Live chat support is considered a staple of customer service, but it’s also an important piece of the marketing puzzle. In fact, live chat is even more valuable when integrated into your marketing strategy framework. Customer support and accessibility translates to word-of-mouth referrals Live chat, as you know, is one of the most critical functions in your overall customer support arsenal. Today’s consumers expect instant gratification. To many of these consumers, waiting for a customer service rep to get around to responding to an email is comparable to sending a letter to a friend via snail mail instead of sending a text message. We won’t even discuss the frustration of calling a business only to waste an hour of your life pushing random buttons in a desperate attempt to reach an actual human. In other words, live chat is the ultimate convenience for the modern consumer’s short attention span. Live chat enables website visitors to immediately reach customer support representatives for answers to product-related questions or help in making purchases. Kissmetrics reports that an ATG Global Consumer Trend study finds that 90 percent of customers say that live chat is helpful, and a survey by emarketer.com finds that nearly two-thirds (63%) of customers are more likely to return websites that offer live chat. This immediate accessibility not only turns visitors into leads, but one-on-one interaction allows your reps to answer questions, solve problems, and create the exceptional customer experiences that make customers want to tell their friends, otherwise known as word-of-mouth marketing. Why word-of-mouth marketing matters Word-of-mouth marketing was around long before pay-per-click advertising, social media, and all the digital marketing channels we have at our fingertips today, yet it remains one of the most effective forms of marketing. Nielsen’s 2013 Trust in Advertising report found that 84 percent of global respondents spanning 58 countries consider word-of-mouth recommendations from friends and family (earned advertising) the most trustworthy. What’s more, AdWeek reports on a 2014 study from Ogilvy, Google and TNS that finds that 74 percent of consumers say word-of-mouth recommendations influence their purchase decisions – topping the list of the study’s top ten “points of influence.” Incentivizing word-of-mouth referrals through a referral program While live chat increases customer satisfaction and catalyzes word-of-mouth referrals, you can further encourage word-of-mouth referrals through a referral program. Referral software, such as ReferralCandy, Ambassador, and Referral SaaSquatch are just a few options that facilitate streamlined referral program management. There are lots of ways to promote your referral program and facilitate greater participation from your loyal customers. From scheduled and triggered emails (automated emails inviting customers to participate triggered by a specific action, such as engaging your live chat representatives) to mentioning your referral program in your email signature, promoting your program on social media, you can take advantage of your digital properties to get the word out about getting the word out (pun intended). Your live chat service can actually be one of the best tools for promoting your referral program, allowing you to further integrate live chat into your marketing mix. For instance, when your live chat reps end conversations with customers, they can send a referral link and educate the customer on earning discounts and other incentives by telling their friends, family, and networks about their great experience with your company. Other ways to integrate live chat into your marketing strategy Live chat helps to create and strengthen customer loyalty, and also serves as a tool to build awareness about your referral program and incentivize customers to participate in order to earn coupons, discounts, free products, and other incentives. But beyond serving as a key piece in the referral program puzzle, there are other ways to parlay live chat into a revenue-generating marketing and sales strategy. One such strategy is to train your reps to initiate chat conversations based on the pages visitors are spending time on. For example, if a visitor is reviewing your company’s hair care products, your live chat representative might say, “Hi there! We have a wide selection of curling irons, flat irons, and hair dryers. I can help you find the right product. What is your biggest hair care challenge?” By providing one-on-one, personalized support, live chat can increase sales. Live chat tools offer greater visibility with real-time visitor monitoring and browsing history, plus tools like triggers to facilitate proactive discussions with customers. For customers about to abandon their shopping cart, a triggered live chat conversation can curtail cart abandonment by answering the customer’s questions or even incentivizing the sale with a last-minute discount or free shipping offer. Or, when target visitors land on a specific page, triggering a live chat message letting those customers know that the products they purchase most are on sale (or in limited quantity) can encourage sales and even up-sells. Overall, the customer insights and analytics provided by live chat tools alone add tremendous value to your marketing strategy, allowing you to identify key customer trends and demands that can inform your marketing strategy and keep your business perfectly in tune with consumer demands. In an article for Entrepreneur, contributor Jonathan Long points out that there’s a widespread misconception that live chat is only useful for e-commerce websites, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Consider the unique ways live chat support can boost customer engagement and promote loyalty. Long uses the example of a restaurant, which can utilize live chat to make it easy for customers to make reservations and to clarify directions. Live chat offers endless possibilities to modern, innovative companies. By providing customers with immediately accessible support and taking advantage of the myriad ways to integrate live chat into your overall marketing and sales strategy, you’ll position your company at the forefront of the competitive landscape by meeting consumer demands for instant gratification. 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