September 6, 2012, 10:36 AM

Virgin soars on customer service via live chat

The British airline says proactive chat is better than e-mail. 

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Encouraging online shoppers to chat with agents instead of sending customer service inquiries via e-mail has helped Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd. make more sales.

The U.K.-based airline says that conversion rates reach as high as 23% for consumers who use its proactive live chat from LivePerson Inc. “Customers who chat convert at nearly 3.5 times the rate of those who don’t,” says John Giddings, general manager of Virgin Atlantic contact centers.

The airline doesn’t use live chat for customer service at the end of the sales process, as those consumers are already ready to buy. Rather, Virgin says, it uses the LivePerson technology to bring in incremental revenue or to increase average order values.

“LivePerson was additionally able to promote specific flights that Virgin Atlantic wanted prioritized for bookings, offering chat invi­tations to customers browsing those flights, ahead of others,” reads a case study from LivePerson about Virgin’s use of live chat.

Virgin also has found that average order values for consumers who use live chat is some 15% higher than for consumers who do not use the tool. And the airline says that using live chat is cheaper than answering phone calls from consumers or responding to e-mails—Virgin says that the average chat agent can cover the work done by 15 agents focused on e-mails.

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