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Are you having success with live chat on your website?

A few months ago I was really enamored about adding live chat capabilities to our website.  We're a uISV about to launch our first product and I imagined us as friendly 21st century shopkeepers ready to chitchat with customers as they browse our wares.

We've been using ChatSpring, a very nice web-based chat service Starr Horne announced on this site last April.

http://discuss.joelonsoftware.com/default.asp?biz.5.624485.1
http://chatspring.com

Sadly, we've been surprised and disappointed with how few visitors to our site have availed themselves of our live chat.

Are you running live chat on your sites?  How much response are you getting?  Is it adding value?

We published a blog article last night with more detail on our experience, but I'm really curious what experience other BoS folks have had.

http://RockSolid.GibraltarSoftware.com/isv/do-you-have-time-for-a-chat
Jay Cincotta Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
We had it running for month or so.

No more than 1 person per day used it to communicate with us. We didn't notice any increase of sales. Most of people who contacted us knew english too bad to read manuals or FAQs (or even use wizards our software had), and we really were able to enlight them about our product by answering their questions (if you don't understand some language perfectly, it's easier to ask questions about meaning of some words or give A/B questions than try to guess meaning of words).

It was breaking our concentration though since you can always be interrupted by some silly customer who is too lazy to read FAQ or 1-page product intro. If you prefer coding with all phones and IMs turned off, it's very annoying to understand that anytime somebody (mostly stupid or with bad english)  will ask you silly questions.

So we have "live chat" icon on our site, but it shows "operator is offline". Some people use it anyway to contact us, but we can answer their requests with arbitrary delay (since they know that we are offline).
NickCEO Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
I am having success with chat (ChatSpring, specifically) at my site: http://railskits.com/

I don't have it on all the time, and my customers are a very narrow demographic, so that helps cut down on the random "I can't read the page so I'm going to start a chat" problem.

I have closed a number of sales because of having that chat, and just today I had a customer ready to buy who started a chat because he couldn't complete the checkout.  That happened to be due to networking problems at Slicehost which were quickly resolved, but I was able to investigate and give him a status at the very moment he was trying to buy.

So, it may depend very much on your site/your customer demographic, but for me, the time and money cost of live chat has been repaid many times over by the interactions I've had with potential customers that led them to become actual customers.
Benjamin Curtis Send private email
Thursday, May 28, 2009
 
 
Although i have no experience, but just like to put my view in the debate. I think it should depend on the type of the application. If you are selling $20/product, it doesn't make sense, on the other hand, for eg : Jay's product, might benefit from it.

What do you think?
Dev S Send private email
Friday, May 29, 2009
 
 
The easier you make it for people to contact you the more questions you will get.

If you add a email form (instead of just posting the email address) you will get considerable more emails because it is so much easy to send one to you.

If you are not ready to join the livechat bandwagon you can also make yourself available across the entire range of existing IM's. I spend little time being available in them because , as Nick said, being available all the time tends to be very distracting.

If you've got a support guy around you can ask them to spend 8h a day being live on the IM's and in the live chat.
Naicu Octavian Send private email
Friday, May 29, 2009
 
 
@Nick, you can barely speak English yourself so I'm not sure what you are getting at.
Brian McSlutty Send private email
Friday, May 29, 2009
 
 
@Brian McSlutty: I was posting it while being tired, so the english is not good, though I don't have any mistakes with tenses and grammar and I don't have any problems reading English.  The English of people from italy, brazil or china is much worse than mine and they don't understand what they read.
NickCEO Send private email
Saturday, May 30, 2009
 
 
We had live chat support for about a year.  It was an abysmal failure.

The only people who ever used it were people who were stuck programming and wanted someone to fix their problem NOW.  "I can attach my project, why doesn't it compile".  In 90% of the cases these were questions of simple debugging.  Unless you want to be a programming instructor I don't recommend that approach.

We then turned it so only SALES questions could be asked through chat.  Still 9/10 questions were people wanting programming help.  Sorry, post that to the forums didn't work either.

I agree with some other posts above, it was a HUGE distraction to the programmers, and having an always on person just people lazy people were being enabled to be more lazy.

We also tried the proactive engagement asking people if we could help, etc.  In almost every case as soon as you contacted them they would close their browser on your site.  It is considered a LOT more invasive on a website to "pop up" and ask if they need help than a sales person in a store asking if you are ok.

It seems like a good idea, didn't work for us either...
Jason Short Send private email
Tuesday, June 02, 2009
 
 

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