SalesTechStar Interview with Aaron Lee, CEO at

Aaron Lee, CEO at talks about the benefits of customizable web chats and how they can drive the digital sales experience:


Welcome to this SalesTech Series chat, Aaron, tell us about yourself and more about your role at and the story behind…

Thanks so much for speaking with me. I’m the CEO of, a 24/7 customer engagement platform for small- and medium-sized businesses. Before I co-founded the company in 2015, I was the CTO of Home Depot (my first company, RedBeacon, was acquired by them). My job involved working directly with home services pros, and in my conversations with them I’d encounter the same challenge: It’s hard to be good at your job if you don’t have time to do it. Running a business requires more than just your specialty – it’s also bookkeeping, marketing, sales, and customer service. We found that many home service providers were wearing too many hats and desperately needed a service that could help with customer engagement cost-effectively.

In looking at the existing solutions, there wasn’t anyone that addressed this challenge. We’ve all experienced how third-party customer support solutions can feel forced, distant, and inflexible. Most virtual receptionists, answering services, and traditional call centers relied on scripts, and there was little innovation to offer other services, like web chat.

I realized that if we empowered agents with AI tools, we could offer a better service that didn’t feel like the typical outsourced agents. Today, we offer multiple solutions for businesses, including virtual receptionists, AI-powered live-staffed web chat, and outbound sales campaigns.

How is customizable chat making a bigger difference to online marketing and sales journeys?

Online chat can offer a leg up for personalization and customer engagement. These days, more clients are looking for service providers online, whether that be a contractor, lawyer, or caregiver. Not every customer wants to pick up the phone and call a business, and when they do, it’s often outside of your working hours. Online chat ensures that you still have a medium to engage with those customers.

Every engagement with your business should feel professional and act as a representation of your values. With customizable chat, you can program it to ask very specific questions and provide tailored responses. You can even customize your initial message.

Web chat is beneficial for both clients and your business. It can answer standard questions, but it also can gather valuable insights into prospective customers. Business owners want to make sure any potential customers are relevant and don’t want to lose out on a new lead just because someone isn’t picking up the phone. The only way a business can convert a site visitor into a client is by knowing who specifically is reaching out to them, the problem they are trying to solve, and their budget and timeframe. Customizable chat can ensure that both parties get what they need.

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Can you speak to the best practices for brands to augment custom chat flows with other customer acquisition tactics?

My number one recommendation is to capture contact information first before the chat can continue. If someone engages with your web chat but then leaves your site before sharing their contact information, you will have no way to follow up with them and convert them other than following them around the Internet with ads (neither precise nor timely, and a costly gamble).

From there, prioritize capturing data that qualifies business leads – details like home address, budget, and timeline – but be selective, since nobody wants to answer 20 questions. Ultimately, our clients want to know the information about their customers that allows them to accept the most suitable new customers and provide the best possible service to them. For example, capturing the ZIP Code is critical for a contractor working in a specific geographic area.

Make sure all contact information and the entire chat transcript are captured in a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. This way, you’ll maintain continuity in conversations and have a clear understanding of the next steps. Program your web chat so if a potential customer meets all of your vetting requirements, you have a clear call to action like scheduling a consultation or having a member of the team (or a virtual receptionist service) follow up with a phone call.

With web chat, you can also gather deep intelligence insights to understand what days and times see the highest engagement, or if prospects with certain characteristics are more likely to engage online. This can help you build a more targeted marketing strategy, like understanding which demographics to prioritize or how to optimize SEO and retail media ads.

As one example, if you are a personal injury lawyer and find that “car crash” is used more frequently in local parlance than “car wreck,” you can easily adjust your SEO and capture a larger share of local leads seeking those legal services and using those specific keywords. Lastly, your web chat should always ask, “How did you hear about us?” While Google Analytics can provide some insight, this is a valuable way to understand which campaigns are leading to greater customer engagement, and most importantly, new buyers.

What are the common pitfalls that you would caution brands to avoid when using chatbots / AI-powered custom chats for their websites/landing pages?

The one that is top-of-mind for me is overreliance on AI. It’s great for the FAQs and standard questions, but it can’t handle every situation. Nobody wants to feel like they are being passed off to a bot or can’t get the answer they are looking for. If you are using web chat, make sure that you have one that is built with a human backup in place so someone can jump in and take over the conversation if AI alone is insufficient. Situations that are still particularly tough for AI today are objection handling, complex scheduling, and sensitive matters of a personal nature (e.g., a bot doesn’t believably show empathy as a human would).

You should also make sure that you optimize placement so your web chat is easily visible and passes a mobile usability test. It should work equally well on both desktop browsers and smartphones, and it should be available on your homepage, pricing page, and other key placements. Colors should not overlap with core website colors to avoid “hiding in plain sight;” instead, aim for a contrasting color to grab attention. Your web chat should also be proactive. Have it proactively pop up and offer assistance before the customer even has to hunt for it.

If you had to share a few AI trends that will lead the sales tech and martech space in 2024 and beyond, what would you talk about?

I think we are still in the early days of AI, and businesses will need to figure out how to maintain the relationship between humans and AI to optimize efficiency without sacrificing personalization. Technology is indisputably a valuable tool for sales and marketing, but I am cautious of over-automating too many tasks. What makes sales and marketing effective is when we can connect at a human level. If we remove all sense of emotional intelligence, then we will be limited in how many situations we can manage effectively. All contact will feel cold and impersonal.

There are ways that AI will undeniably be helpful, though. For example, AI can better identify accurate sales targets, pinpoint effective ad imagery, and personalize marketing copy. We are still in the early stages, but I’m excited to see how AI can support both efficiency and personalization without making compromises.

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Aaron Lee is the co-founder and CEO of and former CTO of Depot. His former company, RedBeacon, was acquired by Home Depot in 2012, and won the TechCrunch50 startup competition in 2009. He is one of the founding engineers at Google Video, and holds a PhD in Computer Science from Princeton University.

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