Skip to main content

WMC Interviews: Farrakh Azhar


I had the distinct pleasure this week of talking to Farrakh Azhar, founder and CEO of WebGreeter / LiveAdmins. While there are several companies that offer Web site chat software, WebGreeter is unique in offering both the software (hosted) and the operators who handle the chat sessions. In short, WebGreeter customers not only have no software to install, they also don't have to staff the Web chat function. Customers pay only for what "chat resources" they use, and still get all the advtanges of greeting prospects as they visit their sites: increased visit length, greater "stickiness," and ultimately higher conversion of visitors to customers.

WebMarketCentral (WMC) : What did you do before starting WebGreeter / Live Admins?

Farrakh Azhar (FA): I began my professional experience as a businessman, helping the family-business in Import/Export, Retail and Manufacturing. After graduating from Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in 1991, I started working for International Business Machines (IBM), assisting them in Data Networking and Operations. Later, I became a consultant and started designing, engineering and implementing large IT infrastructure projects for fortune 500 clients.

My consultancy experience increased by accepting assignments related to IT infrastructure projects with large IT bases such as Ameritech/SBC, People’s Gas (Gas Company of Chicago) Key Stone Steel Mill, The U.S. Military and Chicago Public Schools (one of the largest school systems in the U.S.).

I joined ABN AMRO in 1997 as a Project Manager in the Network Services Group and was promoted to Senior Project Manager and Systems Officer after six months.

I went on to help the bank develop project management lifecycles and processes in order to make the deliverables produced by the IT organization more market driven and cost effective, making products more attractive for the potential customers and enhancing the efficacy of the entire process. I also helped the bank build a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) team, service level management team, and a procurement team.

WMC: How, when and why did you get started in this business?

FA: It was while I working with Fortune 500's of Chicago develop and implement business and technical processes that I struck upon the idea on an online live service support team. So, I did some research, wrote an 80-page business plan, decided to start my own business, and started working on it. This, coupled with my process engineering background and business sense that I had acquired earlier, helped me with the execution on this business plan. It seemed like a logical progression at the time.

WMC: Who do you target, i.e. describe your ideal or typical client?

FA: Our business strategy has been to grow from smaller customers to larger ones, and therefore we have been targeting larger customer as we go along. Currently we are targeting customers with a large web presence in the retail space who can utilize both our customer service and sales support abilities.

WMC: What is your key differentiator (or differentiators), that is, what separates you from your competition?

FA: Well, we do not have much of a competition today in our space. But, we do have a bunch of businesses who are trying to sell software-only solutions. We are in the business of providing the human representatives who sit behind the computer screens all day long and greet every one who lands on our customer's website. This is what differentiates us from all the rest of the businesses associated with the Live Chat support space.

WMC: How do you market/promote your business?

FA: We use multiple marketing methods such as outbound call centers, email, search engine marketing (SEM), banners, PR, and last but not the least, word of mouth which has proven to be the foremost and best marketing strategy for us by far.

WMC: What’s the biggest or most important marketing lesson you’ve learned since you founded Live Admins?

FA: My biggest lesson learned was when I decided to put my staff on the phones and chat at the same time. We learned the hard way, that once you put a person on the chat, he/she can not work the phones. This is because, once you are on the phone, you cannot do anything else. Since then, we have had two different teams, one for chat support and one for phone support. I will urge other organizations who are thinking of implementing chat and phone support utilizing the same people to learn from our mistakes. Think through your call center processes before you do this; for the most part I recommend the two separate teams theory.

WMC: Anything else you’d like to add?

FA: Another lesson I learned was not to spend our marketing dollars on print media. I was spending huge amounts on print media and chamber of commerce-type networking which did not materialize for us at all. The reason: our customers are predominantly web-driven people who understood the web very well, and are most were getting their information from the web for most of their business and personal requirements.

Also you can get a clearer picture of the workings of our service from the following press release:


Web Greeters Offer Opportunity to Keep in Touch With Online Visitors

CHICAGO (May 5, 2005) – Online businesses are in a fierce competition to lure in visitors to their sites and turn those visitors to customers. Still, between 95 percent and 97 percent of them click away within two minutes.

A 3-year-old company in Chicagoland has come up with a simple but smashing solution: Web Greeters. Web Greeters offers Web site owners an opportunity to keep in touch with their online visitors in real time with real salespeople available on the Web site. The idea is not to wait for the visitor to click but to greet every qualified visitor and say: "Hello. I am the Web site greeter. How can I help?" before they end up on a competitor's Web site.

"After providing this service for the past three years and our extensive research before that, we found that most visitors who end up on a Web site by mistake leave within the first 30 to 40 seconds," said LiveAdmins CEO and founder Farrakh Azhar. "The rest would click away usually to a competitor's Web site within 2 minutes. Of the ones who stayed for 2 minutes, they can’t even remember which site they visited the next morning. Because of this knowledge, we greet the visitor first to engage them in a pleasant chat and to keep them on the site longer.

"Our service not only provides a software tool but also a small team of well-trained sales personnel allocated to each specific Web site operating from remote locations in Asian countries. These Web greeters help visitors browse through the site, provide information and answer queries.

"Apart from our research findings and the extensive training our operators go through, our operators also have real-time information about each visitor on screen such as from which site they are coming from, on which page of the Web site they are currently on, what they are reading and how long have they been here. All this information provided by our software helps our operators in their decision-making process while they greet each visitor individually to convert them into customers.

“During our three years of experience, we manage to keep between 10 percent and 35 percent of visitors on the site whereas without Web greeters only between 3 percent and 5 percent of visitors stay on a site for more than 2 minutes. That is a substantial increase in the conversion ratio with the help of Web greeters.

"We have also found out that the number of visitors willing to continue a chat with our greeters varies in different industries. The percentage for the least-likely industry comes to average 10 percent, which again is a substantial number.

"These percentages are indicative of visitors who not only willingly chat with our greeters but also trust them to leave their phone numbers along with e-mail addresses for further contact. In contrast, only about 3 percent of visitors leave their contact information on a site and that mostly is just an e-mail address.

"To visitors who decline to chat, our greeters are trained to say: 'Thanks for coming to our Web site. If you need any help, feel free to click on the button and I'll be here to help.'

"We have found that between 20 percent and 30 percent of the visitors who initially decline to chat but continue browsing by themselves end up clicking for the online help once they have settled into the site. It was also found that the response was much better if the look and feel of the chat window was customized to integrate with the Website design.

"When we asked the owners what they felt was the best feature of the service, most said that the best part of the service is that it is provided for 12 hours, which spans working hours across all time zones in the U.S. Our business is kept open even during off hours of the day with a polite and professional salesperson who gives the visitor a feeling that we care while generating many more qualified leads.

"We're the most experienced company in the area of implementing chat-based Web site customer service and sales support. We have put in a lot of research and effort into learning what to say, how to say it, when to say it and when to throw a smiling face to ease difficult moods. We found that between 25 percent and 30 percent of second-time visitors ask to talk to the same live agent they chatted with before, which is proof of Web greeters building relationships with customers to benefit the sites.”

The service becomes very affordable as compared to phone-based call center services since live Web greeters can have multiple conversations simultaneously. This enables the Web site owners to greet and get in touch with many more visitors for much less and even during late and off hours of the day.

A testimonial from one of our satisfied customer sums it all: “We are very happy with the service," said Verne Harnish, a member of Gazelles. "The key point you need to make is that having a Web site without a Web greeter is like having a store without any people in it. I couldn’t imagine walking into Nordstrom and just wandering around while hoping to find something and then purchasing it. While some people might like this, I like to walk up to a person, tell them what I’m looking for and have them take me right to where it is.”

More testimonials are available online here: http://www.webgreeter.com. You can view a TV interview with Azhar here: http://www.liveadmins.com/newcltv.htm. A list of present customers can be made available on request.


To view this document online please go to : http://www.eprairie.com/releases/viewrelease.asp?postID=407


*****

Terms: online chat, chat software, search engine marketing, SEM, Web Greeter, WebGreeter, Live Admins, LiveAdmins

The e-commerce portal: WebMarketCentral.com

Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentral.com

Comments

This blog is awesome! If you get a chance you may want to visit this instant messaging software site, it's pretty awesome too!
This blog is awesome! If you get a chance you may want to visit this marketing software site, it's pretty awesome too!
Dream Builder said…
Great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you! I have a mlm opt in lead site. It pretty much covers mlm opt in lead related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)
Dream Builder said…
Hi there, I was just blog surfing and found you! If you are interested, go see my business business lead leads.com mlm opportunity opportunity real responsive seeker seeker time related site. It isnt anything special but you may still find something of interest.
Anonymous said…
Just came accross your blog while browsing. I invite you to visit: website design bathurst
Anonymous said…
Very cool blog you got! I just added you to my bookmarks!

I have a great article resource you might want to check out.
Anonymous said…
Hi,

I was just looking around the net for web sites related to father daughter relationship and came across your blog. I was going to add a blog to my site, for father daughter relationship and of course other related material, but I'm not sure if it would work.
I'm a bit worried about getting un-wanted 'rude' posts rather than ones related to father daughter relationship on my site...... perhaps I just try it out - then you can come and post on it :)

Take care
Stewart
Nick said…
Hey, you have a great blog here! I'm definitely going to bookmark you!

I have a easy ways for kid to make money site. It pretty much covers easy ways for kid to make money related stuff.

Come and check it out if you get time :-)
Anonymous said…
Yo, This blog is pretty neat. You should check out mine sometime. It pretty much covers free business opportunity related stuff.
Anonymous said…
Great Blog you have here! I am going to bookmark this one....

If your looking for **free traffic**

**auto-surf**
Check this one out :-)
Anonymous said…
I like the post.....it inspired me to open my own organisation....

Debera


Cash Online Get Easy cash at your door step

All Time Greats

Best of 2008: Social Media Optimization, Part 6

This content has been moved to Best of 2008: Social Media Marketing on the Webbiquity blog. ***** technorati tags: online video SEO reputation management social bookmarking social media marketing SEO and reputation management Search Engine Journal Loren Baker Google Video ClipShare PHPmotion 30 largest social bookmarking sites Anything Goes Blog Stuntdubl social media can increase revenue Social Media Today Jacob Morgan increase blog traffic How To Make My Blog Marko Saric what not to do in social media Interactive Insights Group Robin Broitman social media gaffes Target Motrin Starbucks Whole Foods FedEx del.icio.us tags: online video SEO reputation management social bookmarking social media marketing SEO and reputation management Search Engine Journal Loren Baker Google Video ClipShare PHPmotion 30 largest social bookmarking sites Anything Goes Blog Stuntdubl social media can increase revenue Social Media Today Jacob Morgan increa

Blog Pitches - Good, Bad and Ugly

This content has been moved to Good, Bad and Ugly Blog Pitches on the Webbiquity blog. ***** technorati tags: How To Pitch To Bloggers, Laura Moncur, Cece Lee, Lauren Barrows, Dean Levitt, Mad Mimi, Flimp Media Inc., rich media marketing platform, AngelVision, VHD Technology, Ajaxian, 37signals, Backpack del.icio.us tags: How To Pitch To Bloggers, Laura Moncur, Cece Lee, Lauren Barrows, Dean Levitt, Mad Mimi, Flimp Media Inc., rich media marketing platform, AngelVision, VHD Technology, Ajaxian, 37signals, Backpack icerocket tags: How To Pitch To Bloggers, Laura Moncur, Cece Lee, Lauren Barrows, Dean Levitt, Mad Mimi, Flimp Media Inc., rich media marketing platform, AngelVision, VHD Technology, Ajaxian, 37signals, Backpack Contact Tom Pick: tomATwebmarketcentralDOTcom

How to Use SEO: Leverage SEO To Be Found Online and Boost Your Online Marketing

All businesses that want to attract customers online, no matter the business size or age, have few options other than Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  SEO In The Box™ by Results Driven Marketing®, LLC There are roughly 1.8 billion websites online, and basic SEO allows Google to find and index or catalog your webpages.  After that, Google serves you up to searchers in the organic section.  The question remains: where they list your site, on page one or page 22 or further back? SEO controls your positioning. Do you want to be found online or not? If your business is online or you want your product or service to be found online, then Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a must, and knowing how to use SEO to leverage the power of the internet is vital. Arguably, an effective SEO strategy gets you on the organic results section of the search engine results pages (SERP). Organic traffic is highly valuable and requires high-quality SEO. But even businesses that use l

Google and the Parable of the Turkey

In The Black Swan , Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes about the life of the turkey: for 100 days, the turkey is sheltered, fed and cared for by the farmer. The turkey grows to trust the farmer completely, even perhaps developing a fondness for the farmer (and of course the feed). Then, on the 101st day (with Thanksgiving quickly approaching), the relationship between the turkey and the farmer changes abruptly and permanently. The rationale behind the farmer's apparent benevolence become clear in a final flash before the turkey takes the necessary step preceding de-feathering, vacuum-packing, freezing and shipping off to the market. Taleb's lesson for us from this: don't be a turkey. More succinctly, don't assume that the future will resemble the past, or, in the words of mutual fund prospectuses , "past performance is no guarantee of future results." Also, remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Of course, that doesn't take into account the pe

Hosted Email Service Price Comparison: Part 1

Hosted marketing email services are almost a commodity. Much like web hosting, email outsourcing is pretty much a no-brainer for all but the highest volume mail senders; email providers have already made the investments in deliverability, CAN-SPAM compliance, HTML tools and reporting, so there's no reason to build your own. And also similar to web hosting providers, there are few significant functional differences to separate one from another, so the choice largely comes down to personal preference, and—as with all commodities—price. Email hosting services aren't quite a commodity, as there are still differences in functionality and service offerings. Virtually all of them, however, offer at least the same basic set of capabilities, including list management, tools for creating HTML and plain text emails, scheduling and reporting. This chart compares current pricing levels for eight popular hosted marketing email platforms (click to enlarge): So, which platform offers the best

Email Campaign, Newsletter and Banner Ad Click-Through Rates (CTR)

When planning online advertising and email promotion budgets, it's critical to calculate the likely ROI upfront whenever possible, as well as to establish campaign benchmarks. The first step is understanding the average and likely range of CTRs for various programs. The growth in online advertising, the proliferation of enewsletters, the emergence of new forms of information delivery such as RSS and the emergence of social media sites have all affected CTR, so planning based on current data is crucial. It can be challenging to find current statistics, but based on several studies, these are typical CTR ranges for email newsletter ads, email campaigns (blasts or internally-produced enewsletters), and banner ads. Email newsletter advertisements Open rates range from 28-40%, with an average of about 33%—meaning that roughly one-third of the subscriber base is likely to see your ad. The Advertising Is Good For You blog tracks these statistics from DoubleClick . The average CT

How to Come Up With a Rock-Solid Brand Strategy for Your Business

How to Come Up With a Rock-Solid Brand Strategy for Your Business Modern businesses have to battle for audiences’ attention. A strong brand will make your business stand out from the competition and help create a long-lasting, positive association with target audiences. Without a solid branding strategy , your business is in danger of being lost in the crowd and failing to impress worthwhile audiences. Although investing in building and growing your brand may not seem to give immediate returns, the exercise has long-term benefits that impact visibility and conversion positively. A solid branding strategy is a result of conscientious effort and thorough research and we have distilled the complex mechanism into comprehensible steps below: Outline your brand’s objectives Your brand’s objectives need to align with your business goals. If you are starting a new venture, your vision needs to be clear and realistic. Your brand message, proposition, and tone will resonat

The 11th P of Blogging: Perspective

The 10Ps of blogging may seem to be quite enough, but a recent article by Matt Richtel of the New Yorks Times entitled Work fast, die young: The blogger lifestyle? pointed out the need for an 11th "P" word—perspective. Why do you blog? Probably for many reasons, but most of the bloggers I most frequently interact with—people like Brian Carroll of the B2B Lead Generation Blog , Elge Premeau at My Travels on the Net , Albert Maruggi at the Marketing Edge , and Skip Lineberg of Marketing Genius —blog primarily as a PR activity to support a separate consulting business or marketing agency. There are also corporate bloggers, analysts, journalists, and people who just enjoy writing as a creative outlet. The vast majority of bloggers do so on a part-time basis, but a few people—a tiny fraction of a fraction of the 100 million-plus bloggers—do it for a living. Which brings us back to Richtel's article. He focused on two technology bloggers, Russell Shaw and Marc Orchant , who