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Live Chat for New Clients

Live chats with website visitors could be the future of prospecting, but advisors must first address compliance and personal productivity issues.

Bill Winterberg, 06/13/2013

One growing trend found on many business websites is the use of online interactive chat tools. The "live chat" feature is used for a variety of purposes including general prospect inquiries, customer service, and even complaint handling, ultimately giving consumers more ways to engage a service provider.

Financial advisors could borrow a page from the customer service playbook of large enterprises by offering similar live chat capabilities on their own websites. However, advisors are unclear whether live chat is really worth the effort or if they can even use the feature without encountering compliance issues.

For advisors seeking to be on the leading edge of interactive communication, live chat provides the opportunity to engage prospects and clients in a convenient, interactive way, provided they approach the technology prudently.

What Is Live Chat?
Most Internet users have likely noticed the increased prevalence of live chat pop-up windows in the lower corner of websites. Some businesses even specifically direct customers to a live chat discussion with a customer service representative to resolve a question or issue instead of fielding the question by phone.

Essentially, live chat is similar to a text or instant message sent to friends, but instead, messages are delivered to designated operators within a business organization. Live operators can respond to incoming messages directly or even route specific inquiries to other operators based on message content. Operators can answer questions, provide hyperlinks to knowledge base information, or escalate customer service issues where appropriate.

Live chat can be an attractive alternative to contacting a company by its toll-free phone number, particularly because live chat all but eliminates endless phone trees and long hold times. I can't remember how many times I've said to myself under my breath, "If my call really was important to you, you'd answer it right away!"

Compliance First
With a prudent approach, live chat can certainly increase engagement with website visitors, thereby increasing the odds that they will want to learn more about an advisor's services and ultimately even become clients.

On the other hand, live chat raises concerns over compliance, including questions about what can and can't be discussed, whether chat messages need to be archived, or how a chief compliance officer should supervise chat.

Bill Winterberg, CFP, is a technology and operations consultant to independent financial advisors. His comments on technology have been featured in a variety of financial industry publications. You can view more information about Bill and see his schedule of upcoming speaking engagements at his Web site, FPPad.com. The author is a freelance contributor to MorningstarAdvisor.com. The views expressed in this article may or may not reflect the views of Morningstar.

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