About five years ago, many home improvement companies rushed to embrace “chat technology” on their web sites. It was cool technology that supposedly engaged the visitor and encouraged visitors to chat online then turn into leads. A live person was on the other end of a chat box to answer questions that homeowners might have about the home improvement company’s products. Sounds great.
But the broader question is “does chat technology generate extra leads?” And the answer is not yet. Here’s why.
Chat technology is supposed to add leads from your web site…leads that wouldn’t have raised their hand otherwise. But chat has driven so few leads overall for remodelers that I have spoken with, that it is difficult to believe that those leads are “extra leads.” They’re probably people who would have converted anyway, either via the phone or a web form submission
Next, most chats are fairly irrelevant. The technique that I have seen over and over, is for the home improvement company’s chat representative to engage with a consumer, and then immediately ask for the user’s phone and contact information – which is precisely why homeowner’s are using chat to begin with. They don’t want to give their info until they are satisfied with their chat results.
And the quality of the chat representatives for most home improvement companies is, to be kind, lacking. They are usually staffed by third party services. Most chat representatives are handling several chats at once, for varying products. And few to none can maintain a substantive chat discussion about products, services and home improvement in general.
Chat software providers try to provide compelling benefits to live chat on the site – it makes your site look customer friendly, it gives customers a non-threatening way to contact you (some people don’t email for fear of ending up on a distribution list), some customers want immediate access to answers and that’s what live chat gives them, and chatting with a customer can allow you to suss out more details than a web form would. Plus, customers tend to resort to chat when they can’t find the information they’re looking for elsewhere on your site.
And in individual instances, and with other types of products, these may all be true. But for home improvement, chat hasn’t provided a meaningful lift in total lead count. So if you’re looking at a competitor’s site and you see chat, don’t rush out to match fire with fire. It probably won’t pay.