Website Chat Clients

There are a multitude of online sales chat & online support clients out there which, when installed on your website, allow you to communicate in real-time with your visitors. “Great!” you may think “I can talk to all my visitors, provide great customer service and increase my conversion rate!”. This post is all about describing why those assumptions may be wrong.


A direct link to your customer may well be a Good Thing but it has to be in the right context. A good example of what NOT to do is something I experienced today. I was looking on a website of a local business (I know of the owner but have never met him personally) when up popped an [Olark](http://olark.com) window. His Olark system popped up a message telling me I could use the chat box if I had any questions. That was fine; I’m used to that kind of thing and it was obviously a system generated message so I felt no threat. However, then the owner of the website proceeded to ask me four questions; that’s three too many. I felt hounded and promptly wished to leave his website.

Why did it go so wrong? The owner’s obvious attention should have made me feel secure in the fact I had someone knowledgable to speak to right there. Here are a couple of reasons:

1. The questions he was asking were targeted at the pages I was viewing. This made me feel I was being “watched”; no one likes to have the knowledge their behaviour is being tracked rubbed in their noses
2. Even after it was obvious I wasn’t responding the owner continued messaging me. Maybe I didn’t want to talk, maybe I just wanted to browse, maybe I didn’t feel comfortable corresponding with someone in his company; either way, it is important that the rule “don’t speak unless you are spoken to” is observed past the first (hopefully generic) question
3. Most websites are a read-only medium; users are not experienced with online chat windows within websites and therefore may become confused or annoyed at this little window popping up in the corner of their screen (which may even obscure some information they are trying to read)

There are some good reasons for using chat software on your website to connect with your users. However, in this instance I found the implementation to be poorly executed; needless to say I’m unlikely to use their services again.