Internet Chat Lifts Sales for Bizfon

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Bizfon, a telephone systems provider for small businesses, recently added a live Internet chat feature to its customer contact center and has closed 14 percent of the total online leads it has generated.

In July, Bizfon Inc., Salem, NH, started using the text chat service provided by !hey inc., North Andover, MA. Through the online chat, Bizfon generated leads that resulted in the company issuing quotes for $30,000 worth of products and services to about a dozen potential customers in the first month.

Through August, the company has closed on $14,000 worth of sales from leads generated by the chat line, said Greg Hassell, director of Internet marketing at Bizfon. Average orders have been around $2,700.

Bizfon in the past has depended on banner ads and direct mailers to reach its target market, offices with 20 or fewer employees. It also has an eight-person sales force in its contact center.

"This is not a commodity product," Hassell said. "We've chosen to sell it direct."

Bizfon contracted with !hey to launch the chat feature in an effort to cull more customers from its Web site, Hassell said. Installing the program took less than half an hour.

Two of the contact center's top sales employees got the job of staffing the chat line, Hassell said. They can still talk with other customers on the phone while at the same time typing out conversations with other customers online through the text chat feature.

"Economywise, they're able to maximize their performance," Hassell said. "They can be doing one, two, three things at once."

Potential customers can remain anonymous while they type text messages to Bizfon's contact center agents through the chat line, Hassell said. The passive approach helps the company contact potential customers who might not want to give their personal information.

"They don't have to be on the phone or answer questions they don't want to," Hassell said.

People who use the chat line generally do so because they are looking to buy a phone system for their business, so the sales cycle tends to be quicker, Hassell said.

Because businesses don't update their phone systems often, it can take a long time to turn around a sale. Often it takes six months before a direct mail piece generates a lead, Hassell said.

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