Chat platforms have matured over the last half-decade. Long ago, in the days of dial up, we’d sit down to our two-ton desktops to listen to the soothing sound of the AOL sign-on screen. You know the sound. A/S/L?  But chat has come a long way since then. It’s gone from a simple, reactionary customer support tool to AI that’s just scratching the surface for marketing and sales. We’re talking lead gen, prospecting, selling, and much more. Here’s why chat is making such a splash. And how six SaaS companies are using it to boost their bottom line.

Why chat platforms are growing in popularity

Live chat isn’t technically new. It’s been around for 50 years at least. But in the last few years it’s changed dramatically. Somewhere during mid-2016, companies like Facebook and Kik launched their own chatbots, starting an AI revolution of sorts. New live chat options like Influx, Drift, Intercom, Autopilot, and the appropriately named LiveChat are literally growing like weeds. And it’s no surprise why. Today, 79% of consumers prefer it over email or phone for support because most issues are resolved in a lightening-quick 42 seconds. That benefit extends far beyond merely customer support, though. Influx has topped the basic 1-2% of form conversions to bring in over 27% of inbound leads. They’ve also helped one company do the same, growing 20% month over month. Those results aren’t a fluke. Intercom is now being used by over 17,000 paying customers. (image source) Drift is also growing steadily, experimenting with real-time qualifying filters that automatically route messages to a specific department based on responses. (image source) Autopilot also isn’t far behind. They’ve reportedly grown “from 0 to 2,500 customers, signed up 24,500+ free trialists, and experienced 21% month-over-month revenue growth (with 130% net retention),” according to their CMO, Guy Marion. Not bad at all. (image source) In fact, average conversions for companies using chat are as high as 15% (compared to 2% conversions without it). The reason for its increasing popularity is not only a matter of convenience or conversions, though. It’s growing because the technology underneath it is getting better every year. A lot better. It’s more intuitive. It’s more responsive. And it can help companies meet customer needs faster and cheaper than ever before. Here are just a few of the companies using messaging to bring in leads, close sales, and keep customers around for the long-term.

1. Segment

At Segment, Vice President of Growth Guillaume Cabane confirmed what we already know: historically, the live chat feature is a tool for customer service, not sales. It was hard to pinpoint potential conversions through live chat. Everyone, primed to buy or not, can use it. But Guillaume was determined to filter out those who weren’t interested and reach his potential customers in real-time. And for good reason: 16% of Segment’s signups represent 86% of their revenue. So he brought in live chat to control the flow of Segment’s leads. Guillaume knew that just 10% of the people visiting the site would actually be interested in the product. He used Clearbit to identify web visitors using their IP address. Then he used domain matching to discover where visitors worked. If the company matched Segment’s lead-scoring model, the user was pinged to get a targeted message. (image source) Guillaume was able to turn the traditional purpose of live chat on its head to produce the results Segment needed. The proof is in the numbers:
  • Segment has seen a 200% increase in conversions and a 500% increase in chat engagement.
  • Drift’s live chat feature is the biggest contributor of sales growth for Segment.
Drift didn’t completely take over the sales process for Segment. But it enhanced it. And provided the sales team with qualified leads and additional information on their customers to help them be more prepared for targeted conversations.

2. RewardStream

RewardStream was stuck in a bit of “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink,” prior to implementing live chat. They had plenty of web traffic from all the traditional channels: email marketing, fresh content, SEO, etc. They’d capture their potential leads using online forms and try to convert as many as possible into bonafide prospects. You know — the old B2B marketing playbook we’ve beat to death by now. But they weren’t having a lot of success. They brought the horse to water, but he (or she) was not drinking. RewardStream knew that their visitors were interested. They liked the idea of the water. RewardStream just needed to add a little personal presence to make sure visitors knew they could get real-time support and answers while they were perusing. So they added a chat feature for instant communication. (image source) Very quickly, they saw results. “We discovered that more than a quarter of the leads we handled that converted to meetings were coming from Drift,” said Neil Parker, Vice President of Marketing at RewardStream. “During that first month, Drift was second only to our top-converting inbound form (which came from a paid inbound source), and was only underperforming that by about 2%. In the last 45 days, it’s grown to 30% of our demos coming from Drift.” And the feature isn’t just used for chatting or questions. Customers can use it to set up and schedule meetings and demos with a sales rep. (See? They wanted to drink the water all along. They just needed a different glass.)

3. SalesLoft

SalesLoft provides sales companies with the tools they need to report out, analyze, and convert leads to sales. The team at SalesLoft was already well-aware of the benefits of live chat. They’ve been using the feature for quite some time. Their problem was that the chat option wasn’t appealing. To anyone. Only 5% of their demo bookings came from their original live chat. Even with the chat feature staring them in the face, most users still prefer to connect with SalesLoft through their online forms. So SalesLoft took notice. They took out the forms the user had to fill out as ‘pre-chat.’ They also added targeted auto messages to users based on their activity on the site and their geographic location. If a visitor is hanging out on the contact page, they are sent this message: (image source) Real-time communication produces real-time data. And the data shows real-time results. These auto messages have a 40% open rate on SalesLoft’s contact page. And a 20% one for pricing. Their reply rates for each are 15% (contact) and 10% (pricing). This is where the numbers show off: Intercom has a standard 5% reply rate benchmark. SalesLoft’s new live chat model has paid off with an 800% increase in sales appointments booked using the feature.

4. Keen IO

Application program interface Keen IO helps developers build large-scale data and analytics into their sites. Lots of developers means lots of communication. Keen IO gets that. “Our customers’ success depends on our ability to communicate clearly and on a personal level,” said Maggie Jan, Director of Developer Advocacy at Keen IO. Before using the live chat service, Keen IO used a variety of methods for customer communication. As their company grew, this quickly became cluttered. Read: It slowed things down. Read more: It hindered customer success. Using live chat, they put all their communication into one place. Less clutter. More success. Also, less time solving problems. The chat helped Keen IO raise its customer satisfaction numbers by 30%, and reduce churn by .5%. They also didn’t have to recreate the customer service wheel to do so. With every new message, a Keen IO staffer was given a user profile and their company’s data to make sure they got the full picture of needs. Right from there, they can see what the user is looking at, and their last query. It’s a hands-on, speedy approach that causes a faster solution. Keen IO also integrates their Help Center to provide user’s with even more information. Reps can send this info along in addition to their speedy geeksquad work. (image source) Their chat feature also allows for real-time feedback. Like, what are Keen IO’s prices? Even though the site had them displayed, reps frequently got this question. “As a company, we really value transparency around pricing, but didn’t realize we were not doing a good job of making it clear and easy to find,” said Maggie. “The customer feedback we collected helped us figure out the best placement for that content. Customers are now better able to self-serve the information, and don’t frequently ask about it.”

5. Tradeshift

Tradeshift connects buyers and sellers. Simple enough, right? Not so fast. Let me be more specific. Tradeshift connects 1.5 million buyers and sellers, in 190 countries, with more than $500 billion in annual transactions. With this type of activity, Tradeshift needed to get the sales process streamlined. It took an average of 21 days to qualify a good lead, for example. The team started to analyze the sales journey to see where the bottleneck was happening. It didn’t take long to spot the problem: The dreaded contact form. People were filling them out. But the form required a lot of follow-up and back and forth. What does the customer want? Are they a good fit? Even worse, this process can only go as fast as the lead is willing to respond, taking a lot of the control out of Tradeshift’s hands. So they added a live chat feature to the company’s marketing site. From there, interested leads could reach out directly to SDRs, and were qualified immediately as potential candidates. (image source) Even better, the leads could come back to talk with the same SDR, building the relationship even further. If the lead is qualified as a good fit to move on to an AE, they are entered in the database. Twenty-one days and at least four touch points of webinars, emails, and site visits was the old norm for Tradeshift. Now, they’ve increased their sales opportunities by 32%. “With Intercom, the time it took to surface real project opportunities and receive RFPs decreased from an average of 21 days to three days,” said Adam Cleveland, Director of Demand Generation for Tradeshift. “We’re able to identify and engage leads faster than ever before.”

6. Recurly

If your company does subscription billings, chances are you’ve heard of Recurly. They take the labor problem out of billing. That lets companies shift their focus to bigger business operations, like development, marketing, and revenue. (image source) The big guys like Groupon, Salesforce, and Hubspot all use Recurly. Even LiveChat uses Recurly. So then Recurly uses LiveChat. (Such a symbiotic relationship they have.) Before they switched to LiveChat, Recurly communicated with customers through emails. But this slowed down the process and prompted the need for something a little more real-time. “We wanted to improve our ticket response time by providing more direct, personal customer service,” said Rachel Quick, Director of Customer Support at Recurly. Before LiveChat, Recurly could get through about 40% of their customer tickets in two hours. Now, they’ve bumped that response rate up to 70%. This is critical for Recurly– ain’t nobody got time to wait around on a billing problem. Must. have. money. now. Recurly started the LiveChat offering with two agents at the ready to handle customer questions. Now, a full team is trained to put out customer fires before they even get the notion of hitting the send button on a long-form email. LiveChat gets the job done quickly. And gives the customers direct access to Recurly. Better client relationships lead to better reviews lead to better revenue. Done and done.

Conclusion

Let’s be completely honest with each other for a second. Live chat used to suck. It was static. It was reactionary. It was clunky. Today, that’s all changed. . And it’s outperforming almost every other alternative channel. Live chat features help bypass confusion and questions from customers and potential customers. Having someone right there ready to guide them through the process means they are less likely to go elsewhere. It’s helping companies engage new leads and connect them with new sales reps. And most importantly, it’s increasing revenues faster. So stop reading. And start chatting.