The Ingenious Engagement Opportunity of Live Chat


Think about how you behave online when you’re seriously looking to buy jewelry.

You might flick between tabs. You might glance at the navigation bar and make your way down the page looking for the things that are important to you – specs, pricing, social proof – whatever it might be.

You might have a vague sense of what you want to buy, but you don’t know much about what kind of criteria you should be using to evaluate your choices.

Think about what a sales rep that pops in with a friendly live chat greeting could do to influence you when you’re in that state of mind.

The reason I love live chat in scenarios like this, is because it’s the best way to capitalize on your visitor’s attention right as they’re evaluating, learning or at least thinking about you.

It’s a prime opportunity to pop in and say: “Hey there, I’m an expert and I know what I’m talking about. Let me know if I can help with anything.” Free, low-touch consultation for a potential customer. And a potential sale for the business.

When you provide the tailored information your visitors need to make an informed decision, the impact that you can have at this time is amazing.

How live chat influences the sales funnel

If you look at Marketo’s buying funnel and accompanying research, you’ll see a very clear shift in the way customers are buying today, across B2B and B2C:

Today’s consumers tend to educate themselves before they shop, using online sources to conduct their own studies of products.


“This simplistic strategy keeps Marketing in one silo and Sales in another, in a market where they need each other to deliver the personalized attention that prospects expect.

Marketing used to have a low impact on the buyer’s process. In the days of white papers and brochures, the usefulness of marketing was limited to the top of the funnel. It’s role ended as potential buyers made their way out of the awareness and intent stage.

Now that funnel looks very different. Customers are spending more time learning about products and services on their own before they ever contact a sales rep on their own. When you use it to educate and empower customers with relevant information, live chat can be a strategic part of the way you move buyers down the funnel.

marketo buying funnel

Use live chat to educate and engage, then sell

Much of what makes up a good content marketing strategy applies to live chatting with your visitors. First, engage and educate – in other words, pull out your guns and show your value.

That means building on these two elements:

  1. Knowledge – which then informs common goals and rules between customer and organization
  2. Trust – generated by delivering what is in the best interest of the other person in the relationship, accurately over time (Source: Thunderhead)

It might mean giving away free advice. However you do it, being a trusted source and authority of information is now the main currency of brands and businesses. The only difference is that you tailor those links and resources to your future customers.

Stand by for well-timed assistance

You don’t have to wait for a visitor to start a live chat with you. Just as sales associates at J.Crew do, reps greet store visitors, live chat reps should monitor their visitors and start a chat themselves.

The best time to start a live chat is when you already know you have their attention. A good place to start is with visitors who are:

  • On your pricing page
  • Have spent more than 5 minutes actively browsing your website.
  • Have landed in the checkout section but haven’t followed through with the purchase

You can be fairly certain that if they’re doing either of these, they’re doing some serious information gathering (i.e. in the Interest stage) or considering a purchase.

You might also want to keep an eye on visitors who have made their way to the shopping cart but haven’t clicked “buy” yet. One of the top reasons buyers abandon their shopping carts is confusion and complications that arise right before the purchase. If you’re present to address questions or concerns during this critical period – remember, this rate sits on average between 60-80% – you will be able to increase that conversion rate.

Upgrade to email communication

Your live chat strategy is just the top of the funnel engagement but it doesn’t have to end there. When customers chat with live reps, they often want to keep the useful information they’ve learned in their own records. The problem is that most people exit the chat window and lose all that helpful information.

It’s a leak that you definitely don’t want in your funnel.  Think of live chat as the first step to engaging a future customer and go from there.

At the end of a chat session, reps should arrange to send a copy of the transcript by email. Ideally, your rep has been helpfully supplying your visitor with links and resources you already have up on your website to encourage further browsing of the site. Invite them to email you with more questions and schedule a follow up. Invite them to opt into an email list that’s relevant to them. Let live chat open the door to future engagement opportunities.

Show value and UPSELL!

Upselling for the sake of upselling is annoying.

However, demonstrating lots of value and then making the case for a higher level product or service? Now that’s the kind of upselling that no one minds.

Educating visitors during a live chat is an effective way to plant the seed for an upsell. Once customers are engaged with a rep who understands their needs, that rep is in a much better position to make recommendations.

Cory Miller of iThemes offers this pro tip: “Always be upselling – this is actually the most critical element … one thing we try to do is show the value in our Theme Club, it’s jammed packed with themes and the best deal we have.”

Once you find the perfect shoe for them, it’s a much easier sell.

Bonus: Funnel Qualitative Feedback To The Company

Another underrated benefit of investing in live chat: those transcripts can be funnelled back into the company for product and process improvements.

Sujan Patel of When I Work spent some time chatting with visitors to their website. The result?  His customers virtually wrote the company’s new messaging for him:

“I took time to talk with users and visitors over live chat and found out that people don’t refer to us in the same way that we were referring to ourselves in our ads. Prior to talking with customers, we were testing hundreds of different messages in our ads. But after talking with our customers, we now focus on two main messages: “scheduling made easy” and “best scheduling app.”

In fact, the conversations that emerge from a live chat are the kind of raw qualitative data that everyone at your company could use:

  • Customer pain points -> Sales team
  • Questions they ask (useful for knowledgebase/self-service) -> Support team
  • Frustrations about your website ->Marketing/Design team

Reps who talk to customers have immediate, frontline access to that customer stream of consciousness. They have access to questions like: how they heard of them, what they came looking for and what they’re asking about the most. That’s the kind of precious data you can’t buy.

The Takeaway

Businesses that treat live chat as another channel on which they must be passively present lose out on three things:

  • Becoming a trusted supplier of information
  • Sales opportunities by way of engaging conversations
  • Valuable primary data that could improve your product and/or messaging

To make live chat a worthwhile investment, you need to be actively monitoring visitors, reaching out, and connect them with information you already have available. It’s part sales and part customer service and 100% part of the buying funnel.

You are in an arms race with your competitors, and it’s the business that supplies trustworthy, relevant information in the right way at the right time that wins.

How do you make live chat work at your company? What have you learned from using it as a sales tool? Leave us your thoughts below in the comments!

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About the author
Nandini Jammi

Nandini is crafting content that tells the Kayako story and shares our vision for customer service.

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