Chat as a customer engagement channel is being used more widely today than ever before. All demographics use it widely, even the Older Boomers (ages 57 to 67) and the Golden Generation (ages 68+). Users are satisfied with chat interactions as they can be less painful than a phone call or a self-service session gone awry. Proactive chat  — triggering of chat invitations based on a predefined set of visitor behaviors – is also on the rise, with 44% of  US online consumers saying that they like having a chat invitation appear to help answer questions during an online research or purchase, up from 33% in 2012 and 27% in 2009.

Proactive chat has many quantifiable benefits, and there are many case studies that illustrate the power of this communication channel. It helps increase customer satisfaction, decrease operational costs of serving customers, decrease shopping cart abandonment, increase average order value, increase conversion and positively influences top line revenue. 

To fully realize the business benefits of proactive chat, you can't rely on rules–based proactive chat based on human decisions. You must:

  • Focus on the right offer. Not every proactive invitation needs to be a chat invitation. Multimedia content — for example, a product video, additional content about a product of interest, or targeted offers and coupons — often better entice customers to engage with companies.

  • Leverage data. Early proactive chat implementations used heavyweight rules to target customers, and optimizing was laborious at best. Chat invitations can now be fueled by predictive analytics models, which take as inputs customer journey information and optimize trigger conditions for best outcomes.

  • Measure the right metrics to drive the right outcomes. Historical chat deployments focused on efficiency and productivity metrics such as chat volume, handle times, and chat agent utilization. These important metrics are only a component of a Balanced Scorecard of metrics that measure the success of chat operations. Additional measures of success include customer effort, Net Promoter Score (NPS), and ultimately revenue uplift and increased market share.

You can follow a six step process to fully leverage the power of proactive chat:

  1. Pinpoint journeys that will benefit the most from proactive chatJourney maps allow for discussion about where the company sees the greatest opportunities for improvement based on business goals.

  2. Target customers who have the highest intent to purchase. Not all customers are created equal. Focus your limited agent resources on customers or customer segments who have the highest intent of purchasing or who are the most valuable to the company.

  3. Determine when to interveneUse your high-value journey maps to identify the point in time where a proactive engagement has the best outcome.

  4. Determine what to offer to the customer. Some customers may just want to see a piece of content with more information about a product or service; others may want a product comparison table or video to further explain a product or a map with store locators. But others may want a chat session with a live agent, a co-browse session, a form to fill out, or a phone call with a product expert. Predictive models can be used to optimize these decisions.

  5. Don't overlook the presentation of the offerBe aware that the presentation of invitations influences click-through and conversion rates. Invitations should be hard to miss and easy to decline.

  6. Invest in your chat agentsThe quality of your chat agents directly influences proactive chat business outcomes. Hire chat agents who are seasoned contact center veterans with good communication, keyboarding, and writing skills. Some companies even go to the extreme of digitizing the recruitment process, including interviewing candidates over chat to assess their performance.