February 28, 2008, 12:00 AM

10 tips for employing live chat profitably

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9. Limit the number of simultaneous chats

Addy of Day-Timers says agents are permitted to chat with up to three customers at a time, but that few agents are comfortable handling that many at one time. Ritz Interactive permits agents to handle up to four chats at a time.

Among Talisma clients, the average is 2.3 chats allowed at a time, Lowy says, although that includes retailers serving business clients who may need less hand-holding than retail consumers.

10. Ask for the sale

In a recent study of live chat, consultant Lauren Freedman of The E-Tailing Group was struck by how many online retailers did not conclude a chat session by encouraging the customer to buy.

Only about a third of the 20 or so retail sites she chatted with went so far as to push her a link to a product. A few were more aggressive, notably an agent at Apple who pointed out she could get a free printer with a computer purchase and encouraged her to buy immediately. “I liked him because he was trying to sell me a product and listening to what I was saying,” she says.

Survey feedback suggests chat can help close sales, says Wolansky of Orvis. “Customers love it,” he says. “We get comments like, ‘It was great talking to Ashley today. Because of her I placed my order.’”

don@verticalwebmedia.com

Click Here for the Guide to Providers of Live Chat Products & Services

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