SOCAP International

Turn Chat Into a Profit Strategy

Read the full Fall 2018 issue of CRM Magazine here.



Re-imagining existing chat operations allows you to monetize interactions, while still providing the necessary consumer care.

chat allowed


Ten years ago, customer care was defined narrowly: post-sale question and complaint call centers. As the customer journey has evolved and become increasingly digital, the definition of customer care has expanded. Today, industry best practice is to provide care at every stage of the digital customer journey—social engagement, where to buy, ratings and reviews, pre-sale consideration, shipping confirmation, and post-sale questions and complaints. For brands that embrace innovation, the digital customer journey is ripe with opportunities to increase conversion rates, cart size, spend per customer—and ultimately profits.


One such innovation, or step along the digital journey, is to implement a pre-sale chat strategy. Reimagining existing care chat operations as a profit strategy allows organizations to monetize interactions, while still providing the necessary consumer care. Here are some chat numbers to consider:

  • Chat is going to have a 3% higher conversion than phone, but 28% better conversion than those who don’t engage at all. (Moxie)
  • 38% of online consumers said they had made their purchase due to a chat session (Forrester Research)
  • 20% increase in shopping cart size with chat engagements (Forrester Research)
  • 63% of online consumers said they were more likely to return to a website that offers live chat (Forrester Research)

Reimagining chat and how it’s used during a customer’s digital journey can boost sales and drive conversions. Below are a few factors to think about as you move forward with reinventing your chat strategy.

1. Choose the right products. As you take your first steps into the world of pre-sale chat, you will most likely want to use it everywhere. And why not? You have the ability, so you should use it everywhere, right? Wrong. The more items for which you provide chat capability, the more resources you will have to dedicate to chatting. That doesn’t sound too detrimental until you realize your employees are spending a large portion of their time on low-margin items that essentially sell themselves. The ROI is just not there.
chat journey
Test products first, then expand after proving ROI feasibility. More expensive products are a good place to start. Customers have a more difficult time “pulling the trigger” on expensive items and will have many more questions and concerns before parting with their money.

2. Know who your customers are. Knowing who your customers are is imperative. Millennials are 20% more likely than Baby Boomers to prefer live chat (Software Advice). An older customer base will be more likely to call or email than to use chat, so don’t dedicate valuable assets where they will be relatively unused or ineffective. Products that skew to a younger audience are a more ideal candidate for pre-sale chat, as the customer base is more apt to use the technology.

3. Seasonality will affect chat usage. Chat is an extension of the e-commerce world; a world greatly affected by seasonality and holidays. According to RJ Metrics, November and December drive 30% more e-commerce revenue than non-holiday months. More sales volume means more pre-sale chat volume and opportunity. Be prepared with extra staff to ensure response times do not suffer and that you don’t get caught in a training lag as you bring new employees up to speed. Use the time prior to seasonal increases to ramp up training efforts so you have ample chatters ready when needed.

4. Start with questions. The best way to achieve pre-sale chat conversions is to start with asking questions. Train chatters to ask questions to personalize the chat experience and to discover what customers think is important. Once there is an understanding of what they want, or think they want, then chatters can lead customers where they need to go. Oftentimes, customers aren’t aware of all the options available to them. As product experts, chatters know the ins and outs of a brand and can provide consumers with the information they need. And, along the way, chatters can easily capitalize on upsell opportunities.

5. Monitor and coach. 
Monitoring and ongoing coaching is imperative to creating a better and more successful pre-sale chat experience. Use interaction quality forms or rubrics to assess chatters’ performances. Tracking technical skills (link usage, up/cross sell ability, grammar, etc.) as well as soft skills (empathy, tone, personalization, relationship building, etc.) is very important to maintaining continuous improvement. Monitoring key performance metrics such as conversion rates, cart size, spend per customer, etc., also provides valuable insight as to how the chat process is or isn’t working.

6. Know your brand voice.
It is vital your “voice” matches your brand and is what customers expect to hear. As a communication device, chat falls on the more informal side of things, somewhere between texting and email. Make sure all your chatters understand how informal or formal your brand’s voice and personality is. Brand consistency leads to an overall better customer experience.

7. Decide on your types of chat engagement. There are four basic types of engagement you can employ to start a chat session: 

  • Hyperlink—a linked line of text on a webpage that customers click on.
  • Button—an image resembling a button embedded on a webpage that customers click on.
  • Proactive—a dynamic pop-up initiated by the company inviting the customer to chat.
  • Responsive button overlay—a “sticky” flyout tab or button that remains visible at all times, regardless of scrolling or where the customer goes on the webpage.

Hyperlinks are a good supplemental engagement method and work well with other styles. Buttons are easy to see and can be designed to reflect your brand. Proactive chat engages customers based on their behavior and has a high 10-15% acceptance rate. Responsive overlays are similar to buttons, but are always available to users wherever they go on a webpage. So which one is best? That’s a question best answered by each individual business. The best way to find out what works is to test.chat center

8. Perform A/B testing. There are many variables that may affect customers’ chat usage: type of engagement, chat button location, chat design, product price point, introductory message and many more. Be in it for the long haul and systematically A/B test facets of chat engagement with a constant eye on improving conversions and usage. Keep in mind that what may work for one website may not for another, so be sure to create and analyze your own data, and do so regularly.

The Next Step

Studies have shown chat to be an effective sales booster across all customers. But using pre-sale chat isn’t an outside-the-box idea. It is merely the next logical step in customer service and sales support. Pre-sale chat is just taking existing chat strategy, twisting it slightly and reimagining what it can be. CRM
Please join SOCAP and Alta Resources at “Reimagine:SOCAP’s 2018 Customer Care Conference,” Oct. 21-24 in Salt Lake City, Utah, where they will be a conference sponsor and exhibitor. Learn more at https://reimaginecc.org.


AmyAmy Bouthilet is the group operations director, Wisconsin care operations for Alta Resources, a leading provider of customer-related business process outsourcing for top brands in a variety of industries including automotive, consumer-packaged goods, health insurance and entertainment. With 15 years of consumer care experience, Amy has a proven track record of increasing employee and consumer satisfaction scores while serving in a variety of roles, including trainer, team leader, quality assurance manager and program director.