I’m always looking for ways to better connect with readers of my blog and last month I installed a two-week trial of a web chat from LiveChat Inc. on my personal blog. This blog post is a follow-up to that experience.
You might be wondering what I mean when I talk about live chat on my blog. Put simply, it’s a small piece of code you install on the pages of your blog (in my case, it was a simple WordPress plugin) that enables auto-invite of a chat session to your web visitor (very similar to MSN, ICQ, AOL).
You might also be wondering why I would want to chat with the readers of my blog. That’s a fair question. And the short answer is that while writing in my blog has provided me with a creative outlet, the comments and interactions I have with my readers has been very rewarding.
More than a year ago, I wrote several blog posts that have become very popular with my readers. These posts talk in-depth about an IPTV service from Bell Canada that’s currently rolling out. When I first signed up for the service, I detailed a lot of my experience and how the service works. But people still had questions. I was getting emails on a consistent basis and I enjoyed the interactions. I’ve even made some friends.
I spend most of my time thinking about community building. It’s a hobby and it pays my salary (yeah, I’m lucky that worked out). I’ve been thinking about my live chat options for a while now and after a failed experiment with Woopra’s live chat, I decided to give LiveChat from LiveChat Inc. a try.
What About Woopra’s Chat Functionality?
I love Woopra. It’s one of my favourite tool and helps provide me tons of insight about visitors to my blog in realtime. If you’re not using Woopra, you should really take it for a spin. Plus, it’s free (unless you have a ridiculously busy website). That being said, Woopra’s bolt-on chat functionality is very new and it doesn’t have some of the features that make for a good end-user chat experience.
What does the chat application look like?
The chat application is available for Mac OS X and Windows. There’s also a pretty cool iPhone application that I tested as well. Below is an actual capture of a chat I had with a CommunityGuy.ca visitor:
How hard is it to install LiveChat on your website?
That should actually read “How easy is it to install LiveChat on my website?” because LiveChat makes it really easy.
In my case, I downloaded the WordPress plugin from my blog’s administration panel. The LiveChat plugin can also be found on WordPress.org. Once the plugin was downloaded and activated, I then installed the embed code in a sidebar widget and gave it a title of “Have questions? Just ask!” to encourage readers to connect with me.
You can see by the image on the right, the embed code is very short. That’s all I had to do. The rest of the configuration, including the programming of triggers is done through the LiveChat website.
The cardinal live chat rule: don’t be annoying
Just because you can pop up a lightbox window and force a visitor to accept or decline your chat request doesn’t mean you should.
I don’t know about you, but I *hate* it when I visit a website and a chat window pops up in the middle of the screen, obstructing my view of the content. LiveChat lets you place the chat window off to the side, and this is almost always my preferred method.
By popping the chat window off to the side, it’s the equivalent of the a commissioned sales rep at an electronics store politely hanging back until you need him. Think about it, how often have you walked into a store and had some over eager sales rep pounce on you?
Be smart about your chats. Use intelligent “triggers” to target the right visitors and don’t be annoying with your chat window placement.
How to use triggers to target your visitors
The trigger capability of LiveChat is very powerful. Using triggers, I was able to target visitors that matched very specific criteria. Here’s an example:
My blog has several popular articles about Bell Canada’s Fibe IPTV service. I wanted to make myself available to readers of these articles in case they had any questions about the service while they were reading about the service.
At the same time, I have other articles about Bell Canada on my blog, but unrelated toFibe, so it was important to target the appropriate users. So I told LiveChat that prior to popping up a chat window, the visitor had to be on a page that is a review about Bell’s Fibe service, and they’ve already been reading the content for 20 seconds.
By waiting 20 seconds, the visitor has a chance to get through a lot of the content before I ask if they have any questions. My web logs show on average, visitors are on these pages for 3 minutes. If you’re into fishing, this would be the equivalent to ‘setting the hook’.
Customized language files for multilingual greetings
It took me a little while to understand how the default greetings are changed, but when I realized the power of the multi-language settings of LiveChat, it made total sense.
To change the default greetings in LiveChat, you click on “Languages” and from there, choose which language you wish to modify the greetings for.
If you want to offer LiveChat in different languages, I would imagine this would be a key feature for you. It seems the folks at LiveChat Inc. have done a thorough job at teasing out the language options for customization.
At the time this article was published (updated pricing here), pricing for LiveChat starts at $36 per operator, which is $26 more expensive than a part time blogger like me could afford. I fell in love with the service and would love it if LiveChat introduced a $10 package, or perhaps take the freemium route, and perhaps charge for some of the more advanced features. Then again, perhaps it’s a silly request and I’m the only blogger on the planet happy to LiveChat with my readers at 9PM on a Friday night.
To be fair, I’m not the target market for LiveChat and if you’re running an e-commerce website, a business where new customers are acquired or supported online, then at $36 per month, this is a cost competitive service that will likely pay for itself almost immediately.
Is LiveChat worth it?
The customization capabilities are endless, resulting in stronger engagement, more sales, and better client relationships. My write-up doesn’t do the LiveChat service justice. There’s so much more to the service, especially in call center environments with multiple reps and different skill sets. Goals, reporting, canned responses, full logging capability, push pages, scheduling, and tight integration with other popular services such as Freshbooks, Salesforce, Sugar CRM, Zendesk, Skype, Highrise and more.
Although LiveChat might be out of reach for the amateur blogger, there are some really powerful features, combined with supremely simple setup. There are a few other services I’m going to try out in the coming weeks… and I’ll be sure to follow-up with some comparison notes after I’ve had a chance to review them.