How and where to get human input for your web experiences
We live in an age of high online connection, but low interpersonal connection. Even in relatively casual settings, people just don’t chit-chat as much anyone. And this bums me out in my gut. Why? Because, as social animals, we long for human interaction. In fact, recent research shows that people with strong social ties are not just happier, but they live longer.
It’s the same on the Web; true social interaction - not just posting content and comments - is limited. True, some websites do offer phone and chat support, but it’s often handled by entry-level employees untrained in sales tactics, and sometimes lacking interpersonal empathy. We’re missing that basic thing we need in a shopping context: the ability to get our questions answered quickly and accurately, with a bit of caring.
So even if you don’t do it for all the right reasons, you should humanize your designs for the high Return On Investment (ROI) it produces: chat experiences typically boost conversion rates by 5-7 times over non-humanized ones, resulting in chat-assisted ROIs of 10X or more.
I’ll cover the math in detail later; first, let us take a look at some important points to consider for your ecommerce experience.
Get some human input
The most effective customer research channel I’ve found - in terms of insights per time and money invested - is speaking with customer support agents. Chatting with and observing experienced agents, since they’ve likely spoken to hundreds of customers, will give you the insights that turn into pure conversion gold.
The insights I’m referring to are prospects:
- Most-asked questions. So you can answer them directly in your copy
- Top issues and concerns - so you can address them proactively in your site design
- Suggestions - so you can prioritize feature updates in your Web presences
You only need to speak with 3-5 experienced agents, each with 6 months or more of experience, for 60 minutes each. As long as they are reasonably open and talkative, you’ll hear 90% of what you need to know, at least for your initial ‘website humanization’ phase. Be sure to keep the channels of communication open with these agents, though, so they can feed you more insights in the coming months.
This input, the insights you distill from it, and the associated user experience updates you’ll make, will boost your baseline conversion rate, an improvement even before you add features like online chat.
Offer human interactions
Now that you’re (hopefully) convinced of the value of humans in your sales loop, let’s cover how you should get these people interacting with your visitors.
There are two main support options these days: phone and chat. Since phone take rates are quite low overall (lower than 2% for most e-commerce websites, in my experience), online chat is your best best. It’s relatively economical to set up, and highly efficient, since skilled agents can typically handle 3 or more chats at a time.
My favorite ‘starter’ chat apps are the ones included with LuckyOrange tool. It’s included with their visitor analytics package, and includes the ability to seamlessly chat with multiple customers at the same time, send visitors pre-set responses, and transfer chats to other operators.
If you’re ready to dive deeper into the chat pool, move up to tools like LiveChat, SnapEngage, BoldChat or Velaro. They allow you to do things like integrate with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, push chats based on customized rules, and brand your chat experience. And all have solid analytics and reporting, so you can easily tune your chat experience and agent performance over time.
Train your sales agents
Most companies consider their agents as Support reps, not Sales reps. The fact is, to get the highest ‘close rate’ (what salespeople call conversion rate), your agents need to be trained in solution selling tactics. This will take a few hours (usually 6 to 8), but the selling transformation you’ll see will be truly amazing. And these interactions won’t just be transactional - they enable your agents to create genuine, memorable connections with your brand.
A couple training courses I really like are those by Dale Carnegie and the Zappos School of Wow.
About $1500 per agent will be enough to get your agents ramped up (4-5 initial courses). Since you’ll be earning thousands more in revenue per day, you’ll pay for this cost within a few days. Better yet, these agents will earn more commissions, which will boost their personal happiness and company loyalty.
Where to plug in your chat
Once you’ve chosen a chat app and trained your agents, it’s time to decide where to plug in your chat experience. First, think where questions are most likely to pop up, and questions that, if left unanswered, will cause visitors from bailout from your website. This usually means your product, cart and checkout pages. So place a ‘Chat Now’ button, in your primary or secondary color, on these pages in a place where it can’t be missed. A good place I’ve found is on the right half of the page, somewhere near the main call to action (add to cart, start checkout, etc.). This is squarely in the ‘visual focus area’ of most visitors.
Also add this chat button to your website header. Based on a visitor expectation study done at Wichita State University, the top right corner of your website is where most visitors expect to ‘get help’ or ‘get in touch’, so you should place your chat link, phone number and ‘contact us’ links here on all pages.
Not convinced? Here’s some human conversion rate math
If you’re not yet convinced this ‘humanizing’ initiative is the way to go, let’s do some simple conversion and revenue math. (I’m sorry if you hate math; return on investment is the language business executives best understand, so you’d better get used to it!).
- You will hire sales agents at $20/hour
- You will have 4 agents total, 2 of which work 8-hour shifts each day
- Your average order value (AOV) is $70
- Your site has 150,000 visitors per month, or about 5000 per day
Your agent cost is:
$20/hour * 16 hours * 2 agents = $640 per day
Your chat tool cost is about $150 per month (including setup and subscription), or $5 per day.
Hiring a sales manager will cost you about $60,000 per year, or $240 per day.
The additional revenue with agents is:
5000 visitors/day * 3% chat usage rate * 15% conversion rate = 22 more sales Per Day
Assuming your average order value is $70, that’s a $1540 sales lift Per Day
Subtracting your daily costs ($885), that’s a $655 Net Increase Per Day, $19,925 Net Increase Per Month, or $239,100 Per Year!
Yes, your agent training costs need to be included, but these are one-time, and a small percentage of the above monthly gain. Bottom line: adding a chat tool and agents to your sales mix is a no-brainer from both customer experience and ROI perspectives.
Keep optimizing your human interactions
Getting input from agents and plugging in your chat tool are a great start, but after that’s done you should always be optimizing - people, procedures, hours, etc. so you can get even more leverage from this conversion-boosting channel.
And be sure to put good chat agent productivity measures in place (training completion, chat performance (based on random audits by management) as well as measure traditional call center metrics - chat invite response time, first-time issue resolution (support inquiries), close rate, email capture rate, etc.) so you can improve these metrics over time.
The web has become a pretty impersonal place, but it doesn’t have to be! By humanizing your insights and experience you will rise above your competition and see more revenue hit your bank account each month.