Is Online Chat Making a Comeback for Websites?

Posted by: Eric Blackwell on September 9th, 2010

One of the things that we tried a few years back at our brokerage, was to provide “online chat” on our website for visitors who wanted some quick information. The thought was that it would provide the user a better experience and that we would get many more leads because of it. We thought that the ability to provide an “instant response” would engage customers in conversation. That did not turn out to be the case. So we let the project drift for a couple of years.

So what has changed that may make this strategy become a more effective experience, marketing wise? For starters, many more websites in other industries are using it, so customers are becoming accustomed to it. Customer service off of websites has taken two routes as the battle to balance customer satisfaction while simultaneously reducing costs has raged. The first effort was to go offshore, but that has proven to be less than satisfactory to the user. Keeping a fully staffed 24 hour a day team here in the states was out of the cost range for the companies. Thus the popularity of online chat for support.

Add to that these following trends and we MAY have the making of a new option for real estate agents:

  1. Over the past three years more and more people have become comfortable texting back and forth than ever before. Think about how much more comfortable YOU are with that than 3 years ago.
  2. People are now much more amenable to the idea of  condensing their questions down to a short message and hitting SEND. (Call it the Twitter Factor, or the Facebook status factor, or whatever).
  3. Online chat USED to be only when you were right in front of your computer. Now smart phones and reliable internet access give us the option of receiving online chats from the website right onto our iPhone or EVO or Droid, etc.

So the bottomline is this…I think it is time to re-visit whether this works on real estate websites in light of the above shifts. So let’s say that you are getting a bunch of HomeGain traffic to your website… Why not give your visitors an additional option to contact you to chat LIVE and let you help them find what they are looking for?

What do you think?

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Comments

6 Comments on “Is Online Chat Making a Comeback for Websites?”

Marc Brodeur

Very interesting Mitch.

It may work. I think instant access is nice for questions. I wonder how it can be measured and if it bleeds from another area of lead conversion? In the end the only number that matters is how much business has increased from the year prior right? What we found is specialization has the greatest return, whether its a property type or a geographical area. The more dominant you are in one area, the larger the return on investment.

Tom Inglesby

I believe that we have almost on line chat with web sites like Trullia and Homes.com have question and answers from different areas of your home town and you can be seen as the expert in your blogs that you resond to their questions.

Logan

I have a chat applet on my highly traffic site http://www.realestatelogan.com, but I probably only get one person try and contact me by that method, and I’m online all the time. It seems like there would be a lot more interest in asking questions in a way as non threatening as chat.

Desert Mountain Scottsdale

I never would have used that 3 years ago, but would do so now. I think people are more open to it these days.

Alex Cortez

Although it has been functional (for more than real estate applications) for quite a while, it can be the time to implement it successfully for real estate sites. Specially with consumers becoming more accustomed to having this feature available, it becomes more relevant. Thanks for sharing, Eric.

Rob McCance

Quite interesting if you have the traffic to test it. I would give it a try if there was a WP plugin that would go chat to text message and back. I cant sit at the computer all day chatting.

Anyone aware of anything like that?

Rob for Atlanta Real Estate

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