Live Chat Pros and Cons: Real Business Owners Weigh In

3.4.13_Customer Service over Social
Should you install a live chat feature on your small business website? What are some live chat pros and cons? And what about best practices that you should be aware of before diving in? We’ve rounded up responses from real business owners who were willing to share their experiences.

Say Hello to Instant Customer Gratification
One of the biggest reasons companies install a live chat feature is so that site visitors receive instant responses to their questions. No need to get lost in back-and-forth emails. No need to even pick up the phone. With a few clicks, customers can get the answers they’re looking for.

Mike Doyle is the CEO of Rent Like a Champion, a company that allows college football fans to rent homes near campuses nationwide during game weekends.

His company has been using Zopim, a popular live chat feature, for almost three years. Doyle says, “The response from our customers has been outstanding. We’ve found that our peak traffic time is during work hours, meaning people are likely surfing our site while they should be working. Being at work, it’s not always easy for people to pick up the phone and dial our toll-free number. The live chat feature is a great way for us to have a personal, high-touch interaction with a customer when it may not be convenient for them to call us.”

Steve Belk is the owner of Cut Cable Today. He recently added a live chat feature. Belk explains, “I decided to add Live Chat to my website when I noticed just how many email questions I was getting every single day from my visitors. I knew if that many visitors were emailing me with questions, many others had to be leaving the site without asking important questions that were keeping them from converting.”

Bring Personalization to a New Level
In addition to eliminating the need for endless email threads or a phone ringing off the hook with the same old questions, live chat also allows your business to add a more personal, human touch. This is especially important for companies that only have a virtual storefront.

Belk says, “I believe it creates a more valuable connection with the customer. When you’re talking to them live, there’s a human connection there that you might not get with email support necessarily.”

William Lau of echoes Belk’s sentiments. “In my opinion, live chat is essential. It is affordable and really easy to implement. If you find yourself with customers that have many questions, live chat is a great way to improve sales. One thing to note, if you are a small business owner and do not have someone monitoring it 24/7, the live chat modules usually have a Leave a Message option, which offers another way to get in touch with a customer and a customer to you. Also, many of these live chat platforms have iOS/Android apps, where you can get in touch with them on the go. You do not always have to be in front of a computer!”

Lau’s company has been using live chat for the last four years. “We originally started using Live Chat Inc, but after transitioning away from our original CMS, we started using Screets on WordPress.”

Enjoy Increased Conversions (Maybe).
When a small business owner needs to make a decision, the question that always bubbles to the top is this: how will this decision affect the bottom line? In other words, if a live chat application only makes customers happy, but doesn’t increase sales, would it be the best decision for your business?

Only you can decide that, of course. That said, most of the business owners we heard from were able to point to increased conversions, thanks to live chat features.

Deborah Sweeney, CEO of, says about 30% of her company’s live chat customers convert to a sale. She adds, “It’s hard to assess how many of those we would have lost as opposed to whether they would have called in or just proceeded to place the order without help. However, that’s a pretty strong correlation between people who reach out via live chat and convert.”

Laurie Olsen is the owner of A Stars and Stripes Flag Corporation. Her company installed Live Chat over six months ago to give customers another way to reach her. About 2% of the visitors to her site engage in Live Chat.

As for ROI? Olsen says, “I have received a few orders from customers requiring rush services for custom products via Live Chat. The customers felt that having an instant response on the website was more than likely going to mean that we would be able to provide the quick turnaround they required. The ROI since I have installed Live Chat has been approximately 14%.”

Belk says, “I have seen Live Chat provide a little bump with my sales, although it’s hard to quantify exactly how much at this point. The visitors I chat with tend to be ready to get rid of their cable and take immediate action, and the chat helps push them toward conversion.”

Manage the Pros & Cons
Live chat can have its downsides, and it’s not right for every business. Jeff Kear is the founder of an online startup called Planning Pod, which provides web-based event management software to event professionals.

Kear acknowledges that live chat can be the right tool for many businesses, but it wasn’t for his.

Over a year and a half ago, his company tried a live chat application. Kear says, “When we first launched it, we did get quite a few site visitors who engaged with the product, but we noticed that our free trial signups and our paid subscriptions actually went down upon launching the live chat tool.”

After digging deeper, Kear and his team discovered something interesting. “We found that many people who we chatted with got answers to specific questions about our software that made them think our tools weren’t right for them. However, once people were in the free trial, they realized all the other things our software did, which made it more likely for them to become a paying customer. So the chat tool actually deflected people who would have instead signed up for a free trial and had a more immersive experience with our software.”

Kear ended up discontinuing live chat and instead opted for a toll-free number. He says that he and his team have had much better success in converting people over the phone than they did via live chat.

Sweeney says that her business also sees higher conversion rates when people phone in, but she still uses a live chat feature because it’s better to have some instant online help available than none at all. Sweeney says, “Now, more than ever, customers are looking for online-only experiences—they don’t want to pick up the phone, so this is a great solution for that.”

In addition to not being the right fit, live chat features can also be a time sink, if you let it. And since time is money, well—you can do the math.

Belk offers this smart advice on how to analyze live chat’s efficiency and ROI: “If the average chat ends up taking 20 minutes to close a $10 sale and you’re paying an employee by the hour to provide live support, is Live Chat really making you money or is it actually costing you money?”

He also recommends creating answers to FAQs ahead of time and having them at the ready so that you and your live chat staff can easily refer to them.

Finding the right live chat application for your business is also important. Lau recommends shopping around. He cautions that you’re going to encounter some sophisticated platforms that have many bells and whistles. Be aware that you might not need all of those extras.

Lau adds, “If you do not have someone technical, stick with a subscription-based or well supported platform that provides technical support. A lot of the live chat programs are easy to install but can be a headache if something goes wrong, because you would want someone there to help you.”

Do you use a live chat application on your business website? What’s your experience been like? Share in the comments below.

What Customers Really Think of Our Promotional Products

Your Company’s Online Reputation

It’s easy for us to say we have the best promotional products on the planet, but we admit that we might be a little biased. :) So we thought we’d turn this blog post over to our customers so you can read what they have to say in their own words.
Continue reading “What Customers Really Think of Our Promotional Products”

Tips from the Frontlines for Encouraging Employee Health & Wellness

Carrots, Broccoli & Apples — Oh My! Actual Examples of Successful Employee Wellness Programs

Employee Wellness Programs

It’s a new year, which means people have made resolutions. One of the most popular ones? Getting fit by losing weight and exercising more.

But how does this relate to business, and why are we discussing it here on our blog? Unfortunately, our business lives contribute to many of our health woes, due to the fact so many of us sit in offices in front of our computers all day. And employees’ chronic health problems come with a price. This Gallup poll points to the fact that unhealthy workers’ absenteeism cost US businesses 153 billion dollars in lost productivity each year.

Many of these chronic problems, such as obesity, high blood pressure, and Type 2 diabetes, are the result of poor diets and sedentary lifestyles (e.g. sitting in a cube all day). In other words, they’re preventable.

Experts suggest that 75% of healthcare costs is spent on preventable conditions. The good news? Preventative healthcare, which includes employee wellness programs, has been predicted to potentially save 1.9 trillion dollars per year. And this “savings” doesn’t even account for other possible benefits, such as increased productivity and happiness in a person’s day-to-day life. It’s no wonder, then, that employee health and wellness are such hot topics.

The question is, what can small businesses do to encourage employees to have a more active and healthful lifestyle (while still making sure the day-to-day work gets done on time)? There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Each business needs to create a program and culture that works for its own unique environment. That said, we reached out and talked to several small businesses that are doing their part in helping their employees embrace a more active lifestyle. Continue reading “Tips from the Frontlines for Encouraging Employee Health & Wellness”

3,200 Thank You’s Later… Gary Vaynerchuk’s Book & a “Thank You Box” Case Study

We were all taught to say “Thank You” whenever somebody helps you or says something nice. It is simply being polite. This manner has always been part of business, too: business owners always say “thank you” after your purchase. By being thankful and polite, you develop positive personal connections, which can often lead to repeat business in the future. It’s nothing new.

However with the technology, internet, and the effort to make everything “an efficient process,” some of the thank-you’s are no longer sincere. How can this be reverted?

The Thank You Economy: A Book and a Case Study

Image of Wine Library TV's Gary Vaynerchuk.
Image of Wine Library TV’s Gary Vaynerchuk. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In his book “The Thank You Economy,” Gary Vaynerchuk argues that businesses should be more like how businesses were during our grandparents’ times. At that time, everything was local: from your bakery to your pharmacy. Back then, Gary writes, business owners really took the time to get to know you and butchers knew exactly what cut of the meat you usually get, and kept it for your regular visit.

Today, some of those personal connections are lost. The cashier at Walmart doesn’t REALLY care that you shopped there. And all those orders we place online–sure, we receive a “Thank you for your order” email, but so does everybody else. Nothing special there. Nothing makes us stick.

Case Study: Be More Personal and Thank Your Fans

While Gary included plenty of examples of the “Thank You Economy in Action” in the book, he decided to go further and create his own case study. Up until the official release of the book, Gary tweeted a request to his fans: forward him a receipt of a pre-order. In exchange, he promised something cool. Gary fans, also known as Vayniacs, are a crowd which is in LOVE with what Gary does, his talks and his vision (yes, he predicted that Instagram would sell to Facebook last year). A promised surprise simply motivated them to pre-order. And TONS of them pre-ordered and emailed the receipt.

A few months later, Gary asked his twitter followers if they had any merchandise to contribute. Many replied, including us at Amsterdam Printing. We decided to contribute bottle openers with a “#thankyou” hashtag imprint.

Gary crowd-sourced various types of merchandise to fill up each “Thank You Box” (18 items per box!) and shipped all of the boxes to 3,200 people:

Thank You Boxes at VaynerMedia office

Continue reading “3,200 Thank You’s Later… Gary Vaynerchuk’s Book & a “Thank You Box” Case Study”

5 Companies Launch Ambush Marketing Attacks

Some weird things have been happening at sporting events recently.

  • Why were a group of lovely ladies arrested at this year’s World Cup for wearing orange dresses?
  • Why did hundreds of soccer fans have to strip to their underwear?
  • Is there a dark side to the fun stuff that companies hand out for free?

We have been investigating the rise of the pseudo-sponsor, and the phenomenon known as “Ambush Marketing”.
Read on to discover some of it’s finest moments….

The expression ambush marketing was coined in the early nineties by American Express marketing guru, Jerry Welsh. His original perception was the idea of healthy competition in a climate of expensive and often ill-conceived sponsorships.

Today, ambush marketing most commonly occurs in association with major sports events, although potentially other types of events could be used as a venue. Sponsorship is big business, and one brand may pay millions of dollars to become the exclusive and official sponsor of an event. This exclusivity then creates a problem for the other brands, and they have to find ways to promote themselves in connection with the event, but without paying the sponsorship fee and without breaking any laws.

For the 2008 Beijing Olympics the T.O.P. (The Olympic Partner) program of 12 sponsors paid a total of $866 million for the privilege of exclusivity. These same companies also spent a further $1.2 billion on supporting marketing activities. Yet for all this cash, recognition of these brands as the official sponsor was rated below 40% amongst consumers in a post games survey. The success of many of these campaigns means that ambush marketing has itself become a huge growth industry.

Sources: Wikipedia,


1.Kodak Vs Fuji

Photo source

According to Professor of marketing at Bath University, Mike Beverland, “Ambush marketing really began with Kodak in the 1984 Olympics when they ran a series of campaigns suggesting they were the official sponsors when in fact they weren’t.” They successfully managed to convince the consumer they were the official sponsor, when in fact it was Fuji Film.

Kodak ambushed Fuji again in1996. ‘As soon as Atlanta was awarded the rights for the 1996 summer games, Kodak bought 50 major poster sites in the city for the next four years, at an estimated $28,000 per month,’ said Richard Busby, chief executive of Strategic Sponsorship, a leading UK consultancy.

The local Olympic organizing committee had tried to negotiate a deal with the city’s poster companies to offer Olympic sponsors first right of refusal – but they were too late. So, the official sponsor Fuji, was again pipped at the post by Kodak.


2. Bavaria Beer Vs Budweiser

Photo source

One of the highlights of this year’s World Cup in South Africa occurred during the match between Holland and Denmark. 36 female Dutch fans arrived wearing very cute little orange mini-dresses, which soon caught the attention of the world’s media. Unfortunately, these ladies were evicted from the stadium and arrested by police, as it was claimed the dresses were provided by a Dutch brewery, called Bavaria Beer. FIFA officials intervened to stop the media coverage, in order to protect their official sponsor Budweiser.

Peer Swinkels, from Bavaria Beer, said people “should have the right to wear what they want. The Dutch people are a little crazy about orange and we wear it on public holidays and events like the World Cup,” he said. “This time we put no branding on the dress. And Fifa don’t have a monopoly over orange.”

Fifa World Cup 2006

Photo source

Bavaria Beer are no stranger to controversy – or to sports fashion. Back in 2006, during the Fifa World Cup in Germany, marketers from Bavaria Beer arrived with around 120,000 pairs of bright orange lederhosen emblazoned with the Bavaria brand. Fifa officials issued orders for security people to strip the Dutch supporters of the offending articles, which meant hundreds of Dutch fans had to watch the game in their underwear. The world’s media ran riot with the story, even suggesting Fifa’s heavy-handed approach to protecting it’s official sponsor, Budweiser (again), infringed on human rights.

Professor Simon Chadwick, who heads up the Center for the International Business of Sport at Coventry University explains: “Clearly the ambush failed because they didn’t get into the stadium. But in another sense it worked perfectly because suddenly everyone across the world was talking about it.”


3. Coca-Cola Vs PepsiCo

Photo source

Coca-Cola spent a total of $400 million on marketing in Beijing in 2008, including $85 million to be an Olympic sponsor, yet up to 60% of consumers believed Pepsi was the official sponsor.

PepsiCo’s highly successful marketing campaign included an online competition, in which 160 million voters from mainland China ranked mug shots sent in by fans. The winning entries were printed on cans cheering on Team China. Pepsi also replaced it’s traditional blue cans in China with red ones “to show our respect to the year of China,” says Harry Hui, Pepsi’s marketing chief in China.

Sources: BusinessWeek,

4. Li Ning Vs Adidas

Photo source

Photo source


This has been called the greatest marketing ambush in sports history. Adidas, had spent nearly $200 million to become the official sportswear brand at the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008 – only to be ambushed quite spectacularly by the Chinese sportswear brand Li Ling.

The problem occurred when Li Ning, a former gymnast and founder of the sportswear company, was chosen to light the Olympic cauldron at the opening ceremony. Li Ning was China’s most decorated Olympian and a national hero. He was the first Chinese gymnast to win a medal in the Olympics, winning three golds, two silvers, and a bronze in the 1984 Los Angeles Games.

The media exposure effectively gave his company a free ten-minute advert across China and the world.

Li Ning was shrewd enough to realize that his starring role would lead Chinese consumers to automatically believe he was wearing his own apparel – when in fact he was legitimately bedecked in Adidas’ official Olympic clothing. To add to the confusion, Li Ning’s corporate logo resembles the famous Nike ‘swoosh’, while the company slogan, ‘Anything is Possible’, is similar to the Adidas tag line ‘Impossible is Nothing’.

It worked – after the event Li Ning’s Hong Kong-listed shares jumped 3.4%.

Sources: BusinessWeek,,

5. Visa Vs Amex

One of the most deep-rooted and long-lasting rivalries in marketing occurred between Visa International and American Express. These two card companies had been at war ever since Amex lost the Olympic rights to Visa after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic Games, and hostilities rumbled on into 1992 and the Barcelona Olympics. In the US, Visa’s tag line was ‘the Olympics don’t take American Express’, with images of ticket windows being slammed shut in the faces of American Express card holders. American Express responded in style, pointing out in its own advertising campaigns that ‘to visit Spain, you don’t need a visa.’

This is perhaps one of the finest examples of successful ambush marketing. With no recourse to the law, proof of a violation of intellectual property rights being very hard to pin down in this instance, Visa was forced to accept the campaign as legitimate.


6. Nike Vs Everyone else!

Photo source

Probably the most outright and unapologetic (not to mention successful) brand to embrace ambush marketing is Nike. Nike has ambushed just about every sports shoe manufacturer you can think of…

Nike Vs Adidas
During the lead up to the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics, Nike made considerable use of the number 8, a symbol of luck and fortune in China and incorporated the design pattern on items of clothing and footwear.

For the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan, Nike spent $18 million on it’s ambush by funding bus-side screens to display the latest scores, and hosting a mysterious “Scorpion” tournament featuring some of the world’s best footballers. A December 2001 study found that, from a list of 45 likely sponsors of the 2002 World Cup, 20% of those polled picked Nike.

Nike Vs Umbro

The 1996 Uefa European Championship provided an example of ambush marketing that changed the face of sports sponsorship. English sportswear company Umbro had paid for the rights to be the official sponsor of the championships, only to find that Nike had purchased all the poster space and advertising sites in and around Wembley Park Underground Station, which was the main travel hub for England’s national stadium, Wembley.

Nike Vs Reebok

This time the 1996 Atlanta Olympics provided a huge platform for the sportswear company to show it’s marketing muscle, and it wasn’t about to let the fact that Reebok held the official Olympic sportswear sponsorship get in the way of that.

Nike’s ambush of the 1996 Atlanta Olympics demonstrated just how effective ambush marketing can be. By saving the $50 million that an official sponsorship would have cost, Nike plastered the city in billboards, handed out “swoosh” banners to wave at the competitions and erected an enormous Nike center overlooking the stadium. When television audiences were asked to recall the names of official sponsors, 22% cited Nike, compared to only 16% who cited the official sponsors, Reebok.

During the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, Nike held a sponsors press conferences with the US basketball team despite Reebok being the official sponsor. One of the most audacious ambush marketing feats occurred when both Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley, accepted the gold medal for basketball and covered up the Reebok logos on their kit. Both athletes were individually sponsored by Nike.

Nike Vs Converse

Converse was the official sponsor of the 1984 Olympic Games held in Los Angeles, yet Nike built large scale murals near the Los Angeles Coliseum, which displayed the Nike Logo and several of the athletes competing in the games wearing Nike attire.