Is Your Company Ready for Live Chat & Messaging? (It’s What Your Clients Want)

Jake Van Paepeghem

There are more ways than ever to communicate these days — and so many of them bypass actually talking. As customer preferences transition from talking to typing, how will your HVAC, solar, or home performance business website adapt?

If there is one trend in home service contracting that is universal, it is the growing demand from potential customers for immediate gratification — which means getting an immediate answer to the question they’re contacting you about. Across hundreds of Energy Circle client websites, we have seen the long-trusted website form submission steadily decline, while the leads coming from instant gratification channels — phone and chat — increase. For many, the idea of offering Live Chat is new and somewhat daunting. (You can watch our recent in-depth webinar on live chat here.) So, why should you consider live chat, and what is the best way to go about it?

First Touch Is Critical

For any business selling a more performance-oriented solution, the experience of that first interaction with your company is essential. We all know that most leads are for one particular service or one very specific answer. Someone without heat has only one thing on their mind: emergency furnace repair. In that instance, it is obviously critical for you to solve the immediate problem; but how that first interaction goes has everything to do with whether the customer conversation evolves to home comfort, and a potentially more comprehensive solution than just a fixed or new furnace.

That first touch experience with your company is ever more critical. It sets the tone for every interaction that follows, and can often be the difference maker in whether you build a trusted relationship leading to whole house solutions, or just deliver what the homeowner thinks they want. Done right, chat is potentially the best initial experience you can offer. — Peter Troast 

Live Chat: What to Expect

The widespread availability of live chat windows has taught consumers in all industries to look for that message box when they aren’t finding what they’re looking for, and the better building and energy efficiency sectors are no exception. But if you were to try live chat, what could you expect?

In one example of an HVAC contractor who makes use of live chat, we found that 30% to 35% of their 55 chat sessions in one month were qualified leads. The rest weren’t necessarily bad but were more question oriented, often from existing customers.

For one HVAC contractor, 30% to 35% of chat session leads were qualified leads, while 65% to 70% were more question oriented or from existing customers.

 

Web forms have declined in recent years while phone and chat have grown. This is likely due to an increase in mobile traffic and to what we call the instant gratification mindset.

Live Chat vs. Messaging

The term “live chat” refers to an experience that happens on your website, but the messaging experience often begins elsewhere. You likely already know about Facebook Messenger, and even Google now has a messaging option for Google My Business profiles in Google Maps. Messaging can be taken advantage of with relatively low effort in the way of setup, but you and your staff need to be prepared to respond.

Facebook Messenger

Facebook Messenger can be accessed through your branded Facebook page and offers the customer a usual response time. This can work for or against you, depending on whether you have someone at the wheel. It does have anticipatory questions that you can set up but does need to be monitored by a knowledgeable employee.

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Google Messages (in Google Maps)

Google Maps messaging is much more cumbersome than Facebook messaging, requiring more clicks to get to the messaging field. Here you can also create automatic greeting for your customer within your GMB profile.

Evaluating Live Chat for Your Company

First things first, if you are going to have live chat on your site, you need to be prepared to answer inquiries immediately. Non-responses, or slow ones, when you’ve set the expectation of “live” are a lead killer! In order to keep up with any potential customer at any given time, you have a few options.

Live Chat on Your Schedule

You have total control over when live chat is available. Set your chat for only those times when your trusted staff person is able to respond. Of course, to be effective, this should be during the peak times of customer inquiries, which is typically working hours, plus about an hour before and an hour after normal open/close.

You Can Outsource

Outsourcing options do exist, sending the first line of questions to a third party. The most practical application of this is for appointment setting, so that the customer can set a time to talk to someone who can answer their questions. We have seen several contractors abandon this option due to a poor customer experience and the fact that most inquiries eventually escalate to internal staff.

Answering Bots

Using bots to answer the first few lines of targeted questions can be the best of both worlds, and with modern chat software are remarkably easy to implement. You can customize the chat window to display a query to fit the page—like this one about mini splits:

Targeting common chat questions based on the landing page can help direct the customer to the answer they are looking for, without taking up the valuable time of one of your employees.

Then, set a series of questions to direct the customer down the funnel (including displaying helpful videos):

Chat bot windows can include video as well, providing a pivotal opportunity for customer education, and a greater chance for conversion.

Tips for Getting Started with Live Chat

Consider taking a look at live chat for your site if you haven’t already. The most important hurdle is determining who on your staff has the skill set to be good at this—quick, natural with the chat medium, and knowledgeable enough about all your services to deliver a great experience.

After that, there is some consideration on which software platform is going to be best, but there are many good options at good prices. Even if your business isn’t equipped to handle live chat quite yet, you can plan for a future where you are! And if you still have reservations, our team can helo you decide which option may be best for you.

Looking for more tips on how to harness live chat for qualified leads? Connect with us to learn more.

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