Case Study: Palo Alto Software Uses Live Chat to Increase Sales
PROBLEM: Palo Alto Software (PAS), an online retailer of business plan and marketing plan software, sought a customer service tool to improve consumers' experiences on its website.
SOLUTION: Contracted with a web communication tools provider to implement live chat on its website.
RESULTS: Since launching its latest version of live chat on its website over nine months ago, PAS has seen 15 percent of all chat interactions result in a sale, up 7 percent compared to its previous live chat solution.
Catering to an audience of inquiring entrepreneurs looking to get their start-up businesses off the ground, PAS's website needed to encompass top-notch customer service. The retailer's product line of business and marketing plan software requires a great deal more hand-holding than say selling umbrellas.
With this in mind, the Eugene, Ore.-based retailer (the company's roots are in Palo Alto, Calif., hence its name) turned to online chat to help make the online shopping experience as seamless as possible. Partnering with Bold Software, PAS launched BoldChat nearly 10 months ago.
With six customer service reps (CSRs) monitoring PAS's live chat feed 18 hours a day — the company has a London office with CSRs available for nine hours, plus CSRs in the U.S. for nine hours — consumers are provided near immediate response to their queries. In July, the average chat response time was less than 13 seconds, with an email transcript of the chat along with follow-up information sent to users in less than 43 minutes. For email queries, PAS's response time averaged 47 minutes during open hours (7 a.m. PST to 5 p.m. PST).
"Online chat is just one prong of our approach to make sure that customers can reach us how they want to reach us, and that they get a response quickly," says Sabrina Parsons, PAS's CEO. "You're not going to find long phone hold times; you're not going to find phone trees where you can't get right to a person."
With a strong international customer base — Parsons estimates that 15 percent of PAS's sales come from outside the U.S., particularly Australia, South Africa and Southeast Asia — live chat has proven an effective tool for PAS to communicate with all of its site visitors.
International consumers have grown accustomed to using live chat as a tool to communicate rather than sending an email and having to wait for a retailer to respond, Parsons notes.
Those live chat communications are twofold in nature for the software retailer: sales- and service-related queries.
To prepare its CSRs to handle the complex questions brought on by the software products it sells, PAS requires each CSR to undergo extensive business training in addition to standard customer service training.
To help customers having trouble completing transactions, Bold Software's live chat solution enables PAS to send out secure links to consumers. The order forms are pre-filled by PAS's CSRs, requiring consumers to only put in their credit card information and a secure email address to complete purchases.
The ease with which consumers can now complete transactions has helped to increase overall sales by 7 percent. These orders are then integrated into PAS's back-end CRM and order system, allowing it to track live chat sales and follow-up with customers.
In addition to sales gains, PAS has realized an uptick in customer loyalty and word-of-mouth marketing since launching BoldChat.
Now that's a plan worth following.