Talking Points for Picking a Web Chat Provider

If you’re an e-commerce manager and you’re considering a Web chat system to boost your online conversion rates, do your homework before picking a provider. Focus on selecting a system (including people, process, technology, and metrics to measure performance) that allows you to take advantage of the upside of online conversion, while mitigating the risks inherent with any technology-enabled initiative.

You do have some bargaining power — assuming that you ask the right questions and demand flexibility from your vendors.

Only you know which risks pose the greatest immediate threat. When selecting a vendor, be proactive in voicing them. Do you need proof that the channel is delivering incremental contribution, and will you want to conduct a proof of concept to validate it? Are you concerned about the resources necessary to deploy, staff, manage and optimize the program, and wondering where they’ll come from?

You’ll need to raise these and other questions with your provider to determine if the company has strategies in place that can help you mitigate these risks. Questions you should ask include:

–How can the vendor ensure that your chat efforts won’t target sales that will happen anyway? Is there a strategy for capturing incremental orders and higher average order values?

–What experience does the vendor have in your industry? Does the company have a broad range of customer deployments; and does it have proven ability to help deliver incremental orders and revenue? When every sale counts, and when every investment dollar is analyzed for proof of a return on investment, you need a provider who has the experience to deliver proven incremental contribution in your industry sector.

–Do you have call center personnel whom you can redeploy to the chat channel? If yes, find out what training and optimization programs your vendor offers to help your staff succeed in increasing orders and revenue per hour worked. If you’re new to the channel, you’ll want to leverage your provider’s experience building a chat channel. This includes screening, hiring, training, and optimizing agents and supervisors, developing scripts for your agents and a compensation plan that drives success.

–If you don’t have personnel that you can deploy, does the vendor offer certified sales resources that you can leverage? How is success measured? And how is the vendor compensated for results it delivers? Most companies don’t want to pay by the hour or for the number of interactions, especially in a down economy. Rather, they want fees to be based on incremental orders and revenue.

–How can the vendor guarantee your success? What happens if the expected results aren’t delivered? Is the vendor willing to tie fee structure to performance? There are often surprises in technology programs – a vendor needs to monitor and optimize on a continuous basis and have a vested interest in the success of the program. Be sure to ask your vendor about their ongoing optimization programs and their plays in ensuring your success.

Like all online retailers, you need to work for each sale. The best way to accomplish this is by earning visitors’ trust, by giving them the sense that they’ve received an honest deal. Contact with a real human being is one of the best ways to impart that trust, and online conversion systems can help you do that, as long as you select the right system and partner.

Jim Dicso is senior vice president, enterprise sales and service, for LivePerson.

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