All We Ever Do is Talk, Talk, Talk
We need to talk…
“…obnoxious does not mean productive.” or “Chat is a communications tool, used right it can create positive impact.”
Live chat. I’m not here to talk about whether it is effective or not. I won’t rehash those arguments. I am here to try and point out something that seems to be lost on most owners of live chat systems. Floating chat boxes are deal killers. Car dealerships seem to be the most enamoured with them. I’m sure there is a chat system rep who will talk about how they are more likely to be interacted with, that same person is probably paid by the number of clicks on that chat box. Is that really the best for your visitor?
Image Credit Live Chat Button by Shutterstock
Let’s look at that for a moment. The visitor is doing what you want them to, shopping for a car, and a floating chat box floats across the page obscuring what they are reading. “All they have to do is hide it”, your rep will say. They are making a case for the chat to keep floating on every page. Stop and analyze that for a moment, the customer was performing the action you wanted to deal with the action the rep wanted.
Why are chat systems doing this? Here is an experiment, put your phone number in a floating box and see how that works. Annoying? Of course it is. Chat is no different, obnoxious does not mean productive.
Let me give you terms we use in ecommerce. Negative Impact Indicator and Positive Impact Indicator. Not many people use them simply because not many ecommerce managers are able to view their site from a customers perspective and usability studies have unfortunately fallen out of favor. An exit without a conversion is generally the result of a person reaching their NII threshold without enough PII to overcome it.
Simply put, every time a visitor is annoyed by something on your site the chance of exit increases. Look at ecommerce sites you like and compare the things that you view negatively you versus the things you view positively. You should notice a trend that the annoying things are minimized or made as positive as possible. This goes both ways, I see sites with positives that are mishandled to become a negative.
Think of click expectations. Anyone that has a dog eared copy of “Don’t Make Me Think” by Steve Krug knows this one. You click on something expecting one thing and get another. Imagine you are at a category level of a site and see a product that you think, “Wow, I want that!” You click on the image and get shown something entirely different. The product that got you to click is nowhere to be seen. You click around and maybe find the item. At this point you are annoyed and probably over your initial joy at finding the item. If you found it at all. The NII built up with every extra click that was needed to find that item so that when you did find the item, the PII probably isn’t going to be enough to carry that visitor into customer territory. I can tell you how that scenario plays out at my house, “Click, where is it? Amazon.com, there it is.”
The same thing happens with chat boxes when someone clicks that “hide” button just to get that window back on the next page. The expectation is for that chat box to go away and stay away. Now that chat box is annoying on two levels and it just gave the visitor the impression that you aren’t going to do what they want. One floating chat box and you are looking at a guarantee of snowballing NII. Turn off floating chat for a month and look at your conversion rate. I see about a 20% increase in conversions when the floating chat stops. The depth of visit increases as well. As users we are expecting sites that create an emotional connection. A site that starts out as an obnoxious bore has a mountainous NII to be overcome. Car dealers often have a hail mary play where an exit pop-up offers hundreds of dollars off your purchase. That is a last ditch PII which they hope overcomes all the NII that caused the exit. Yet if the PII were strong enough they would never need them in the first place.
Chat is a communications tool, used right it can create positive impact. When it is used improperly it is to the detriment to the users experience. I’m sure there are those that would argue the floating chat is like a helpful clerk in a store who asks if you need anything. I will agree that is the intention, the execution is a different matter. When the clerk jumps in between you and the product at every opportunity, how is that really helping?