What is proactive live chat?

Compared to the last two years, the availability of Dutch websites via live chat has improved in 2016. This is why it is time to look at an important aspect of live chat. We previously explained how you can boost your live-chat channel to achieve better results. One of the tips we gave was to actively talk to your customers; proactively, in other words. What does that entail, what is the best approach and what can you achieve with live chat?

Like in a shop, you can use live chat to converse with your customers reactively or proactively. A reactive approach would be to let customers comfortably stroll through your shop for a little while, browsing your inventory while deciding what to buy. You provide an answer if you’re asked a question, but don’t take the initiative to share information concerning your company or your products. In some, larger shops, like H&M, this is the best approach. These kinds of companies simply have too many customers to proactively talk to all of them, and are barely required to do anything to make customers return to their shops.

You can consider yourself very fortunate if you own a large company like H&M. Selling products is a lot easier for you and a successful future is almost guaranteed. But, there are many more companies that aren’t in such a luxury position that they can rightfully call themselves customer magnets. If you own a small-to-medium-sized company that has to reel in each sale it makes, you will benefit more from a proactive approach. With this approach, you take the first step towards your customers. You provide them with the information they need to make a deliberate decision before they purchase a product.

Prevent your customers from leaving your webshop

More so than with face-to-face sales, customers have the easy option of simply “walking out” of your webshop, since there’s nobody to say goodbye to and leaving is only a question of clicking the cross at the top of the page. In a shop, you can tell if someone is getting ready to leave, but on a website, you can’t see it coming. You cannot spring into action at the last moment, so you must make sure that you’re always on time. This is precisely what proactive chatting achieves; making sure that you talk to customers before they leave your shop.


A recent study by Forrester showed that reactive chat generates a return on investment of 15 percent, which is certainly pleasant. However, live chat can generate much more; a proactive approach generates an impressive ROI of 105 percent. Proactive means undertaking action before something happens. This could mean undertaking action before your customers leave your website.

You might also consider this the same as being one step ahead of your customers. There is nothing more annoying than needing the assistance of an employee, but not having someone around to provide that assistance, making you feel alone in the shop, or, alternatively, there being an employee present who is busy with other things, like cleaning, folding jumpers or playing Candy Crush. Are you inclined to wait for the person in question, actively approach him or her, or do you prefer to buy products from someone who does want to sell you something? Probably the latter.

On a side note, we could also say that pre-emptively solving problems could also be considered a proactive approach, but this falls more within the broader reach of “proactive customer service”. You may not have contact with your customers, but you do prevent them from having to phone or email you if your website is functioning adequately and/or all orders are sent on time. Although proactive customer service has many significant advantages for companies, let’s focus more specifically on proactive live chat, because the question remains: how should it be approached?

How does proactive live chat work?

With proactive chat, the aim of the game is to speak to customers before they contact you. The great thing about proactive chat is that it can be almost entirely automated. This doesn’t require setting a team of fifty people to work. You can easily configure a live-chat window to open on your customers’ computer screens if they’ve been browsing around on your website for a specified number of minutes. The duration in question can be configured. Often, you can also configure this for a particular page or a certain part of your website.

You can also configure the messages you send. Another great advantage is that these messages can be personalised. Well, you can’t configure them based on individual people yet, but you can configure them based on particular surfing behaviour or even someone’s location. For example, if your customer has been browsing portable headphones for half an hour, you could mention it in your opening message. Something like: “Hi! I noticed you’ve been looking at our headphones for a while. Are you able to find what you’re looking for?”.

After you’ve sent the first, automated message, the ball is in the customer’s court. Customers can now choose whether to respond to your message. If they don’t, they might not be interested in buying or talking to you (via live chat). This means you are not required you to waste valuable time. Customers who do want to know more about your products and who are willing to talk to you via live chat will respond to the message. This is where your team can come in and start talking to the customer.


To find out which proactive approach works best for you it is important to experiment. Try configuring different greeting messages and find out which are most effective. Play around with the greeting time and optimise it so that most of your greeting messages are responded to by customers. What also works is experimenting with the appearance of the chat window. Maybe there are colours that do appeal to your customers, and others that don’t. A chat window should always appear reliable, so make sure it fits with the rest of your website.

The customer

Customers appreciate a proactive approach, since it frees them from the need to contact you. People sometimes say talking to people browsing your website could cause irritation to visitors. This could certainly be the case. That’s why it is important to tackle this properly. Don’t start talking to customers too soon, but give them time to look around. Configure proactive messages in such a way that a message is only sent to people who seem to be stuck somewhere, like in the example of the wireless headphones. But most importantly, make sure that customers don’t feel like they’re being spammed.

Did you know that you can employ live chat for customer service, to increase conversion rates and for lead generation? Many companies aren’t aware yet that live chat can help enormously with your sales and company, which is a shame. Therefore, read our article about the goals for which you can employ live chat, and don’t forget that you don’t need to manage all aspects of live chat yourself.