The NOW scheme had barely started when the applications flooded in. But not from Mister Sales , which saw its turnover almost halve in a week. Founder and director Jan Pieter Vreeken saw this disruption as a signal to change tack: “I am convinced that a new door opens much more easily if you close another door first. When Corona knocked, I immediately thought: okay, which business ideas do we still have on the shelf?”

He saw the crisis as an opportunity. “My father used to say: when it’s dark outside, you should put more light on in the shop window.” In order to determine exactly where that light should come from, Vreeken, together with the entire staff, organized a virtual crisis meeting about the question: how can we still intercept breaths of wind for our customers in this new reality? “Everyone agreed that if there was still wind anywhere, it was online. That is how the idea of rolling out chat arose.” This turned out to be a golden opportunity!

Then the most important question was: can our current customer contact supplier guarantee this for us? “Technically that was a piece of cake because Steam-connect already has that functionality. But the speed and volume we created turned out to be a different challenge. They have fulfilled their promise to facilitate us as much as possible. At the moment, investments are even being made in new servers to guarantee growth,” says Vreeken. “Such a short line is very nice, because we didn’t have time to delve into the technology ourselves. Steam-connect just makes it work. I am really proud of that.”

Works in almost every market

Based on the idea ‘the world is your customer’, Mister Sales started calling customers with the question: shall we see if we can still bring in new leads through chat? The aim was not to immediately win new contracts. “We just started on a ‘no cure no pay’ basis to see if it worked,” says Vreeken, still with a mix of excitement and disbelief in his voice. It ran great from day one. “We now handle chat for a very diverse range of customers in B2B and B2C. With each customer we have determined on which website pages we can approach prospects in a targeted manner. For example, we have used chat on the page with white papers at a law firm. Only when people download content are they approached. For a bridal fashion store, we seek contact with visitors much earlier in the customer journey. You should not impose yourself, but give prospects the opportunity to ask questions completely without barriers.”

These chats are handled in Steam-connect by the ‘ChatMasters’, as MisterSales calls them. “These ‘ChatMasters’ don’t give answers, they only ask questions with great empathy to find out where the customer needs are. The customer questions plus all contact details are forwarded to our client, who then calls the prospect back and helps further. The result: a filled sales funnel with prospects that the client had not expected to get.”

New Skill

According to Vreeken, the reason why it works so well is clear: “Customers who visit a website specifically are looking for information. We help them find that information even faster. Compare it to a good shop assistant. He does not wait for a customer to come to him with a question, but monitors the behavior of customers and responds to a questioning look.”

The opening question a ChatMaster asks depends entirely on the market and the behavior of a visitor. “The client of a bridal store has a different mindset than someone who is looking for a lawyer. Our employees adapt their conversational technique and tone-of-voice accordingly.” They don’t find it difficult, says Vreeken. “They are used to this, because it’s no different on the phone. What’s new is that they now sometimes handle five or six chats at once in Steam-connect. As a result, they have to switch between different conversations. That’s a new skill that we train them in. In addition, they now have blisters on their fingers instead of on their tongues,” Vreeken laughs.

Daniël Cools, CCO of Steam-connect , emphasizes that handling chat must match the competencies of employees. “The core competence of the employees at Mister Sales is looking for the pain in customers. Whether you do that by phone or via chat doesn’t really matter in the end.”

Vreeken says that switching between conversations is easier for some employees than others. “Some really excel at it. Others find calling more fun and that’s fine, because we still provide that service. Chat is a way for everyone to use their talent in a new way. And discovering new talents in yourself is of course the best thing.”

Great boost

That gives Mister Sales a new kind of energy. Vreeken: “You only heard miserable reports in the news. With us, however, I only saw happy faces and red cheeks from the hard work and the excitement that it worked. Like we lived in a parallel universe. It gave our company such a great boost to say together: we are turning this crisis into an opportunity for our company. The energy that is released when that also succeeds is amazing. We have all achieved a great result in a short period of time not only for existing and new customers. We also learned a lot. Our company is better prepared for the future with a broader range of services. That is perhaps the best result.”