How do you convert that first-time visitor to your e-commerce website into a customer? A tool such as the free, open-source Crafty Syntax Live Help 2.14 may help, by offering live text chat with your sales team.

How do you make it easier for your visitor to become a prospect and ultimately a customer? A live text chat service that allows interaction with online prospects is one way of breaking the ice. And Crafty Syntax Live Help 2.14 is one such tool - that's free. Visitors whose questions are satisfactorily answered in real time by your sales staff are more likely to purchase your products and services later on.

For some websites and businesses, particularly those selling inexpensive, simple-to-understand products or services, the path from the initial visit to purchase can be relatively short.

However, if you sell more expensive or technically complex goods and services, persuading a web visitor to become a customer can take time - and support. The long selling cycle for these items doesn't mesh well with the short attention span of many online visitors.

According to a Northstar Research Partners study commissioned by live chat vendor LivePerson, high-value customers who spend more than the average consumer are more likely to use live chat.

The study says more people feel highly satisfied after receiving customer service via live chat (46 percent rate it 9 to 10 on a 10-point scale) than other forms of customer service such as a toll-free number (41 percent), email support (31 percent) or online FAQs (24 percent).

Crafty Syntax Live Help offers a free yet surprisingly sophisticated live chat app that's relatively easy to install on your e-commerce site. While you will need to devote time to monitoring chat requests and answering visitor's questions, the payoff will come when higher visitor satisfaction leads to more sales.

Installing Crafty Syntax Live Help 2.14

If you want to run Crafty Syntax Live Help 2.14, ideally your web host or server should support both the MySQL database and the PHP programming language. You can run Live Help with a text database, but performance may suffer, especially on larger sites with many visitors.

You start by downloading the zip file from the CCrafty Syntax website, unzipping it on your PC, then uploading the unpacked files to your web server.

You'll need to set up a MySQL database with an authorised user account and modify a PHP configuration file. Next, use your web browser to access the Crafty Syntax Live Help 2.14 wizard, which steps through the remainder of the installation. Clear, easy-to-understand instructions are bundled with the download and are also available on Crafty Syntax's website.

Integrating Crafty Syntax Live Help 2.14

To integrate Live Help with your site, you'll need to add a bit of HTML code to your web pages. Click on Crafty Syntax Live Help 2.14's Department tab; select your options, such as the choice of online chat graphic; then click Create to generate the HTML code.

You can generate different code for each section or department of your e-commerce site. This allows you to assign different chat operators with specialized knowledge to each department.

When a chat operator is available, an icon (that you can customise) appears on the web page inviting the visitor to chat by clicking on it. When no operator is available, the icon changes, inviting the visitor to send a message for a later email response. You can develop a custom input form that asks the visitor to enter a name and email address in addition to the question or comment.