6 Tips on Live Chat for Non-Retail Marketers

It’s perhaps difficult to think of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration as a touchy-feely entity. It’s even harder to imagine that about companies beyond the U.S. border that are seeking FDA compliance. So after holding more than 87,000 live chats within three years to help businesses (half of them foreign) come into compliance with FDA regulations, Registrar Corp. of Hampton, Va., can say that the online conversations it’s had with prospects really helped make the FDA approval process more personal.

Registrar Vice President David Lennarz says that since the company began using Wichita, Kan.-based Bold Software’s BoldChat tool for live chat in spring 2006, the marketing channel’s advantages over e-mail and phone communications have become clear. From then until October 2009—when Registrar tallied that 87,000 figure, reportedly more than double the industry average—the company continued to evolve its best practices for converting prospects to customers. Bold Software reports that Registrar engaged 2.3 percent of all visitors in chat during July 2010 vs. a benchmark of 1.4 percent. Registrar’s repeat visitors were 79 percent more likely to engage in chat vs. Bold Software’s average customer’s repeat visitors, who were 64 percent more likely to interact. About 20 percent of the chatters convert.

Sharing live chat best practices are Lennarz; Matt Tharp, Bold Software’s director of client services; and Michael Kansky, chief technology officer of Huntingdon Valley, Pa.-based live chat software provider LiveHelpNow.

• Allow anonymity. It’s only natural for direct marketers to want to collect as much customer data as they can, whenever and wherever they can. But on live chat, that ambition can backfire.

Kansky says to first work to establish trust. Then the live chat operator should, he says, either get or give a phone number and ultimately convert consumers offline.

Allowing anonymity has helped Lifestyle Lift, a Troy, Mich.-based national plastic surgery network that’s a LiveHelpNow customer, realize 80 percent of its business from live chat, Kansky says.

Heather Fletcher is senior content editor with Target Marketing.
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