little more about what his research uncovered.

1. Which demographics do live chat appeal to most and why?
We found that live chat is appealing to all ages, but it’s most appealing to younger generations. Millennials in particular have shown a preference for text-based communications in other areas (SMS, social messaging platforms) and this has carried over into a strong preference for live chat customer support. But having said that, we should emphasize that other generations are still using live chat. In fact, our survey found that more than half of consumers have used it successfully at least once. It’s almost certain that its use among older generations will continue to rise as more consumers become aware of it and more companies learn how to integrate it correctly.

2. How is live chat unique from more traditional customer support channels?
Comparing live chat to telephone and email, two traditional support channels, live chat stands out in several areas. Most importantly, it provides instant and real-time service. Emailed support requests usually receive an instant automated reply letting the customer know the request was received. While that’s supposed to provide reassurance, it’s of little use when the actual answer the customer needs might not arrive until the next day, or even several days later.

Phone service can be much better, but it comes with its own obstacles and baggage. Customers have learned to expect that a call to a customer service and help desk departments will begin with them facing off against an automated IVR or phone tree. That usually leads to them waiting on hold. When they finally speak to an agent, they might need to explain their issue all over again from the beginning. With live chat, all of this is avoided. It provides an instant, real-time communication channel.

Now, even though these descriptions of the user experience with email and phone support channels don’t apply to every company, and they certainly don’t, that’s in some ways irrelevant. The fact remains that many, even most, consumers have been conditioned to expect these kinds of experiences. Many consumers are already in the mindframe to avoid these channels for these and similar reasons. Live chat is an excellent alternative. It provides truly real-time support, without any of the baggage associated with traditional help desk channels.

3. What would you say to people who are nervous about the time and monetary costs of implementing live chat software?
I’d say they should start slowly and begin with a careful consideration of how live chat can improve the customer experience they currently provide. Look at each touchpoint along their existing customer journeys, then identify those that could be most improved by providing instant answers to questions customers commonly have.

Also, to maximize the ROI of a live chat implementation, companies shouldn’t expect that customers will actively seek out live chat. Instead, companies need to make sure it’s there for the customers when they need it most. As an example, let’s say a company is promoting use of their online self-service resources like an FAQ page or knowledge-base. If browsing history indicates that a customer is struggling to find an answer, maybe because they’ve returned to the same page several times, then live chat could be proactively offered then and there.

At the end of the day, if live chat support ends up costing more time or money than support via traditional channels, then it’s very likely that it wasn’t implemented correctly.

4. Are there any roadblocks to connecting live chat to a CRM system?
There can be, but these are increasingly rare. As most customer service and help desk strategies and vendors have been shifting towards closer platform integration and multi- and omni-channel support, the integration of individual service channels with the main service platform is becoming more and more straightforward.

The exception to this is with companies that use in-house, proprietary or legacy CRM systems. They can face challenging integrations when adding any new component to the platform, and that includes live chat.

Craig Borowski, Help Desk Analyst for the online technology consultancy Software Advice.