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That's the first thing I do in the morning. I power up Provide Support and make sure people know I'm here.

Elizabeth G. Provo

Massachusetts 4 Sale By Owner is a regional real estate advertising service. It serves home buyers and sellers, builders, and property investors and takes pride in having saved sellers more than $7.5 million in commission fees since its founding in 2002. Its success depends on reaching a wide audience and providing a customer-service experience that differentiates it from competitors that operate nationally. Provide Support's Live Chat system "adds oomph" to the company's marketing capabilities, says Elizabeth Provo, founder of Massachusetts 4 Sale By Owner.

The Need

In late 2007, Massachusetts 4 Sale By Owner discontinued publishing a full-color magazine to concentrate on its Internet-based operation. Provo understood that a live chat system would enhance the site and began researching providers. "I investigated several," she recalls. "We wanted to make sure that buyers looking for information or sellers trying to figure out how to post an ad could contact us quickly." The affordability of Provide Support's Live Chat system appealed to Provo. Small businesses can enjoy Provide Support's full range of features for as little as $8.25 a month. Provo was also drawn to Provide Support because she is a Mac user. Provide Support released a Mac version of its live chat software in December 2007. "We weeded out a lot of competitors that didn't support Mac," she says.

The Benefits

Because of the real estate slump and the winter season, sellers are few and far between, Provo says. But buyers have used the live chat function to ask general questions about the site or specific questions about a listing. "For our sellers to be successful, we must make the buyer's experience exceed expectations," she says. Provide Support Live Chat is a cost-effective means of offering immediate, one-on-one customer support. Provo plans to make use of Provide Support's "canned response" feature to further accelerate communication. With one click, console operators can send customized answers to commonly asked questions.

Provo has found live chat to be an ideal way to communicate with the company's website programmer. "It's very nice because she's working on a tight schedule. To send an e-mail and wait for me to e-mail back is not as efficient for her. I hear the live chat ring and, boom, I respond immediately." Provo uses Provide Support's "chat transcripts" feature to keep a record of matters discussed with the programmer. "I can pop that in a folder so we can refer to it later."

Provo's favorite Provide Support feature is real-time website visitor monitoring. She can view and jot down a wealth of information about each visitor, including IP address, browser type, and referrer address. Visitors' whereabouts are displayed on a world map. "The biggest thing for us is seeing where people are coming from and what search terminology they're using to get here," she explains. "It validates what I thought was happening, and it's something we can use to show a potential advertiser with us what our reach really is. We can demonstrate that we get good website traffic from well outside of our area."

The Bottom Line

The Provide Support system has allowed Massachusetts 4 Sale By Owner to remain "open for business" even on those days when snowstorms prevent Provo from driving to the office. "That's the first thing I do in the morning," she says. "I power up Provide Support and make sure people know I'm here."

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