Do you want to know how and why to deploy chat on your website? If you sell products or services, having live chat on your website can be an EASY and effective way to engage customers right as they are on your website, and convert them to paying customers. We review some FREE chat tools that are easy to deploy.

First off, should you offer chat?

Chat is good if you know people will have questions about your product or service before they contact you. Right now, they’re coming and leaving your site and you don’t even know it. But with chat, you can intercept some people’s requests, and then create informative content on your site that answers those common questions in the future.

Chat is normally deployed in the bottom right side of websites (that’s where we’ve come to expect it) and it has a “chat with us” interface, when clicked, that opens a box. Deploying this on websites requires a third party service or plugin, but we’ve got you covered on that with our recommendations below.

Two things to keep in mind – you need to be available, and you need to check wherever those chats are delivered to BE available (either email, text or in an app on your phone.) Otherwise, chat may not only be NOT helpful for your customers, but detrimental, if you’re not answering them.

We deployed the free Hubspot Chatbot service via the Hubspot marketing platform (it’s free!) on our website, but there are other plugins available. Hubspot works with any platform – it’s just some code snippets you’ll put on your site to connect Hubspot, and turning chat on after that. If you already use Hubspot, turning chat on is super simple. There are plugins for other platforms including WordPress.

You’ll want to set up notifications with whatever chat plugin you’re using for your site – and if these go to email, you’d better be getting desktop and mobile notifications on those so they pop up on  your screen so you can answer it. You do NOT have to be on 24/7, you can set hours with most chat and if you’re not there, it goes to your email and informs your customers that you’re closed.

What we discovered after two weeks with chat turned on at Michigan MC site is that a lot of people had questions that weren’t for us, but further up the chain, for the state entity that issues boat numbers. THEN once they have their number, they can come back to us to order their custom stickers – so we try to be helpful and let them know that we’re not the state, but we did the same process with our own boat and here’s how it went. I close with “once you have your numbers, come back to our site and order your stickers!”

This tells me that a lot of our traffic comes on a search that’s way ahead of buying our products and this is likely for you, too, only you don’t know it yet. The BEST sales process is to intercept a customer and help them before they’ve even begun researching your or your competitors’ products, because then YOU control the conversation – they’ve seen you first, and they’ll measure every other offer against yours. 

While my spouse thinks this chat stuff is intrusive, I look at it as a way to get new content ideas AND solidify a relationship – if they return again, Google knows this and says “these people must be helpful, this person returned to the website AGAIN!”  You can dedicate content on your site to these EXACT questions, and capture even more Google search goodness by being the answer to commonly asked questions!

There’s a reason we are getting 21% – 37% conversion on visits-to-commerce. And no that’s NOT a typo and there are no decimals in there, that really is thirty percent of percent of people who visit our site complete a paid transaction!

I use the Hubspot chat bot because it was so stupidly easy to configure. I already used Hubspot for forms, so turning chat on was super simple. The initial config of the app to your site takes a little work, but the tools are wonderful.

You can put a chatbot on any website, such as WordPress or SquareSpace, for instance, these use all the following third-party chats too, with some relatively simple code injection snippets on the site that act as handlers.

Third party chat services (for WordPress or SquareSpace)

Zendesk Chat: $49/month

Livechat $20/month

Hubspot Free

Freechat (it’s, well, free)

How chat works on your website:

The customer visits your site, sees the chatbox lower right and clicks. A few bot-responses later (such as your hours and when you’ll respond back) that you can customize, your customer will get you – in this case, send the chat to your email so you can reply, or notify you via the app so you can reply there. You’ll get a notification on desktop or mobile if you have those turned on for the app you are using.

It’s super easy to reply to the chats that come in. If I see the chat come in on email I can just hit the reply button in the chat email to reply via the chat to them. If I see it come in on the app, I can reply in the app. The customer will get a notification on the chat box. If they’ve closed their window, unless they provided their email, they won’t get a reply (they are prompted to leave email.) If you’d prefer to receive chats via your mobile device, then using chat is better than just an email form on your website, since you can chat on your phone’s app. Be sure the product you choose HAS an app (some do not) that you can use for this.

I deployed it on another site, that gets far less traffic, and I’ve only gotten one chat request so far there – it’s just not a lot of traffic to generate requests. Another site that does have more traffic is waiting until I pilot it, but based on my experiences so far, I’m planning on adding chat. It’s easy to use and if I can convert more customers, great! At the very least, I know what people are asking and I can create more content on the site to answer their questions.

Want to see how it works? If you’re reading this on our blog, the chatbot is in the bottom right corner of one of our e-commerce sites here. If it’s M-F between 9 and 4, I’ll see it and respond within a few minutes usually (unless I’m in a meeting or it’s lunchtime.)

If you want to have help installing or configuring your chat service, I can help! I can help you decide on one, deploy it, do the necessary code tweaks to get it installed and then help you test it out.

Is chat worth it? Yes, I think so. It’s not been egregiously interfering on my personal time (my official hours on chat are 9-5 M-F but I’ve answered them on the weekends and after hours.)

Chat tools give you another way to engage with clients that just might help you convert more to buying customers. It’s especially helpful for e-commerce sites, and if you have one of those, you should deploy chat. If you have high-consideration purchases, too, you should deploy chat, so people can ask pre-sales questions. If you’re somewhere in the middle, chat might not be perfect for you, but offering a “message me” button on your site (to email) is certainly a requirement.  Chat is (relatively) easy to deploy if you have a little tech knowhow or know someone (me!) who does. It’s cheap or free, and it’s one more way to give customers a chance to get their questions answered in a low-commitment setting.

Need help setting this up? My rates are reasonable and I love working with entrepreneurs!