The Internet provides opportunities for businesses to interact withcustomers in new ways. As innovations in social media appear,enterprises slowly adopt those same trends to offeralternatives for making the sale online.
Some companies are attracting potential new clients through live videostreaming or open chat channels. Sometimes these cutting-edge approachesare combined to engage visitors into a unique one-on-one discourse withan office worker.
Many businesses are looking at how they can use social networking toget in touch with their consumers. For instance, a business could build agroup of people interested in related activities or the business’products. This gives the firm an easy way to stay in touch with itscustomers, explained Susan Barnes, professor of communication andassociate director of the Lab for Social Computing at RochesterInstitute of Technology.
“A lot of people are drawn to pictures and the ability to engage inchat. This is no longer restricted to youngsters. Many collegegraduates are used to this method of communication. It istransitioning into the adult work world,” Barnes told CRM Buyer.
Getting Into It
Various Web 2.0 products are becoming available for businesses to moreeasily plug into the use of social media as a customer communicationstool. For businesses with an existing Web site and IT support, theaddition of streaming video and open chat lines is limited only byfactors of time and money.
Numerous turnkey offerings are available. Neulio.com is a good example of how businesses are forming to provide tools to do these things for other Web-based companies. Neulio helps companies andother organizations take advantage of social media. Online training, marketing, customer support and how-to instructionare just some of the options Neulio brings to the toolbox nowavailable to e-tailers.
“We don’t do chat specifically. The broader principle is that video isplaying a bigger part in how we communicate with customers. Ourcollective communication vocabulary is changing. It’s clear that thisis a view as to how communication will go,” George Colombo, founderand CEO of Neulio, told CRM Buyer.
Live From Our Office
Imagine working in a fishbowl all day, staring into a webcam andresponding to an open chat window on your computer screen. Thissituation drives home the realities of meeting the customer in a Web2.0 world.
That’s the approach advertising agency Lisa P. Maxwell has createdfor several clients and ultimately for its own ad agents. The ad firmredesigned its Web site several months ago after some staff members ata meeting asked why the firm was not doing the same video streamingthat it arranged for its clients.
“So I decided to put cameras on each person and let them chat all daylong. Most agencies are very secretive. They want to keep a cloak ofsecrecy. All of our staff liked the idea. But some were nervous aboutit,” Andrew Miller, managing partner of Lisa P. Maxwell, told CRMBuyer.
It cost the firm about US$20,000 to set up streaming video and chat, eventhough it did the work internally. Besides the basic equipment, thebiggest expense was maintaining more bandwidth.
So far, the video and chat combination strategy produced 20 newbusiness leads. One became a paying client, and several moreconversions are developing. The firm is also in discussions withvendors to sponsor its Web site.
“The new Web site made us more relevant. This notoriety dramaticallyeclipsed our Web footprint,” Miller noted.
The concept of using live streaming video chat to interact withcustomers may be too new to have produced much convincing data on itseffectiveness. The use of video embedded in Web sites and the use oflive text chat sessions with customer service or sales staff within acorporate Web site is more commonplace. Neither is yet rampant.Ultimately, it will become more important for businesses to maintain apresence on social networks, noted Barnes.
“When people go to a business site using video cams, there is theattraction to always be seeing new things. Live is the attraction.Some companies and even schools are using webcams around the campusto show the company’s facilities. Having a live camera always focusedon workers is a novel situation,” she explained.
Miller’s ad agents can attest to the novelty of working while theworld peeks in. Their experiences have not been unlike those of theirad clients using the same set up.
For instance, in the first four days the agency workers got some crazyresponses from around the world. Somebody in the office sneezed,prompting somebody online to type “bless you.”
“A cult developed among some viewers about who was sitting near whomin our office. We got requests to toss stuff around so viewers couldsee the office layout,” Miller said.
While some companies are content to merely open the chat channels orengage in a one-way video view of the worker, 24/7 Customer offers businesses another approach tomaximizing customer responses. It uses predictive analysis andbehavior mapping to predict customer behavior. The proprietaryanalysis software lets customer service agents know when it is theideal time to engage a Web site visitor in a live chat about buying aproduct.
“Live video could be a natural extension of this, but we haven’t addeda video component yet,” PV Kannan, CEO of 24/7 Customer, told CRMBuyer. “Consumers are just warming up to text chatting [in business].I’m not sure about video yet. This is still cutting edge.”
The customer response system invites visitors to the client’s Web siteto engage a sales agent in chats about a pending purchase. Thesoftware analyzes the viewing activities of the Web site visitor.
How It Works
“We can predict what customers are thinking about with 90 percentaccuracy. People tend to buy after they scout lots of comparisons byconsumers They compare and read reviews,” Kannan explained.
Google, for example, observes searches and aggregates results to present a listof interpreted topics. 24/7 Customer does more than that. It has moredata on customers so it can more accurately predict a customer’sbuying decision, he said.
For example, the software collects data about what visitors to ane-tailer’s Web site are doing online. Then it models the behavior.
This process is similar to credit card scoring. A customer is apt tobuy or not buy. 24/7 Customer’s software scores those probabilities.This is critical with big-ticket items, noted Kannan.
“Most services provide chat. Some provide human agents. We addsolutions to qualified customers,” he said.
I want to thank you for this article. There is precious little to be found on this topic — and I am definitely looking. Your journalism is first rank.
Every salesperson shines best when in the presence of his prospect — compared to emails or phone calls. You have to wonder why all salespeople in the world aren’t tripping over themselves to implement technologies like UStream.TV and VidBlaster…to do from their desk what they spend hours in traffic trying to achieve at the prospect’s place of business. And yet, the technology languishes.
My target market is salespeople and their managers. The reality is, these fantastic new tools are a ‘hard sell’. It’s like I’m asking them to become stage stars — to go on camera with a single buyer at a time.
I am completely mystified, and frankly, discouraged by this pig-headedness. I honestly believe in five years time it will be commonplace for professional salespeople to use a webcam to make their intitial greeting with new prospects. In the meantime, I do the work of a dental mechanic — pull teeth.
Ahead Of My Time in Vancouver