Online Chat: How to Start, What to Expect

For years, Apple, REI, Disney, and many other industry-leading companies have been using online chat to achieve superior customer experiences and increase sales effectiveness. Research shows that visitors who chat are 7.5 times more likely to complete a purchase than visitors who don’t chat. Chat also leads to greater customer satisfaction and more frequent repeat business, but is it right for professionals and private practices?

The theory behind chat is simple: Make it easier for potential clients to communicate with your practice, interact with a greater number of potential clients, and schedule more consultations and hearing tests. Though the theory of chat for your practice is simple, the practice of chatting professionally is difficult to execute. Is it worth implementing in your business? What are the costs and the benefits of chat? Should I manage chat in-house or outsource the management of my chat? What’s a budget-conscious way to get started?

Through our years of experience and testing online chat with more than 500 high-growth U.S. businesses, we have answered these questions and many more. Since our beta test period and launch in April 2016, we are now serving hundreds of businesses internationally and have used all of the data from our clients to compose these statistics. Our clients range from small rural one-provider, one-location practices to 15 provider practices in the urban core.

Adding online chat is simply a change in approach. Would you prefer clients leave without signing a contract, or would you prefer them to purchase today? Would you prefer your web visitors to be in control of calling you for a hearing test, or would you prefer to collect their information and have your most effective scheduler call them?

What Should You Expect?

Benefits

  • Interact with new clients outside of normal business hours and increase web conversions.
    • Because chat is more effective than a life-less, “Request an Appointment” button, you will convert more web visitors into new clients when your office is closed by live interaction with the client.
    • Our goal as marketers should be to meet the buyer where the buyer wants to buy.
  • Lower communication barriers help increase the frequency of communication with new clients on your website.
    • Our statistics show that 4-6 percent of web visitors are likely to engage with online chat.
    • Of the total chatters, over 40 percent will be new clients.
    • With an experienced and high quality chat agent, you can expect to collect contact information from 50-60 percent of those new clients.
  • Better organic search ranks due to longer user session duration.
    • When clients chat with your practice, they stay on your site for a longer period of time. Longer session durations lead to higher organic Google search results.
    • Because the average chat length is between seven and eight minutes, chatters are staying on your site longer.
    • Compared with the same period in the previous year, we noticed an average session duration increase of 10 percent.
  • Fewer current client calls to your practice during peak hours
    • Our client data shows that 61 percent of chats are taken from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. CST., 19 percent are taken before 10 a.m., and 20 percent are taken after 4 p.m. By answering client questions during the day, your staff can focus their efforts on outstanding in-office client service.
  • Increase in client satisfaction.
    • Your office will be more accessible to clients throughout a greater portion of the day. When accessibility increases, new client satisfaction increases. Not only will new clients be impressed, current clients will use it during your busy days and while they are at work

Costs

  • Professionally managed chat is a financial investment.
    • If you chose to have a professional manage your chat service, expect the starting rate to be $99-399 monthly.
  • Increased website bounce rate.
    • We noticed a slightly higher bounce rate after installing chat on practice websites, however, the evidence suggests that the benefit of session duration outweighs the negative effect of the slight increase in bounce rate. We only saw increases in Google organic rankings after adding chat and never decreases.
  • (Potential) Client frustration for poor chat execution and framing.
    • Chat is easy to do poorly. If done poorly, clients get frustrated, staff get frustrated, and chat is ineffective.
    • Just like the phone, if your team has poor service, poor phone skills, and poor scripting, your phone conversations will not be effective.

How Can I Start?

There are three options for implementing online chat for your practice. 

  1. Outsource chat to U.S. professionals.
    • Chat agents who are well versed in the hearing process and nuanced differences between different treatment types will be more effective at answering chats. This will lead to better client experiences and more effective collection of new client information.
    • Additionally, if the agents know about your practice offerings, they can build value for your practice.
    • Hiring U.S. agents who work in-office is an effective way to control quality and increase chat effectiveness.
    • This option is best for offices without large call centers.
  2. Outsource chat overseas (most chat companies).
    • There are hundreds of options to outsource your office’s chat. Service can range from per minute fees to a flat monthly fee, however, be aware that these chat agents do not know much about audiology or specifics about your practice. They often chat for businesses in a variety of industries and countries.
  3. Manage chat in-house.
    • Chat software can be placed on your site easily. There are services that range from free (Tawk.to or MyLiveChat) to more than $100 per month (BoldChat, LiveChat).
    • This works best for practices with a large call center already established for extended hours.
    • It is difficult to reliably answer chats if it is not the staff person’s main responsibility.
    • Beginner mistakes to avoid:
      • Having a pre-chat survey.
        • Do everything you can to decrease new client barriers…that’s the whole idea of chat!
      • Making the chat box look “spammy.”
        • You want the box to look trustworthy, not like a cheap service outsourced from another country.
      • Not tracking your results.
        • Make sure you are keeping track of the effectiveness of your chat.
      • Believing your clients when you survey them about chat.
        • If you ask a client, “Would you have come here to the office if not for our chat?” he/she is going to say “Yes!” 100 percent of the time. No new client wants to admit that convenience of chat alone was enough to get them into your practice.
      • Not having a “pop-out” window.
        • Pop-ups are generally annoying and detract from the web page, so it is important that your pop-out is tasteful and looks like a real human is on the other end.
        • Pop-out chat welcome messages are responsible for starting productive chats 75 percent of the time.

When you boil down these details, you need to make sure that you are achieving a better ROI with chat than you could with another marketing activity. That’s the golden question we should always ask ourselves before making any marketing purchase: “Can I use these marketing expenses more effectively in another place or on another project?”

Here is the proprietary calculation we use to estimate the ROI for our future clients based upon our current client data collection:

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Please Note: The above calculation will give you a likely ROI to revenue. Keep in mind that this is with highly trained HearingChats Specialists. Each practice’s results will be different.

Just like direct mail, Facebook marketing, and Google Adwords are not for everyone, chat is not for everyone. When chat is implemented deliberately and correctly, however, it can be an extremely effective tool for driving revenue and “wowing” existing clients.

If you are interested in implementing chat on your practice’s website, whether you are looking for a professional service or you are looking for help getting chat setup in-house, feel free to chat on our website and our team will gladly offer complimentary help.

About the Author

Scott Hansen is the CEO of HearingChats, the world’s leading professionally managed chat service for hearing professionals. While achieving his master’s in Business Administration at the University of Missouri–Kansas City, he was awarded a certificate of achievement by the Regnier Institute for Entrepreneurship and Innovation for his entrepreneurial work. Scott has owned and managed some the country’s fastest growing privately held businesses. Feel free to contact him at 816-205-8009, or chat online at HearingChats.com.