May 20, 2004, 12:00 AM

Two trends helping to drive more interest in live chat

Newer collaborative tools give live chat greater utility in retail and customer service environments, says Talisma. And with the rise of IM, more people are comfortable with communicating online in real time.

Live chat has been available for a while – but some of those initial deployments for retail sites met with limited success and little utilization on the part of shoppers. But live chat gaining is traction, pushed by a couple of trends, according to CRM technology provider Talisma Inc.

One is the emergence of newer collaborative tools that give live chat greater utility in retail and customer service environments. Integrating live chat with co-browsing, for example, allows online agents to not only communicate with customers who lose their way when trying to complete complex online tasks, but also actually guide them by sharing control of the customer’s browser.

Take the case of a customer attempting to configure a computer online at Dell.com, a beta tester of enhanced live chat/co-browsing functionality that’s a centerpiece of Talisma’s upcoming new product release. “The online customer can ask for help, pop into a co-browse feature that allows the agent to take control of the online form, and the agent can assist in filling out. They are chatting with you while directing you,” says Tim McMullen, Talisma`s vice president of products and technical alliances.

The other trend helping to drive the greater use of live chat in commercial settings? “We always point to the rise of instant messaging,” McMullen says. “It’s how our kids communicate. It’s how we communicate here in the office. As people have become more comfortable dealing with the online real-time environment, we are also now more comfortable communicating in that paradigm. Live chat is a natural extension.”

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