Although live chat has been around for some time, manufacturers can be reluctant to diverge from the standard way of doing things. What will it take for an old school industry to finally buy-in?
Live chat has been around for quite a while – we’ve been providing 24/7 live chat for over 16 years – it is still an emerging best practice for many companies and especially for manufacturers. I learned on a recent marketing podcast that if something is considered a “best practice”, it means all your competitors are already doing it. An emerging best practice however, is something you can do to give your company a competitive advantage. In this article, I’ll discuss a couple common misconceptions companies have about live chat and share the top 5 benefits a manufacturer can expect from implementing an online chat program into their website. This article will even discuss how a manufacturer who might already be using a live chat software can take their program to the next level.
Before I get into the benefits discussion, I’d like to address two of the most common reasons manufacturers may shy away from live chat. The first challenge manufacturers perceive – or in some cases – have experienced is that they don’t have the resources to staff a live chat box on their website. This is especially true for small and medium sized manufacturers. The last thing you want to do as a company is have a live chat box on your website, have someone click on it to chat, and then they get a message saying “not currently online”. You will either want to dedicate certain personnel at certain times of the day to monitoring the website OR you will want to partner with a company that provides chat agents (real people) along with the chat software.
This brings up the second common challenge or misconception I often hear when I’m talking to manufacturers. “How will an outsourced chat person be able to answer the technical questions about my company’s products, processes, and services?” To which I respond, the chat person does not necessarily need to be an expert at your company. Through proper script planning and leading the chat conversation with questions, we can accomplish the primary objective, which is converting website visitors into sales opportunities. We can find out who they are, where they are, what company they are with, and finally what we can help them with. Inevitably at some point during the chat, the visitor will ask a specific question about price, specifications, delivery time, etc. and that would be our cue to say, “Great, let me have one of our experts get in touch with you.” Would phone or email be best?”
When done correctly, live chat should be approached as an exciting and innovative lead generation initiative for manufacturers.
Now here’s what you’ve been waiting to get to. The top 5 benefits for implementing live chat on a manufacturer website:
1) Generating more sales leads
Without even looking at your website analytics, you can rest assured that well over 95% of your website visitors leave without you knowing they were even there. By adding live chat to your manufacturer website and implementing it correctly, you’ll be proactively engaging every visitor that comes to your website to offer assistance. What do I mean when I say, “implementing it correctly” you ask? Well, there are a few options when it comes to how you can deploy live chat program. If you want maximum visitor engagement, don’t just put a chat button on your website that visitors need to click in order to engage the live chat. Set up your program so that you are proactively opening up a chat dialogue box with each and every visitor. You can bank on a 50 to 100 percent increase in chats if you move from a reactive chat to a proactive chat. There is another best practice when it comes to implementing a live chat solution. You’ll want to make it as easy as possible for your visitors to begin a chat conversation with your company. Again, the vast majority of chat deployments we see with other companies require the website visitor to enter their name and email PRIOR to the chat even starting. This can seriously affect the volume of chats you’ll get. Yes, as a marketer, you obviously want the contact information of the visitor, however, it’s much easier to get the contact information during the chat conversation. Unless you are getting way too many chats, and you can’t handle them all (a good problem to have in most companies) you’ll want to let the visitor begin chatting without having to commit any personal information up front.
2) Improves the performance of your other marketing initiatives
What company doesn’t want their marketing to perform better? Especially in a day and age when there is so much global competition emerging AND there is a culture of running your business as lean as possible. How much are you investing each month into search engine optimization? How much into Google Adwords or retargeting campaigns? Are you doing email campaigns? Well, the objective for these campaigns is to drive traffic to your website and landing pages right? The way to get more out of these campaigns is with a higher conversion rate. For example, let’s assume you’re investing $10,000 per month in a paid search campaign on Google, and the average cost-per-click is $5 for your target keyword phrases. This means, if your entire budget is consumed you’ll get 2000 visitors to your website. Let’s also assume you have an industry high conversion rate of 4 percent with your conversions being measured by ‘goal completions’ in Google Analytics being set up to track phone calls and web form completions. This means you’ll get about 80 leads per month from the $10,000 investment. With live chat deployed, we regularly see an increase in conversion rate of 20 percent up to 100 percent! The result is significant. For the same marketing spend, you could get 96 to 160 leads! Now, think about the average value of one sale. Your odds for ROI on your digital marketing spend are greatly increased when you get more conversions out of the traffic you’re already driving to your website.
3) Enhance customer service
While the primary goal of live chat for manufacturers is to increase sales leads, consider that a percentage of your website visitors are going to be existing customers. Live chat can be a valuable tool to help you handle customer requests. Your phone lines will ring less for mundane, frequently asked questions. This can free up time for your customer service reps to work on more proactive, strategic company efforts. In some cases, where call volume is very high for these common questions, a live chat program could even be a significant cost savings. Obviously, you’ll want to have scripts and processes prepared for this audience as well. For example, be sure you have the chat transcripts emailed to the appropriate people in your company for customer service problems, especially if the problem is an emergency. Be sure your chat operator knows which name and phone number to provide to a customer or dealer that needs immediate response due to an emergency. Early on in the chat, it’s a good practice to find out if the visitor is a current customer or a dealer and what company they are with. This makes it much easier for your internal team to qualify and handle the opportunity accordingly. We’ve seen time and time again where an end user is having an issue with a machine and they visit the manufacturers website – before reaching out to their local dealer. This allows the manufacturer to be involved and help the dealer handle the issue better.
4) Improve your relationship with your dealers/reps
The old school, and still quite prevalent ‘manufacturer-distributor’ mindset, is that the distributors should be the ones driving the sales. Sure manufacturers want to build the products and let “the rest” be taken care of by their dealer network. Think about what “the rest” means in this case. It means revenue generation. Savvy manufacturers are realizing a couple things. Distributors aren’t always as motivated to sell their product, especially if they carry multiple product categories with multiple brands in each. Distributors are also difficult to micro manage and often, manufacturers are afraid of upsetting their dealers – especially their biggest dealers. Many manufacturers don’t want to be bogged down with all the marketing and sales stuff, however, this mindset is slowly shifting, and quite frankly, it needs to be shifting sooner than later. I attend many of our manufacturer client dealer meetings and I can promise you the best relationships exist when a dealer truly knows that a manufacturer is there to support them. Manufacturers building demand generation programs are far more likely to see growth in their sales and they are better able to communicate with their dealers. When dealers see the manufacturer investing in marketing to help them, it certainly strengthens the relationship. Then, the conversation becomes, “How are those leads going that we sent you last month?” We’ll discuss this topic in more detail in another post.
5) Generate more employment candidates
Finding welders, engineers, and technicians is becoming more and more challenging. To our surprise (and our clients’ pleasant surprise) over the years whenever we implemented live chat, we always saw an increase in job inquiries. At first, we were not excited when these chat transcripts came through. However, as we began talking to our clients, we were told how difficult it is to put candidates into their hiring pipeline. Now, when we see these chats come through, we have them emailed right to the HR person(s) and in some cases, they are spending less money with recruiters. As we all know, you can’t build a company without people.
I hope this article provides some helpful insights to anyone considering adding a live chat function to your manufacturer website. When planned and implemented correctly, the results can be significant. We’ve been implementing live chat for manufacturing companies for over 16 years now, so we have a ton of experience in this arena and we are here to help if you have any questions about trying this in your company.