Thanks to Robert Luna of Diverse Solutions for alerting me to this article on CNNMoney.com about using instant messaging to interact with customers online. Consider this anecdote from a Park City, Utah broker:
Now some savvy website operators are finding that, when used tactfully, it can be a powerful way to boost sales - not just as a passive customer-service tool but as a way to engage customers, in the manner of a showroom salesperson. Erik Asarian, a real estate broker in Park City, Utah, installed a live chat box a year ago and credits it with adding $12 million in sales. “It’s become an amazing new profit center,” he says.
The key is figuring out how to tactfully put yourself in front of passers-by without scaring them off — which is, of course, the same conundrum faced by offline sales people.
Think of the last open house you did. Some people wander in, volunteer their name and intent, and are more than open to conversation. Others come in and prefer to have some space. Still others are reticent, but open up when they see you aren’t going to bite.
Same thing goes online. With certain online chat tools like Meebo, for instance, you can see how many folks are currently looking at your web site, and you can engage them if you so choose.
It’s a delicate act, however. It’s easy to come across creepy and big-brother-ish. Many website visitors don’t have a clue that their presence can be monitored, much as in an offline store. The recommendation, according to the CNNMoney.com article, is this:
To be a successful “closer,” a merchant first has to learn how to use live chat to create trust. Instead of pinging visitors with a standard greeting like “How may I help you?” - which many potential customers correctly interpret as nothing more than a sales come-on - Galper suggests a subtler alternative: “Hi, my name is Ari, sorry to interrupt… just wanted to make sure everything is making sense so far…” (Another basic IM sales rule: Never use periods; opt instead for the more conversational ellipsis.)
Fellow bloggers — any thoughts on using chat windows to engage visitors? Should you wait for them to reach out to you with questions? Or is it appropriate to try to engage with them first?
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