Olark Interview: Talkin Chat for Sales

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IntervieweeBen Congleton, CEO and Co-Founder, Olark Live Chat

Jorge: What’s the history of the Olark team? What was the inspiration behind building the initial product?

Ben: Olark Live Chat started with a very simple idea:  Let’s build the easiest way to help businesses chat with their customers on their website. Roland Osborne, Matt Pizzimenti, Zach Steindler and I quit our jobs and went full time on Olark in the summer of 2009.

Talking directly to your customers is essential.  Most businesses obsess over driving traffic to their websites and optimizing click-through rates. We believed that there was an enormous opportunity to help businesses build direct relationships with their customers who were already on their website, the same way you would in person if someone was browsing your store.

Today we strive to help all companies create, understand, and engage happy customers.

Jorge: What is Olark, today?

Ben: Olark is proof that customer service drives sales. The companies that use Olark want to provide instant answers to their customers, and more importantly understand how amazing service generates sales and retains great customers.

We have over 5000 customers around the world who see the value of chat.

As a company we are focused on three things:

1. Customer Service – We look at customer service as the lifeblood of a company. People often forget that companies exist to serve customers. At Olark, we ALL use our product to better serve our customers. We call it “All Hands Support.”

2. Customer Experience – this means building a product that is easy for you and your customers to use, helping training your team to succeed, and continually refining our product.  From interactions with our support team, to how your customers use Olark, we strive to simplify.

3. Culture – We are building a company to last.  We’ve doubled the team size in the past year and continue to grow.  While serving customers is essential to our business, so is building a team and culture that delivers amazing customer service and amazing customer experience.

Jorge: How has Olark been helping companies generate leads? Has it proven to help qualify leads in a more efficient way?

Ben: Chat beats lead forms and the telephone hands down. Chat is simple, immediate and can be used from anywhere, so potential customers are much more likely to chat than they are to pick up the phone and/or fill out a lead form. When you have a conversation over chat you know the customer is on your website right now, and able to take action immediately, plus you have a bunch of additional context (web site referrer, search terms, browsing history) that you can use to qualify and close the sale.

Depending on the size of your company, chat will serve different lead gen purposes. Small companies tend to have low, but highly qualified traffic because it’s hard for people to find their website.  For most small businesses even just getting one more lead a week is a big deal! We’ve helped dentists, car dealers, web designers, real estate agents, and software companies to generate and close leads.

For companies with hundreds of thousands of visitors a day, it’s important to target their use of Olark to customers who have already self-qualified, i.e. viewed pricing information, expressed interest in a high value plan, or come in on an ad campaign. We call this filtering “targeted chat.” Once qualified, these customers often push leads into CRM systems like Salesforce to move customers into their standard sales process.

Sometimes chat can help increase conversion without any human touch. Eztexting found that signups to their service increased 33% just by having Olark on the page: http://visualwebsiteoptimizer.com/split-testing-blog/live-chat-increases-signups/

Jorge: What are the major integrations that Olark has and how can a company easily integrate it into their sales workflow?

Ben: Initially we were focused on making it incredibly easy to add chat to your website. Now we take that same care in helping you use chat as part of your sales process. Most of our customers are able to start pushing leads into their CRM within a day of signing up.

Olark fits right into your sales workflow. Olark has built integrations for Salesforce, SugarCRM, Highrise, WordPress, Google Analytics, among others, and provides a powerful API for integration with other sales and marketing tools like Pardot and Marketo.


Check out Ben in action:


To find out more, chat with us at Olark.com.


InterviewerJorge Soto, Sale4StartUps, @sotoventures, Linkedin