While live chat functions are just starting to be adopted by online retailers today, some industry participants say that if retailers use them mostly for customer service, they are being dramatically underutilized. "Most companies try to justify the utilization of live chat in terms of ROI. But it’s the wrong measurement," says Jim Tisdel, president and CEO of Chicago-based ServiceReps.com. "It’s a little bit like trying to justify the clerks sitting in your offline store--it’s about building relationships with customers, providing positive experiences and bringing them into the cycle of loyal customers. The only way to do that is to have immediate contact with customers," he says.
Tisdel cites K-Swiss, a client who is using live chat to answer customer questions about sizes and style of K-Swiss shoes. He says at K-Swiss 75% of chat conversations are directly related to product knowledge and the company regularly sees more than double average conversion rates when customers use the live chat function.
Live chat helps K-Swiss sell shoes because shoppers have questions while shopping online. Once they have their questions answered they often make a purchase. "The impact of building rapport and relationships with customers is tremendous," Tisdel says.