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It’s well known that live chat can increase conversions and sales, but some of our customers sell better than others. I spoke with some of the most effective users of Olark on Shopify — quotes from whom are scattered around this post — to find out what they do, and the answer is is incredibly simple: be human.

It can be hard sometimes, especially when most of the big companies we deal with on a day-to-day basis tend to be so formal. But unless you’re a bank — and most of our customers aren’t banks — you probably just want to be yourself when chatting with potential customers.

Or better yet, be like them. Research shows [1] that linguistic style matching — talking like your conversation partner — increases trust, even in instant messaging conversations.

When someone first sends a chat, they have no idea what to expect. As you may have experienced, some even ask whether you’re a real person. Well, since you are, you don’t want to sound like ELIZA, but you do want to try to be as stylistically similar to your customer as possible. Often this means that both you and the visitor you’re chatting with are pushing to see how informal each of you can be.

This shouldn’t be surprising: stuff is fungible, service is not. If your customers just see you as another business, why will they buy from you and not the other guy? Of course, there’s a fine line between being human and being perceived as unprofessional, but part of being human is that you can make that judgement for yourself. Just be sure to let the customer lead.

Some of the most successful sellers on Olark have told us that while they still just primarily answer questions, they also occasionally engage with their customers in more personal ways. That can come from showing a genuine interest in a customer’s needs, which will often result in being able to suggest another product that may work better for them (up-sell, but in genuinely in your customer’s interest). And sometimes it’s just smalltalk! Find something unique about your business that’s a friendly talking point. For example, one online store based in Japan uses the fact that it’s in Japan as a point of conversation.  Most of it’s customers are in Europe and North America, so even something as mundane as the weather can turn out to be an interesting conversation. “How’s the weather in Edinburgh?”

So how can you, as a small business owner, increase sales with live chat? By cultivating personal relationships with your customers. Easier said than done, to be sure, but just being yourself is a great place to start!

And of course, feel free to chat with us. We love hearing from you!

[1] Lauren E. Scissors, Alastair J. Gill, Kathleen Geraghty, and Darren Gergle. 2009. In CMC we trust: the role of similarity. In Proceedings of the 27th international conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ’09). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 527-536.

  • Arniekatz5

    I have a blog on my site and get Russians posting about 50% of the time in Russian. Wastes my time and energy.

  • Cat on the Couch Productions

    We just added this to We’re hoping pro-active chat will help reign in some customers!

  • Marble Polishing

    This article gives the light in which we can observe the reality. this is very wonderful one and gives in depth information. cheers for this awesome post!

  • coastaliberoamerica

    Indeed as the article points out there is a delicate balance in engaging visitors on a non-chalante attitude, and assuring at the same time of the professionalism of our offer. This is more true if the offer is about to come into the thousands of Dollars as our franchise does. Excelent observations, intelligently published. Olark shows concern on amortizing its service, it is appreciated.

  • pankaj saraf

    Nice information, this is a really good read for me, Must admit that you are one of the best bloggers I have read. Thanks for posting this informative article.

  • Tenesha Marguez

    Great read! I wish you can comply with this topic..

  • Horse Grooming

    Really this is the one of most efficient techniques of settin up a new business, through chatting & conversation. As this is part of direct selling techniques too.
    Thanks for sharing with us.

  • Online Greeting Cards Shop

    As we all know that live chat can increase the sales & helps us to make more profits. Today is the world of direct selling  so in this world we must have to gear up to compete with the others that are in the market & this strategy helps us to grow.
    The above also discuss the effective techniques for setting up a new or small business.
    Thanks  for sharing with us  & waiting for the latest blog.

  • Sarah Smith

    Very helpful post here. We appreciate you sharing your knowledge with me. I’ll definitely come back again

  • Gladys Yost

    Outstanding article over again! I am impatient for your next post.

  • Grace Clark

    Great post. I am going to take some time to think over this content.

  • Monica Williams

    Outstanding work yet again! I am excited for your forthcoming post!