Monday, September 17, 2007

Do you offer customer service via web chat?

More and more businesses are offering web chat on their company website as an alternative method for contacting customer support or sales. I suspect as more and more college students graduate into the workforce, this will become the norm as opposed to an emerging trend. They're used to using Instant Messengers to communicate with their social networks. They will expect to be able to contact businesses in the same method. Most retail e-commerce sites are offering instant web chat as an option for talking to some one. Forward-thinking businesses have been using it for their b2b interactions for a few years now.

It's true that's there is nothing like talking to a human, and we stress that on our website, but we also offer the web chat option for people looking to talk immediately. It's great for sending website links, or bringing up slideshows or pdfs.

I'm looking to collect information on different web chat applications and services for managing customer support via a company's website. Our company uses Boldchat, a popular and reliable service which allows us to respond to both customer support requests and new sales inquiries.

I'm about to embark on researching new vendors, more to see what else is out there as opposed to experiencing any pain with Boldchat. It's really a very good, inexpensive tool. I turned to my LinkedIn connections for some of their experiences with website customer support. I've only received a few responses thus far:

"I like PHPlive, it's inexpensive and has a very strong feature set. It's PHP based, so it's relatively easy to put it into most sites. I've linked the feature set, so you can see if it matches up to your needs. Now if you want something free, you can also look at moodle. They have a little flash based doodad that you can add to your site. Sounds like you want to do some significant marketing, so I'd go with PHPLive."

"One of the most notable is Liveperson and depending on your goals and objectives, they are worth taking a look at."
Note: I have experience with LivePerson. They are probably the industry leader and offer a very robust solution. I really liked it, but in the end I chose Boldchat because they offered a similar feature set at a more competitive price.

"I use CraftySyntax -- this product and can say its one of the best in its category. Lot can be said about the features but an experience is always welcome. If the end user can spend and needs a managed environment LivePerson is good. Best wishes and have a very nice day."

Another web chat tool I've used in the past is LiveHelper - a very professional offering.

Smaller businesses should consider using Google Talk or Yahoo Instant Messenger's web version, which you can embed in your website. They do the job but lack some of the customer service/support features found in the professional services described earlier.

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