Supporting my clients and implementation team via online instant messaging (IM) chat has been a modern-day lifesaver and I’d like to share my experience with you to hopefully inspire you to incorporate online chat into your business.
What is Online IM Chat Anyway?
Online instant messaging (IM) chat is a private conversation being held in real-time on the web between two people or a small tightly-knit group or team. Facebook has a one-on-one online chat mechanism (if you have it activated), Skype and Gmail both provide online chat as well, to give you a frame of reference. If you text back and forth with people you know on your phone, I would say that is a close comparison, with only a few difference, to what I’m calling IM chat.
Why Not Use the Phone?
Did you know one of the most costly areas of any company is the support department where customer or technical support is provided by phone? Big companies usually see no option but to outsource their phone support overseas to save money. That’s why big hosting companies, like Hostgator, and some of the largest services companies, like Microsoft and Google, will have you sitting on hold for sometimes 30 minutes or more before you get to talk to a support person that you can barely understand verbally because their overseas-based accents are so thick.
Email is still a good source of communication, but has too many limitations for conducting back & forth support and training dialogue, like delivery problems, delayed response, and spam folders to name a few.
How I Use IM Chat
I started using online chat about ten years ago to manage my team of helpers. Over the past three years, I’ve expanded the use of online chat to all of my clients as well. Admittedly, it’s been a sales job of sorts to one-by-one convince my clients to use online chat to communicate with me. A client’s initial preference will probably always be to talk with its web services provider by phone. But, after only about five minutes of giving online chat at try, they have ALL seen the true benefits of using online chat.
Every company should have an online chat feature. Personally, I have two types of chat:
- First Level Free Chat – Sales inquiries, quote requests and miscellaneous questions come through my first level of chat as you can see on the top right of the HereNextYear.com site. I can easily turn the chat button on and off as I’m available and not supporting paying clients.
- Second Level Paid Chat – Once a person becomes what I call a
Live Buddy Web Marketing Club member, they get connected with me directly by Skype online IM chat. This way, I can have an ongoing private dialogue with that client for a period ranging from one month to an unlimited period of months. Live Buddy clients see a huge benefit to having a trustworthy “buddy” on the outside to go to for live private web marketing training and consulting or just general discussions about their businesses.
So, let’s get into specific benefits IM chat has to offer for prospective clients who are searching the web to find you, your clients, and how you as a vendor can benefit too. I’ll limit this discussion to the top three benefits for each category as I see them.
IM Chat Benefits to Prospective Client:
- Believability – The greatest benefit of IM chat for a website visitor is to find out if the staff behind the website are “real people.” This is one of the reasons I’m even posting this information today. I simply wish myself that there were more websites with online chat available so that I can be proven there is intelligence behind the pages! You can learn a lot about a company by the person performing the online chat.
- Popularity – People like to get involved with situations that are popular. Sometimes when I go onto IM chat with a website support person, I’ll say something like, “Hope your day isn’t going as crazy as mine!” just to see what their response is. If I hear something like you’d hear from the typical grocery store clerk, “Geez, your my first chat in two days! I’m so bored here.” What does that tell you? Not very popular.
- Availability – Of course, on the other side of the coin, you want to get involved with companies that have time for you. Using IM chat is a great way to feel out a vendor to see how well they will respond to your requests when you become a client.
IM Chat Benefits to Client:
- Assistance with technical help – Of course technical assistance can be provided by phone, but IM chat allows you to provide support while the client can go on with their day doing other things while you’re fixing the problem. There’s no need to keep your client on the phone listening to you breath for twenty minutes while you look into a technical issue for them.
- Assurance of progress – If I’m looking into something for a client and we are connected on chat, I can easily provide them with updates along the way assuring them that I am still working on their issue. Of course this can be provided by email too. But, who wants to have their email inbox clogged up with “Almost there”?
- Accessibility – The best benefit of all to your clients will be accessibility to you, the vendor, when your clients need you the most. Even if your online chat is set to the off-line position, you can still get notified through the chat system by email that one of your clients is trying to reach you.
IM Chat Benefits to Product Producer or Service Provider:
- Accelerate the sale – Probably the most important of all is that you’ll get from website visitor to sales call much more quickly than waiting for email forms to be completed and calls scheduled. A website visitor will see you’re available, they’ll pop on IM chat to ask a question and WHAMMO! Your awesome answers to their questions gets them excited to talk to you for services or product sale opportunity.
- Assess the inquirer – From a product producer or service provider standpoint, IM chat is a great way to qualify leads. A few key questions at the beginning of your discussion can better reserve your phone opportunities for the next level of discussion with a suspect or prospect.
- Audit trail – Possibly the most time saving feature of IM chat is that I can go back into past chats with a client and copy & paste my answers from previous IM chat discussions and re-supply the client with the same answer I supplied before. Also helpful is providing the date that we chatted about that topic so that they can go back in their own chat history and read the entire discussion.
I could have really built this post out to have dozens of benefits for prospects, clients, and product/service providers. But, I think you get the point.
Give IM Chat a Try Today!
Give online instant messaging (IM chat) a try. Skype IM is a free download and free to use. Skype is particularly good for IM chat because you can just click a button to connect by voice to the person you’re chatting with, without the need for a phone.
Even just connecting with all your clients on Facebook is a possible solution if you want to put your faith into Facebook. Start by connecting with your web designer, virtual assistant, sales team, or office manager. There really is no company that’s too large or too small to benefit with IM chat.
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Marty Dickinson is the Here Next Year Web Marketing Club manager and author of Lions Always Win: How to Spot What You Want in Business and Life…and Get it Too!. Without knowing what you truly want, and the tools to get you there, your business is guaranteed to fail.