February 18, 2002, 12:00 AM

Live help may be picking up at retail sites

Wider use of instant messages may make web site live chat a more popular customer service option. The availability of live chat increased average dollars spent per customer by 50% at one e-retailer.

 

As more consumers get used to using instant messaging services from such e-mail providers as Yahoo and America OnLine, the transition to utilizing live chat for customer service on retail web sites may move faster, market observers say.

Currently, only about 4% of all retail web sites use live chat as a customer service option, says Tony Pante, executive vice president of marketing and product development at New York-based LivePerson. "We’re just starting to see the adoption of live chat pick up right now," Pante says. "People understand how to use instant messaging and retailers are beginning to realize that they can utilize this tool for casual conversation in a customer service setting."

He says one difference between instant messaging and live chat help is that the retailers must store the text for each chat as a reference for the transaction. LivePerson provides storage space on servers for its clients.

LivePerson provides live chat software for 3,200 companies, including such retailers as Godiva, iQVC and Neiman Marcus. LivePerson says client TechnoBrands.com reported a 50% increase in the average dollar amount spent by customers who engaged in the live help chat option. LivePerson supports 1.2 million live help chats per month.

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