Where Does Live Chat Fit Into Your Sales Funnel?

Written by Jeff Cole on August 7, 2017

The results are in: adding live chat opportunities to your website can benefit your online presence in a wide range of ways. The majority of consumers now expect your business to be available 24/7 to their questions and comments, which at least partially explains why 92 percent of them find the feature to be the most satisfying communication tool during their buyer’s journey.

None of that means you have to blindly jump into adding a live chat feature to your website. Success in adding live chat support, as in any other part of marketing, depends directly on the strategy you use during the implementation of the tool.

That, in turn, brings up a crucial question: where does live chat actually fit into your sales funnel? How can you make sure that your audience engages with you using chat capabilities at the right time to maximize your chances for lead and customer conversion? The answer is more complex than you might think.

Sales Funnel Chart With Arrows

Understanding the Modern Sales Funnel

To understand where live chat fits into the typical sales funnel, we first have to understand exactly what that funnel actually looks like. Traditionally, it has been described as a relatively linear model: members of your target audience visit your website, a portion of them sign up to become leads, and an even smaller portion convert from leads to customers.

In the age of consumer choice, of course, that model is becoming somewhat outdated. As it turns out, your audience has no idea it’s supposed to follow each step religiously. Instead, they jump in randomly, becoming customers without ever visiting your website or becoming leads.

The increasing nonlinear nature of the sales funnel, in turn, has led to some marketers advocating for a customer decision journey model instead. In this audience-focused model, your potential customers jump in and out of various stages. It also considers retention as an important part of the decision-making process; after all, a customer who stays with your company for years will be more valuable than one who buys one product only to never return.

Back to live chat. If the sales funnel is increasingly nonlinear (and not really a funnel anymore), how does live chat fit in? As it turns out, the feature’s multidimensional nature actually lends itself perfectly to more modern customer journeys.

The First Contact: Lead Generation

In an increasingly customer-centric marketing environment, lead generation is becoming more important than ever before. Put simply, you need to make sure that interested visitors on your website convert to leads at high rates, which allows you to nurture them and gain an edge over your competition by building a relationship before the sale.

Live chat can help in that endeavor in two ways:
Adding additional information before the sign-up. For your audience, giving up their contact information can be a significant step. Unless they trust you, they are unlikely to actually take it. Live chat capability allows you to answer preliminary questions, and build your credibility before your audience takes the leap.
•Collecting contact information in the course of the chat. Of course, the same feature can also offer more direct lead generation capabilities. For example, you can choose to collect basic contact information (such as name and email address) from anyone who wants to chat with you. A question itself indicates interest in your company, which means you can now treat anyone who uses live chat on your website as a lead to nurture.

The second part is especially beneficial. Put simply, live chat is a more natural form of lead generation than the traditional contact form. With live chat, your web visitors receive an instant reward, in the form of an answer to their pressing question. Their motivation to sign up results in increased lead generation for you.

After the Capture: Qualify Your Leads

Of course, the benefits of live chat do not end with lead generation. In addition, it can also become a vital part of helping you qualify and nurture your leads on their way to becoming customers.

In a service-oriented business, for instance, potential customers may submit quote requests before making their buying decision. These requests can be submitted on the website, but tend to be a more natural fit for live chat. The process allows you to qualify your leads by determining which of your contacts are interested enough in your service to request information about its price.

Using semi-automated chatbots can also help to improve your communication after your visitors become leads. For instance, your audience can use the tool to book appointments or ask any other questions that your software can answer with the intelligence gathered through past interactions.

After the Funnel: Customer Service Possibilities

Finally, discussing the impact of live chat on your website would be incomplete without a portion of the customer experience that the traditional sales funnel tends to neglect: customer service to improve retention. In the end, not every customer will be happy with their purchase. Some may simply have some follow-up questions.

Live chat allows you to be there when that happens, providing immediate responses that increase customer satisfaction as well as their likelihood to buy from you again in the future. It’s no coincidence that 73 percent of customer satisfaction comes from live chat, more than any other communication channel.

As it turns out, the question of where live chat fits into your sales funnel is somewhat misleading. Not only is the linear sales funnel outdated, but the live chat feature can actually help your audience throughout their customer journey with your company.

Use it to create leads. Help users take the final leap from the consideration to the buying stage. And of course, offer customer service possibilities that increase their likelihood to stick with your company for years to come. With the power of live chat, you can engage your audience throughout your sales funnel and their buyer’s journey.