How We Use Live Chat for More Human Marketing

November 2, 2017 Marla Schilling

Harte Hanks was inspired to pursue live chat because we want to engage our clients and prospective clients through personalized interactions.

In my last post, Behind the Scenes: Our Unprecedented Journey Into Making Marketing Human, I promised to discuss the launch of our newest channel of conversation available on our website: live chat.

We were inspired to pursue live chat because we want to engage our clients and prospective clients through personalized interactions. The trouble with the digital shopping experience is that many customers are detached from someone who can answer their questions accurately and in real time.

For example, let’s say you visit a website because you have a question about a specific product. You click around for a few minutes before you realize you cannot find a solution. You see a phone number at the top of the page and cringe at the thought of navigating through endless menu options (not to mention talking on the phone is incredibly archaic these days). You scroll around for a few more seconds before stumbling upon a “contact us” form. This is a form that, once submitted, offers no assurance of a timely answer, nor does it reassure you that you won’t be pulled into a digital black hole of 1s and 0s, never to be seen again.

Frustrated and unsatisfied, you leave the site to look elsewhere. 

Enter Live Chat

Being available in real-time and having the ability to offer instant assistance to a customer before they get discouraged is an incredible way to build customer satisfaction. And it goes without saying, connecting at such a personal level is a powerful tool in making marketing more human.

The integration of chat technology to our website adds another channel that will help us get to know our visitors at a more personal and human level, rather than at a company level. Furthermore, people would have the ability to engage with us on their own terms.  This is so powerful because we now have the ability to speak directly to our clients/prospective clients, allowing us to further tailor our conversation. It truly allows one-to-the-moment engagement, giving us the ability to assist in the exact moment someone needs help.  

We are now also able to integrate the data from from the chat to leverage additional demographic and behavioral data that we were previously blind to. We can overlap it with the other data we’re currently collecting and analyzing in The Boutique to provide another piece of the customer's story. It opens the door for us to specific insight into buyer motivations at the individual level – something that is impossible to infer from browsing activity alone.  This additional data from our human chat interactions will ultimately help us build and finesse our machine-driven interactions, as well.

Personalizing with Chat in The Boutique

On our end, the resourceful Boutique team now had another function: we quickly became the “voice” on the other side of the chat. Unlike those who work with live chat in our contact center, this was a new experience for us. We had no idea of what to expect or if anyone would even want to connect in this way. But we were ready. We were ready to chat in the most human way possible. 

And it was a good thing we were ready, because people wanted to chat! We had a lot of meaningful conversations and following are some examples of how they work.

First, a chat comes through. We hold our breath as we stare at it: will it be an inquiry about our services? The small dots accompanying the text indicating: site visitor typing. Yes. They indicate they would like to learn more about the contact center services we offer. So, we highlight our inbound and outbound, highly customizable solutions. If they show continued interest and would like to be connected to further their conversation to a practice area expert, the Harte Hanks Boutique member chatting passes along the incoming chatter’s name, company, contact information, and most importantly, conversation thread—none of this annoying-re-explaining the problem to a new person thing. We want to provide the most seamless journey possible and we want to do it quickly. 

We received another chat. This time the chatter needed direct mail and logistics support. He had a job to be done and he needed help in that very moment. After describing his project, we were able to take this information to our operations team and act in a timely manner that met his time constraints. He was not only very content with the completion of his project, but he was extremely satisfied with his customer experience.  We created a relationship with him that would have not been established by only submitting a ‘contact us’ form.  

We set up another meaningful meeting after we received a chat from a company we would consider a competitor. If we had identified web activity coming from this company, we would have most likely not engaged in conversation. Luckily, for us, by opening this new channel of communication, they were able to connect with us and explain their job to be done. And, they were looking to us to solve it.  Who knows, maybe if we did not open up this channel we would have lost this meaningful conversation and our client would have not solved their problem.

The Story Wouldn’t Be Complete without the Bloopers  

We weren’t kidding – people wanted to chat. But not only about our services. In the first few weeks, we were cyber-bullied: no sir, we are not maggots and yes sir, we do shower. We received a complaint from an individual who, after sitting in his brand-new recliner for three days, decided it was not comfortable enough and wanted to return it: I’m so sorry, while Harte Hanks offers a wide variety of services, furniture sales are not one of them. We got inquiries about vacation house rentals, email password resets, and flight cancellations. A concerned citizen who was worried that a tree in their neighborhood that looked as though it may fall down and block the road (spoiler: we got an update that the town had removed the threatening limb). Job search after job search and current employees playing with the new toy.  

Despite the bloopers, we’ve been very pleased with chat thus far. This new channel of communication is allowing us the real-time, personalized responses and interactions that we strive for in our continuing quest to make marketing human—while also providing us another source of valuable behavioral data to feed personalized, human marketing at scale.  

Join us next time to hear about the launch of our chatbot!

 

About the Author

Marla Schilling

Marla Schilling, Marketing Manager, focuses on digital marketing, demand generation and marketing communications. She earned her BS at Ithaca College, with studies in Health Sciences and her Master’s at the University of Northern Colorado, with studies in Exercise Physiology.

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