Posted: 6.13.16 Customer Service

How Olark’s Live-Chat Features Bring the Human Element to Online Chat Support

By: Lindsey Carman

The Crunch: The human element sometimes gets lost with online chat, and Olark Live Chat is determined to change that. The live-chat software company created an online-chat widget (with core features like web-based chat, chat ratings, analytic insights, and offline messaging) to help customers and retailers connect better online. When the Olark founders set out in 2009 to develop a way to offer better customer service, they created an on-page chat software that allowed customers to chat with retailers as easily as they could with friends. The chat widget can be installed on any website in just minutes and seamlessly integrate with software like Shopify, Bigcommerce, and Salesforce. With quick on-page support, customers can instantly chat with retailers without leaving the web page.

Online shopping isn’t for everyone. There’s something special about walking into a store and being able to handle products, try on clothing, and, most importantly, interact with people. When you have a quick question about a size or style, you can walk right up to a salesperson and get an answer. E-commerce lacks this human element when it comes to customer service. However, knowing that someone is ready to answer your questions (especially on the other end of chat) makes the online shopping experience more personal and appealing.

That’s what Ben Congleton, Roland Osborne, Matthew Pizzimenti, and Zach Steindler set out to do. While working for a web consulting company, they were involved in helping customers quickly when their websites were down. In 2009, online customer service felt more like a call center — with customers on hold waiting for the next available representative — so the Olark partners created an on-page, live-chat solution that would bring the human element to the web.

Olark, an online live-chat system, was the solution. They wanted the application to mimic GChat, but be available to use on any website. As a click-to-chat widget for on-page usage, Olark paved the way for connecting customers to website owners within minutes. It was a simple solution to a pesky problem.

Why Customers Want to Know You’re on the Other End of Live Chat

Customers are always going to have questions, whether they’re buying bread at a grocery store or picking out a swimsuit online. They want to know if a retailer offers other flavors, more sizes, or similar items they’d enjoy. Brick-and-mortar stores have the advantage of having bright-eyed, smiling salespeople who are ready to walk over and answer questions in just minutes. For e-commerce sites, however, this is one of the biggest challenges to overcome.

Online customer service was anything but personable when the Olark team ventured to humanize it in 2009. Most customers had to leave their shopping carts and find a pop-out chat just to get the answer to a quick question. Talking to a customer service representative felt more like talking to a robot.

“The chat experience in 2009 was more like a call center. We were just becoming worn out by that call center experience. It was a collective groan.”

– Karl Pawlewicz, the Voice of Olark

With Olark’s software, customers can talk to retailers within minutes. The on-page chat, a small widget that’s located at the bottom of a website’s page, can be accessed at any time and keeps customers from leaving the site out of frustration. The personal one-on-one experience not only answers customers’ questions quickly but also lets them know they’re talking to a human.

Retailers Can Install the Live-Chat Widget in Minutes

Olark describes its online-chat widget as “the most beautiful and effective way” to talk to customers online. Retailers of all sizes can easily sign up and install it for free within minutes. All you have to do is copy a few lines of code, paste it into the backend of your site, log in, and you’re ready to start talking with shoppers. It’s as simple as that. With over 12,000 Olark users, the chat widget has revolutionized the way small- and mid-sized businesses help customers.

Installing Olark’s live-chat widget on your website takes minutes: just copy, paste, and chat.

“The product experience, for us, has always been customer first,” Karl said. “We’ve always wanted to make sure customers who have a question get it answered.”

If retailers are looking for more ways to help customers, Olark offers 4 affordable plans: Bronze, Gold, Platinum, and Ultimate. Each option comes with core features like chat ratings, web-based chat, targeted chat, integrations, shortcuts, and offline messages that optimize your customer service capabilities to keep customers happy.

Live-Chat Analytics Offer Insight into What Customers Want

Olark’s chat widget comes with more benefits than just the ability to answer questions. Retailers can gather insights on shopping behavior that help them understand their customers better. Chat ratings, one of the Olark’s unique features, allows customers to leave feedback after they chat with retailers. Collecting their opinions and overall customer service rating lets retailers know what’s working and what needs improvement.

Olark CartSaver is another great feature that answers questions like, ‘Who are these people on my site?’ and ‘What can I do to help them purchase with confidence?’ Retailers have the ability to see how customers navigate the purchasing process (e.g., from browsing products to clicking the checkout button) to improve the overall shopping experience. When a customer chats with you, you’ll see what’s in his or her cart and can offer an up-sell. For example, if a shopper is buying a ski mask, you can recommend purchasing a pair of ski boots that happen to be on sale.

Olark’s live-chat widget helps you offer great customer service and do business better.

Having insightful tools at your disposal opens up a new world of understanding customers better. Thanks to Olark’s operative reports and transcripts, you can identify your busiest times, personalize email follow-ups, and know when it’s best to go offline. Retailers can improve their customers’ entire online shopping experience just with Olark’s live-chat widget.

“We wanted to make sure Olark was a good customer communication tool, but we also wanted to provide some insight on what the customer was considering during that purchase process so the business owner can then make the conversation more personalized and find ways to up-sell,” Karl said. 

A Tight-Knit Community with All-Hands Support & Core Values

With a team in Ann Arbor, another in San Francisco, and the rest of the ‘Olarkers’ across the world, it’s hard to believe how tight-knit this community is. The Olark team’s secret to staying connected is by using their own chat system to talk with each other as much as they can. Building ‘on that family vibe’ they already have, all Olarkers and their significant others go on an annual retreat to reconnect and see how everyone is doing.

The Olark team works together to make sure you and your customers are completely satisfied.

Sticking to the company’s C.H.A.M.P.S core values, each Olark employee is there to relieve anyone who is stressed with a particular project or who needs help brainstorming ideas. One unique aspect of the Olark community is its All-Hands Support. Although the company has a dedicated team of customer support staff, each employee (including the CEO himself) works a 5-hour customer support shift to deal personally with Olark customers.

Using their own chat support system, Olarkers get to experience how their product works firsthand and come up with ways to make it better. Excellent communication with their own customers allows the Olark team to confidently know that the widget works great for their customers’ clients, too.

Coming Soon: Improved Live Chat for Mobile Devices

Giving online customers great experiences will keep them coming back for more. E-commerce sites understand how important it is for shoppers to experience that human element, and Olark makes that happen for thousands of websites around the world with just a few lines of code.

What started as a tight-knit team of 4 guys has grown into 45 strong. While Olark has shifted from operating out of the small townhouse, the company is still focused on creating a great product that humanizes online chat, even as mobile e-commerce changes the industry. In June, Olark will launch a revamped live-chat experience on mobile that gives customers a better way to connect with retailers while they’re shopping.

“So many customers want to talk to owners on their phone and get that ‘Messenger experience’ right on the mobile device,” Karl said. “It reflects our product focus right now. We need to make sure our customers are provided with the best experience ever.”

The need for excellent customer service and effective communication will always be around, just as it was for the first store ever opened. With Olark’s tiny, on-page widget, retailers can bring the personal human element right to their website and offer impeccable customer service –– even if they’re on the other side of the world.

About The Author

Highlighting the movers and shakers in the retail space, Lindsey Carman writes in-depth features that showcase the passionate team behind successful brands. You can see her cover the next marketing trend or retail disruptor in the IndustryCrunch blog.

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