The problem with a sales-centric approach to live chat


Live chat software is commonly deployed with a sales-centric approach – intended to nurture web leads and drive online conversions. And there’s no denying how effective this can be.

Indeed, chatters are 2.8x more likely to convert than visitors who don’t chat.

Chat is only made more integral as commerce continues to shift online. (Particularly as COVID-19 accelerates online retail appetites.)  

Viewed from this angle, then, it’s understandable why live chat is seen as a sales tool. In an online world, chat allows brands to communicate with prospects, generate leads and support sales.  

So what’s the hitch?

The problem is that when you adopt a sales-centric approach to your live chat channel, you might be missing a bigger opportunity.

The sales-centric approach

A sales-centric approach to live chat is about putting sales as the core driving force behind everything you do with your chat channel. Everything you and your agents do comes with the goal of selling as much as you can.


- Chat-based service is about driving sales. Answering questions is about turning prospects into qualified leads.

- Your proactive chat invitations are geared toward producing sales. You prioritise triggers like hovering on product pages, checkout hesitation and so on.

- You monitor and measure your agents based on sales. The more they’ve sold, the better they do.

You’re making effective use of your chat channel, but with sales as your core metric.

Missing an opportunity

This approach can help drive your conversions and increase web sales. But deploying chat with a sales-centric approach puts you at risk.

You could be overlooking a more important (but less tangible) metric: customer-centricity.

It’s in a customer-centric approach that live chat offers the most value.

In other words, ask not what your live chat can do for you. Ask what your live chat can do for your customers.

What is customer-centricity?

Customer-centricity is about making your customers the core focus of your business. The customer sits at the heart of everything that you do.

Customer-centricity is hard to measure in terms of profits. In general, you can get a good feel for how effective your customer-centric approach is by looking at customer satisfaction. (As well as churn and retention rates.)

The happier and more loyal your customers, the more effective your approach likely is.

Translated to live chat, then, customer-centricity is where you use the channel with the primary goal of helping your customer. So:

- Chat is a support line. It can be used for technical assistance, account help, customer service queries, even online counselling. While chats may well include new business questions, most queries will be related to existing accounts.

- There is less focus on sales tactics such as proactive chat invitations. Though these may still be used, they will likely be triggered by a broader mix of factors such as time spent on a help page or FAQ.

- You monitor and measure your agents based on chat performance metrics beyond sales. Think sentiment scores, post-chat survey feedback, speed of resolution, etc.

The customer-centric approach to chat

Offering a customer-centric approach, rather than a sales-centric approach, means being there for your customers online. You’re offering the same level of real-time service you’d be able to offer in a physical environment.

And, importantly, that service is flexible. It’s not all about making a sale.

Rather than how much money you might be able to bring in, the chat investment is about how much value you can add to your customers.

But those two factors are intricately connected.

Better customer experiences promote loyalty

Putting customers before sales means placing a heavy focus on the experiences you create with your live chat channel. And, better experiences tend to breed customer loyalty.

For example, your empathetic live chat service doesn’t come across as a disingenuous sales ploy. When you have a sales-centric approach, attempts to empathise with customers can end up undermined.

But a customer-centric approach to your chat means that the help and support your offer comes without the sales pitch. (Making it easier to believe.) You’re building stronger relationships with your customers.

Over time, the relationships you build with your customers work to promote brand loyalty. Your service is personable — they know that you recognise and value them.

And, in turn, they know that you’ll deliver on your promises. This is where brand advocacy starts to enter the picture too.

Higher employee retention

Compared to a sales-centric approach, customer-centricity can also boost your employee retention rates.

For companies where customer satisfaction is a key priority, 83% of employees are more likely to say that they plan to remain working there in two-years’ time.

(This is in comparison to others, where only 56% of employees plan to still be working at their company in two years.)

Customer-centricity puts people first — and that makes for higher job satisfaction.

Increased sales

And all this boosts your bottom line. That is, customer-centricity bumps your sales.

For instance, 75% of consumers are more likely to buy from retailers that recognise them.

Plus, research by Deloitte and Touche found that customer-centric companies were 60% more profitable compared to companies that aren’t focused on the customer.

So, a sales-centric approach could, counterintuitively, prove less profitable than a customer-centric one.

Unlocking live chat potential

It’s true, a sales-centric approach to your live chat channel will bring you results. Proactive chat invitations are a great way to reduce bounce, and live chat can be powerful when it comes to upselling to happy customers.

But the potential for your live chat software is so much more. And it lies in a customer-centric approach.

So, are your customers at the centre of your live chat approach?

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