Differentiate your Website From Your Competitors with Live Help

by Sherryl Perry on November 10, 2010

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How can an entrepreneur or small business owner differentiate their product/service from everyone else’s? After you define your niche target customer and identify your marketing message, what else can you do to stand out from the thousands (maybe hundreds of thousands) of websites that are offering a similar product or service? We all know that you should offer your potential customers and clients multiple ways to contact you. You can provide a contact form, an 800# and your basic contact info for customers who want to call, email, fax or even send you snail mail.. What if you could easily offer your customers a way to chat with you online? Online-help may be the perfect customer service tool to help you keep your customers and clients on your website long enough to answer your call to action. Why not try it? It’s free (or $20 to have the software professionally installed).

Open-Source Live Help Software – Free & Easy to Install

Most of you probably already use open-source software like WordPress or Joomla but if you haven’t researched online help software, you may be unfamiliar with Crafty Syntax Live Help. Like all other open-source software, Crafty Syntax Live Help (CSLH) is free to use and it’s actually not that difficult to install. Even though their home page talks about it being “programmed in PHP with Mysql for the database”, you shouldn’t be intimidated. WordPress is programmed in PHP and uses SQL too and it’s the most popular blogging software available today.

Most website hosting vendors provide a control panel such as cPanel. If you have access to cPanel, you probably have access to Fantastico De Luxe which makes installation of programs like WordPress and Crafty Syntax Live Help very easy to install. You’ll be asked some simple questions. Keep track of your answers and you should be good to go. Crafty Syntax has a video tutorial on their site to guide you through the process. (As always, backup your website before installing any new software.)

Why Add Live Help?

So why would you want to add live help to your site? As I mentioned earlier, it’s important to differentiate yourself. Unless you want to compete on price, you need to find ways to add value. Adding live help is offering something a little extra. Maybe you have a product or service that you need to promote or support . Why not be available to talk live first? Online support can be especially valuable for consultative sales where you need to guide your prospective customer through the process of making their buying decision.

After you install live help, you log on to provide help. You can even set up additional “operators”. If you don’t feel like chatting, don’t log on and your website visitors will be prompted to leave you a message. Of course, don’t forget to donate to Crafty Syntax if you can. Crafty Syntax will even install their software for you for as little as $20.

Do you use live help on your website? Would you advise others to use it too? What other tips and ideas can you share of ways that we can differentiate ourselves from the rest?

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{ 62 comments… read them below or add one }

Sherryl Perry September 28, 2011 at 6:08 pm

I think live help is something that is becoming expected. Since posting this, I no longer recommend Crafty Syntax though. It worked well for me on a few Joomla sites that I had but I could not get it to work on a WordPress site that I’m building for a client. It is possible that it’s a conflict with another plugin but I ended up uninstalling it and going with a different vendor. The installation was smooth and it worked but I couldn’t get it to open in a small popup window. It kept opening a new tab. It’s probably a site-specific issue but I just don’t want to recommend something that I’ve had a problem with.
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John Knights June 29, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Interesting. This might enhance our customer support for our dear clients.
Customer support reflects on how a company takes care of their clients so I would this is really important for all businesses out there!
The credit goes to you Sherryl for sharing this post to us! Thank you!

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Sherryl Perry July 1, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Thanks John. I often think that some business owners aren’t aware of some of the low cost (and free) solutions that are available. Little things like offering live help can really convey a professional image which I believe helps to instill confidence in our potential clients and customers.
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Treat Your Blog Like a NewspaperMy Profile

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John Knights July 8, 2011 at 2:50 pm

Very True Sherryl!
As a customer having the feeling of being able to contact a company or any businesses anytime with my concern is really satisfying. It makes us feels that we are well taken care of!

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Nick April 13, 2011 at 11:28 am

I don’t think that live help is good for a private blog. One can’t stay on-line 24/7, right? And you can’t hire anyone (better 2 persons) to do it, as it’s not cheap.
Live help is a solution for big sites, corporation, that have the stuff.
But a blog it’s better to make a system of private messages (just like the one that you offer for the moments when you are offline). And people won’t wait for the answer immideately and will be happy to get it very quickly.

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Sherryl Perry April 13, 2011 at 11:45 am

I respect your opinion Nick but I disagree. I wouldn’t use live help on this blog because there’s really no need for it but I do use it on sites that promote products. It’s just one more way that someone can contact you. The worst thing that can happen (if you’re not online to answer) is that your website visitor is prompted to leave a message.

You’re right. Live help is perceived as a solution for big companies. As a sole proprietor, I want my potential customers to think that I’m a bigger company than I am. Perception is important and I don’t want people picturing me sitting here in fuzzy PJ’s. :)
Sherryl Perry recently posted..Treat Your Blog Like a NewspaperMy Profile

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raymund April 7, 2011 at 3:19 am

Live help is a very important part of our customer service strategy. We incorporate it to our overall customer support.

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Sherryl Perry April 8, 2011 at 2:19 pm

Thanks Raymund. I agree that live help is a great tool. I wrote this article to make people aware that there are inexpensive solutions available for small business owners to incorporate this strategy into their websites too.
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Kim December 22, 2010 at 5:32 am

I have already used Crafty Syntax (there are plenty of available like livezilla, liveperson and supportsuite) which is probably ideal for any small business. The only problem with many webmaster is that many of them initially use it and then forget to login. Livehelp often unattended may create a wrong impression for visitors too while it is indeed a great tool to increase conversion OR convince them.

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Sherryl Perry December 22, 2010 at 2:49 pm

Excellent point Kim. Live help is just a tool. It’s certainly not a substitute for good customer service.

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Jake December 20, 2010 at 11:31 pm

I’m definitely more at ease shopping on a site that offers Live Help. I have come across one site that offers it, but is never ‘available’. Having established times when Live Help is available would be even more helpful.

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Sherryl Perry December 21, 2010 at 5:13 pm

That’s a great suggestion to list the times Jake. I’m not using Live Help now but when I did, I did not have the times available. That was because the times I was on were so sporadic. Working at home means working all sorts of crazy hours for lots of us. :)

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Stacy November 27, 2010 at 7:39 am

Live help feature is very important feature to seal the deal, especially if you sell services. Internet is a virtual marketplace where you don’t have the chance to see the seller in person before you make the purchase. Still, many buyers hesitate to make purchases on new and unfamiliar sites, they need to know that “someone is there” working with them, and if they send their money, it won’t just vanish. Therefore good customer service is not only a tool of differentiation, this is indispensable condition of sealing the deal. Live chat is another step forward as it provides instant feedback to the buyer, so that he doesn’t change his mind or makes his purchase elsewhere, on the site with faster online support.

Thanks a lot for this recommendation, most of live chat services are paid one, and it’s great to find a free solution. I will definitely test it.

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Sherryl Perry November 27, 2010 at 10:29 am

Stacy, Thanks so much for the honest endorsement of online chatting software. You’ve helped to build a strong case for implementing it. Hopefully, if anyone reading this thread still hesitated to try it, after reading your comment, they give it a shot. If it doesn’t work out, you can always uninstall it.

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Jeff November 18, 2010 at 12:41 am

Hello Sheryll. Dealing on customers needs and assistance are really significant in a cretain business whether it is online or not. But by reading your post and recommendation, I am very agreeable with the live chatting once the customer will have to inquire about your products and services. Yeah! That is one of the best customer service tools today. Thanks1 :)

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Sherryl Perry November 21, 2010 at 9:15 pm

You’re welcome Jeff. Live chat really helped me when I was marketing a product that was truly a consultative sale. I think there are people who want answers immediately and giving them the opportunity to chat online fits that need.

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Patricia November 16, 2010 at 9:58 pm

Hi Sherryl

I will now have to follow you on Twitter cos I only knew of this post cos Rick tweeted it! Excellent read. I am just starting off with my home business and this is something I could consider.

Especially as I am getting lots of emails asking me questions about my blogging experience and it would be so much easier to have a chat cos then at least it’s a two-way conversation and not just me writing my opinion lol Definitely worth a RT and thanks for sharing.

Patricia Perth Australia

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Sherryl Perry November 17, 2010 at 10:32 am

Thanks Patricia! I’m happy to hear that live chat sounds like a good fit for you. Thanks for the RT and following me. I’ve read your comments on Rick’s posts. So glad he RT’d this article for me and that you found it. I’m following you on Twitter now too. :)

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John November 16, 2010 at 3:41 pm

Wow, I have never heard of Crafty Syntax Live Help and I have been in my cpanel for wordpress countless times and I have never known about this service. I definitely agree with you that adding this live help will show potential customers you go that extra mile and help build your credibility and authority. Thanks for sharing.

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Sherryl Perry November 17, 2010 at 10:41 am

John, CPanel should be accessible through your website host. Look for Fantastico De Luxe and Crafty Syntax should be listed there. There are several different scripts that you can install. You may have used it to install Wordpress. It’s always a good idea to backup before you install any new software. If you have any questions, let me know.

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Christian Paulsen November 15, 2010 at 1:03 pm

Sherryl,

This is an excellent idea! I was recently doing some research to purchase a video camera for my business. I went to B&H because we’ve bought stuff from them before and they are very helpful with on line chat. After playing 20 questions, I started checking prices but went back to B&H to make my purchase. I spend a few more dollars but wanted to give them the business since they were so helpful.

Chris
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Sherryl Perry November 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm

Christian, Excellent example of a company that used online chat as part of a consultative sale. Good for you for rewarding them rather than going with the cheapest price. We’ve used B&H in the past also. Their customer support is excellent. While researching a DSLR camera, we discovered that the cheapest price was for a camera that is not produced for US consumption and therefore does not carry the same warranty. (Sony or Nikon – can’t remember which one. Same camera you could buy here – different warranty from an online company.) Thanks for sharing!

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Estava Morioka November 14, 2010 at 4:52 pm

Hi Sherryl,
Cool post. And very helpful. I’m always looking for ways to stand out from the crowd and this is a great idea

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Sherryl Perry November 14, 2010 at 5:40 pm

Great Estava! I hope it helps you.

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Ileane
Twitter:
November 14, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Hi Sherryl, this sounds like a great idea that some small business owners can take advantage of. My daughter has an online clothing store but she would need to hire someone to man the phone. When her business starts to expand this is something I’ll keep in mind for her. Thank you.

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Sherryl Perry November 14, 2010 at 3:14 pm

Hi Ileane, Online chat could be perfect for your daughter. I hope it works out for her. I think it’s little things like this that helps make small businesses look bigger than they are. Sometimes, that can instill a little more confidence in some potential customers.

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Julie Weishaar
Twitter:
November 11, 2010 at 8:07 pm

Hey Rob,

It depends upon how long it takes me to find something I am happy with. I am a perfectionist and if the music isn’t timed exactly right, or the timing of the slides are not optimal – I tweak it. And of course the length of the video also determines how long it will take. Anywhere from 2 to 4 hours on average.
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Sherryl Perry November 14, 2010 at 11:35 am

Interesting Julie. I had no idea that you used PowerPoint as part of the process. Sounds like a lot of work but you must have the process down if you can create a video in 4 hours or less on average.

Rob, Thanks for asking Julie to share. I love when we get to learn about something new.

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Julie Weishaar
Twitter:
November 11, 2010 at 6:37 pm

Rob, you are asking me to give away my trade secrets? LOL. No problem :) I am so not a teacher though – that is Sherryl’s expertise. How about if I outline it here for starters and then perhaps in my spare time (HA), take you up on your suggestion in a more structured format?

I use Microsoft PowerPoint to start with. I work off of an article or other content and basically put the story/message into images with text. I play around with all the neat options available on Ppt with the custom animation functionality. (I tried Windows movie maker and didn’t like it nearly as much as Ppt). I use the images from iclipart and always have thesaurus.com open to get ideas for pictures that would represent the message well. BTW – a word of caution – make sure you use images you have the legal right to use. When I first started making my videos I “took” the images off of Google. My attorney friend asked me where I got my images. I told him Google. He told me they weren’t there for the taking. Who knew? Idiot-moi thought because they were there I could use them. WRONG! Thanks to my friend, I removed all the Google images, got a subscription to iclipart and don’t have to worry about getting sued. I shared this information with a marketing friend of mine who didn’t pay heed to my warning and he WAS sued.

Then I select music that I like that is free to use from many of the creative commons sites that allow you to use their music (pay attention to their attribution requirements), insert it into the video, and make the timing work the way I want it to.

Once I am happy with the animations and other formatting, I use a tool from Acoolsoft (not free but very reasonably-priced and worth it: http://www.acoolsoft.com/powerpoint-to-video-overview.html) called PPT2videoconverter and convert the PowerPoint into a video.

Voila!
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Rob Berman November 11, 2010 at 7:23 pm

Julie:

If this is the outline then the detail is gonna be a doozy. So just for kicks how long would it take to make one of these masterpieces?

Rob
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Julie Weishaar
Twitter:
November 11, 2010 at 5:39 pm

I had to pop back in as my name has been mentioned several times LOL. BTW – I haven’t heard back from my hosting company about why the Crafty Syntax installation is not working!

Sherryl, send me an article you want to see in video – I will make you a video not next year – but now :) Seriously!
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Rob Berman November 11, 2010 at 6:00 pm

Julie:

Perhaps you could share with all of us how you make the videos. The idea of teaching someone to fish versus just handing him a fish. You could use the video for Sherryl as the teaching tool. Sounds like you could get a couple of blog posts out of it as well.

What do you think?

Rob
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Josh Ray November 11, 2010 at 5:34 pm

This is a great idea. I use hostmonster for my hosting and they have an easy 1 click install for it (sorry, that sounds like an ad for them but they’ve taken good care of me over the years). My biggest concern is that I’m not at my computer 24/7 so if there were some way to sync it with my iPhone it would be awesome.

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Sherryl Perry November 12, 2010 at 10:00 am

Josh, You can log on to your Crafty Syntax Live Help from anywhere that you have Internet access. Does that help?

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Dennis Salvatier
Twitter:
November 11, 2010 at 4:32 pm

This is one suggestion that I could see helping many people, but I don’t know if it would help me. I guess I have the same concern that Julie had, but this is definitely worth looking into. It definitely would add more value to my business. You given me one more thing to consider, Sherryl. I don’t know whether to thank you or strangle you. :)

I’m totally kidding of course, but I feel like Keyuri’s analogy right now. Thanks, Sherryl!
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Sherryl Perry November 14, 2010 at 11:37 am

Dennis, You know where to find me if you want to brainstorm about your concerns. Meanwhile, I’ll see if I can think of any other topic that will make you want to “strangle” me. LOL

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Catherine Lockey
Twitter:
November 11, 2010 at 1:58 pm

Coooool. Thanks for suggesting Crafty Syntax Sherryl. I’ll check it out.

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Catarina Alexon
Twitter:
November 11, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Excellent suggestion Sherryl. If I start doing consulting jobs I will definitely add Crafty Syntax Live Help! As you say, we have to differentiate ourself from the competition.

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Sherryl Perry November 11, 2010 at 4:01 pm

Good luck with it Catarina. Please keep us posted how you make out with it.

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keyuri joshi
Twitter:
November 11, 2010 at 9:37 am

I learned to ski in my late 30′s and the first time I walked into a ski shop, I was uttlerly amazed at the equipment and gadgets. Many of them were so funky, and I had no idea what they were used for. I find social media to be similar! There are all these tools out there. The difference is Sherryl, that you help to make sense of them. Thanks!!

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Sherryl Perry November 11, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Thanks Keyuri! I’m happy to hear that my posts make sense of some of the tools that are out there. I was commenting on a blogger’s post about website design for life coaches and he asked for additional suggestions. It got me thinking about adding live chat.

As for skiing, I tried it once and was advised to take additional lessons before going on the bunny hop. Needless to say, I never made it to the ski shop. The ski lodge – yes! :)

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Paul Novak November 11, 2010 at 3:17 am

Hmm, this is interesting Sherryl. Although I am somewhat loathe to spend time speaking with somone about work unless it is covered in the costs of the job, or perhaps because of this, I am wondering if this can be used in that manner. A small fee for live consultation on your site perhaps?

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Sherryl Perry November 11, 2010 at 3:57 pm

That’s an interesting idea Paul. I wonder if anyone has tried that or knows of someone who does that.

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Fran Aslam November 10, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Hi Sharryl

You have selected a good topic and wrote beautifully about it. This reminds me how in 2004 I used to use 800 phone for my Soy candles, but this trend died. Is it the cell phone or what other reason, I do not know. Now half of the homes have family phones, everyone keeps cell phone including children. But still 800 numbers can be used. Specially customer service via phone even FAQ via 800 numbers is a great idea. Are you going to use phone customer
service ?

All the best
fran A

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Sherryl Perry November 11, 2010 at 3:55 pm

In 2008 and 2009, I used an 800# for a website that was a consultative sale. We advertised in the classified ads for Entrepreneur magazine and directed traffic to both our website and our 800#. We received an amazing number of calls from that ad – many more callers than website visitors for sure. My SCORE business adviser had recommended using an 800#. He said that a lot of people will have the magazine in their hand and just reach for the phone. His opinion was that even though most people have cell phones, that the 800# has a draw. It worked for us.

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Ardorm November 10, 2010 at 10:56 pm

Wow, that’s indeed an unusual idea, Sherryl! I did consider putting a chat box into my blog, however, I would never think about Live Chat. And taking in account that it costs around $20, I think I should consider using it in the nearest future. Thanks for the great idea!

I think you could also differentiate by filming short videos about your blog, something like mini-ads, and upload it to many video-sharing websites.

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Sherryl Perry November 11, 2010 at 3:49 pm

I really should add video to my blog. (Julie has told me this on many occasions.) I know the search engines love video and posting it to YouTube first could help drive traffic to my site. Great advice! (Note to self – goal for 2011 – add VIDEO!) Thanks!

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Wes Towers
Twitter:
November 10, 2010 at 8:22 pm

Hi, Sherryl. I have live chat on my sites and they do provide more value for my clients and prospects. Thanks for sharing this. This will allow fellow marketers to gain much benefits. You have a good soul. :)

- Wes -
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Sherryl Perry November 11, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Thanks Wes. It’s good to hear from someone who uses live chat software in addition to me.

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Josh November 10, 2010 at 3:43 pm

You ‘hit the nail on the head’ with this article Ms. Perry. Live chat software complements existing sales/support methods on e-commerce web sites, and customers are getting accustomed to using it (when available).
There are many free and paid versions of live chat software available. Some are hosted by the provider, while others require some ‘server’ installation. It really just depends on the technical ability of the owner/developer.

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Sherryl Perry November 11, 2010 at 3:39 pm

Please, call me Sherryl. :) Thanks for pointing out that there are many free and paid versions of live chat software. I wrote this article about Crafty Syntax because I am in the habit of seeking out open source software as a solution for most of my software needs. I use CSLH and am happy with it. For some people, I think the $20 that they charge to install it would be well worth it.

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Jeannette Paladino
Twitter:
November 10, 2010 at 3:05 pm

This is a good idea — especially if you’re selling a product. I think it’s a little less effective for a service. I’ve gotten phone calls from my contact page and mainly they want to pick your brain. I don’t have an e-book or a hard product to sell, so it’s problematic.

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Sherryl Perry November 11, 2010 at 3:36 pm

I get a lot of people looking to pick my brain too but I look at it as an opportunity to build trust. Eventually, some of them come back to hire me. Having said that, I’m not sure if or when I would add live chat to this blog. For now anyways, I have too much going on to even consider it.

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Rob Berman November 10, 2010 at 3:03 pm

Interesting idea for the live chat. I agree with Julie that it could cut both ways if the live chat was not available when someone was seeking to use it. Technology is a wonderful thing.

Rob
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Sherryl Perry November 11, 2010 at 3:33 pm

I just look at it as one more way for people to contact you. Chances are you will be missing opportunities to chat with someone but I think the risk is outweighed by the number of people that you will be available to help.

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Susan Oakes
Twitter:
November 10, 2010 at 2:54 pm

Hi Sherryl,

I read a post from a web designer who had installed the online chat and said it actually did help grow his business. I put it on my list to check out and of course it is still there.

It is sometimes the small things we can do that helps differentiate from the competition. What has surprised me at times is the number of small businesses that do not even know their key competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.
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Sherryl Perry November 11, 2010 at 3:09 pm

Susan, That always surprises me too. Whenever I build a website for a small business, one of the first things I recommend to them is to search on the keywords that they think people will use to find them and then check out their competition. Great point about knowing your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses.

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Patricia Weber November 10, 2010 at 2:46 pm

Interesting post Sherryl. Last year a local contact of mine approached me with his version of what you are describing. Since his target market was large corporations I didn’t feel a fit. But now I feel compelled to reconnect with him about it.

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Sherryl Perry November 11, 2010 at 2:20 pm

Great Pat! I’d love to hear how your conversation goes and your decision to either add online help or not. I hope it works out for you.

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Julie Weishaar
Twitter:
November 10, 2010 at 12:09 pm

Hi Sherryl. I definitely agree that having a live chat on one’s website is valuable and didn’t know about Crafty Syntax so I will be checking that out. Thanks once again for such valuable information.

Do you think not being online or available to chat while prompting visitors to leave a message can actually work against someone who might not be available when a website visitor needs/wants to contact them?
Julie Weishaar recently posted..It Isn’t About You!My Profile

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Sherryl Perry November 10, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I think that there’s value in simply having live chat available. To me, it makes your site look more professional. You’re also giving your website visitor one more way to contact you. Someone may find it easier to click on an icon that says “Live Chat is Closed: Please leave a message” rather than looking for your contact form.

As far as availability, I know the kind of hours you put in and you could easily be logged on outside of “normal” business hours which would make you accessible to potential customers from other parts of the world.

I also like the fact that I can tell when someone is on my site whether or not they want online help. Personally, I restrain myself from inviting them to chat with me (because that always annoys me when I’m on a site and a window pops up from live help). Now that, I think would work against me.

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Julie Weishaar
Twitter:
November 10, 2010 at 2:39 pm

You are funny Sherryl – you think that people would want to chat with me at 2:00am? :) But you do make a good point – thanks. I do have a Cpanel and did install Crafty Syntax, however, the admin URL given to me after the installation doesn’t work. Surprise! LOL. Waiting now to hear back from my host (no I never did get around to switching hosts) to see what the problem is……
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