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Web Chat For Pool Builders

Author: Kelly Michael Skelton of Backyard Assist

Web chat is a fairly new technology and the idea of adding it to your website can seem daunting. Which web chat vendor should you choose? Then, how do you set it up on the website? Most importantly, who will manage it after its setup? These are all valid questions. In fact, I had these questions too when I initially considered web chat for our pool business.

Now, four years later, we’ve seen web chat as a major source of lead generation and I want to help other pool companies make the leap to implement it. In this article, I’ll answer all of the questions I pointed out above and share some results from our web chat experience.

Web Chat Vendors

There are an endless amount of web chat providers. Some of the higher end vendors allow for things like custom web chats on each page of your website and AI conversations. This is not what I believe a pool company needs. Instead, we saw great success with the simple providers. Our choice was Broadly and they’ve been great, but this is not exclusively an endorsement of one vendor.

There are a few criteria that would be good starting points for your evaluation. First, make sure the vendor will care about your business. When you go to their website, do they brag about their largest customers or do they tout themselves as a good solution for local businesses?

Next, it’s advantageous to pair services. Look for a vendor who can help you in many ways. For example, Broadly offered us the ability to collect payments from our clients via credit card and text our customers from a non-employee cell phone.

Finally, for setup make sure you can easily add it to your website and forget about the install. You don’t want to constantly have to tweak the web chat tool every week. For example, after we installed web chat, we didn’t touch it for over 3 years before we changed some of the language.

How To Setup Web Chat?

If you choose a vendor like Broadly, the install is straightforward. We run our website through PBLR, so they did the install for us and just had us confirm that it looked the way we wanted it to appear. As we developed a second website, PBLR again helped us add it there. If you don’t have your web services through PBLR or another agency, you will need to download a plugin (for WordPress) or add the code manually to your website.

Web Chat Benefits

Generally speaking, when we added web chat we started getting more leads and therefore, more sales. It’s a fact that even the best websites don’t convert the majority of their visitors. In fact, for a lot of pool companies, you may only get 10% of visitors to fill out a form. Web chat helps start conversations, it pops up in the bottom right corner of your website and offers help. When people start to talk to it, the chat confirms their phone number and email so that you can follow up on your own time.

When we started using web chat, we began capturing the customers that were in the beginning research phase of getting a pool, renovation or routine maintenance plan. Most of the time when a pool owner starts that research, they don’t reach out right away and they don’t remember who they looked at when they go back. They might just be looking for some basic information. By utilizing web chat, you start having the conversation with that customer and can be their source to ask all of the questions they have. Then, when it comes time to make a decision, your company is on the top of their mind.

We saw nearly a 50% increase in leads the year after we added web chat. As we continue to offer web chat, that 50% increase has been maintained. For a little more work managing the tool, it yields a lot more sales. If you have questions specific to your business, please feel free to contact me.

How To Manage Web Chat

If you have someone like a receptionist or assistant that is already handling your phone calls, this is probably the easiest person to manage your web chat. They would essentially be doing the same thing but instead of over the phone, via text (the backend of web chat resembles a text conversation). Then, when the lead is ready to talk to a salesperson, the web chat manager can enter them into your system.

Responding in a timely manner is how you get the most conversions. Similar to a form submission, people want to hear back as soon as possible. If you have someone checking these messages hourly, you’re sure to stand out from your competition.

I suggest adding ‘web chat’ as a new lead source in your system. That way at the end of the year you can determine how many leads and sales you received from web chat. This will help you decide whether to continue using the tool relative to the cost.

How Much Does Web Chat Cost?

You can pay $50,000 per year for web chat if you want to. However, a simple web chat like Broadly will only cost you a few thousand dollars per year. We spend under $5,000 currently and generate millions in sales. The return on investment will likely speak for itself. However, even if it turns out to not work for your company/market, it’s a relatively small investment with a huge potential upside.

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