To chat, or not to chat? Best practice tips for proactive chat invitations.

A proactive chat invitation is a bit like a party invite. You’re unlikely to ask the host for an invitation, even if you’re interested in the event. But you’d readily accept one that’s given to you.

While reactive chat supports the customers that know they want support, proactive chat invitations allow you to engage website visitors before they come searching for assistance. Done well, you can offer excellent online service to every visitor that comes through your virtual door.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as simple as just making your chat messages pop-up dynamically on a screen. Proactive chat invitations require attention and care to be a useful part of the customer journey. So, we’ve put together some best practice tips that will help you optimise your proactive chat strategy.


Proactive problems

Proactive chat invitations are the online equivalent of an attentive shop floor assistant. Rather than serving customers when called upon, they offer a friendly presence upfront. In fact, a Forrester study found that businesses that invested in reactive chat saw a 15% ROI, but businesses that then additionally invested in proactive chat capabilities saw an incremental 105% ROI.

There can be no denying that proactive chat is a powerful tool. Many online businesses, however, worry that using proactive chat could annoy website visitors, rather than wow them with insightful service.

The worry that proactive chat invitations could frustrate customers is valid. When deployed haphazardly, proactive chat invitations can elicit the same rage from customers that repeated pop-ups would. Website visitors end up feeling harassed, as you put an irritating obstacle between them and your content or products.


The pitfalls of proactive chat invitations

There are many pitfalls to avoid when implementing a proactive chat strategy. Businesses need to be careful not to force themselves on the visitor by overusing proactive chat invitations. Instead, the aim is to provide a friendly ‘hello’ or wave, which lets customers know a representative is there to help.

There are three main things to avoid:

1. Intrusive invitations: Don’t have automated invitations stalk your visitors – particularly if they’ve already declined an invitation to chat. No one wants to be bombarded with the same invitation every time they access a new page of your site.

2. Generic messaging: Don’t use generic invitation messages when inviting a visitor to chat. For best results, target the message based on each individual journey. A focused message is far more likely to get a response than one that could apply to anyone, as the customer feels addressed personally. So, use as much customer data as you can to personalise your proactive chat invitations.

3. Interruption with pizazz: The flashier and more obnoxious the chat invitation, the more likely visitors will liken it to an annoying pop-up. When offering an invitation to chat, simplicity is key. Avoid flashing banners, ping sounds, or sliding the chat across the page to grab the visitor’s attention.


Potential invitation triggers

Another pitfall of chat invitations is the urge to invite a visitor to chat the moment they land on your page. Immediate proactive chat invitations are like having an over-friendly stranger invade your personal space. You need to let your customers scope out the site and access your content before inviting them to chat.

It’s important to know both who to target with proactive chat invitations, and when to target them. For example, you might change the messages surfaced for returning visitors as opposed to new ones. Or, you might set up a chat invitation to trigger when visitors land on pages that usually have high bounce rates.

Other triggers can relate to a visitor’s on-site behaviour. For example, proactive chat invitations can be highly useful when targeted to people who have been idle on a page for a long time, people that are exploring your FAQ section, or people that have shown high interest by browsing several pages.

These targeting metrics can vary in effectiveness from site to site, and you’ll find the best triggers and targets for your company through trial and error.


Effective proactive chat invitations

So, now you can avoid driving customers away with poor proactive chat invitations. The final step is to optimise them over time.

The top three steps to take are:

1. Be sure to test and refine your triggers and invitation messages. There is no master recipe for perfect proactive chat invitations, and every business will find success with a different concoction. So, analyse what is working and what isn’t. Always strive to improve your service by reviewing and tweaking your strategy.

2. Keep the tone consistent throughout the customer journey. From the chat invitation, throughout the chat, to any follow-up correspondence you have with the customer, keeping your tone consistent gives your brand a strong voice and identity that’ll stick in the minds of your customers.

3. Respect the visitor’s decision. If a visitor has already declined the chat once, that should be enough. You’ve shown them you’re there to chat, and they’ll come to you if they need to. If they aren’t ready to engage, don’t harass them.



Proactive chat is a powerful customer support tool that can make your service impressively prophetic to customers. It lets you offer the same great service to every visiting customer, not just the ones that seek you out.

So, are you ready to implement powerful proactive chat invitations on your website? Start today with a free trial of WhosOn, and become the mind-reading customer support guru your website visitors didn’t know they needed, until now.


Useful links

Providing proactive customer service with live chat

[ Infographic ] Live chat: a customer journey flowchart 

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