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Customer service isn’t known for being a particularly fashionable industry (not that it couldn’t be – most companies have a handful of agents who truly know how to dress to impress). The truth is, since live chat agents communicate with their customers virtually rather than in person, managers often allow them to adopt a more comfortable rather than professional appearance.
To many, this is considered one of the perks of the job – some agents may even take on their roles because they don’t want to have to bother dressing up for work. This can be especially true for remote live chat agents, who don’t even have to leave the comfort of their own homes to assist customers.
While dressing well can reflect and help boost agent morale, it ultimately makes little difference to the customer, who can’t see the live chat agent who is typing to them.
But what happens when suddenly the walls that separate the customer from the live chat agent begin to crumble, and they find themselves face to face? What new considerations will need to be accounted for to make sure that their interaction remains high quality, and that the customer leaves with a good impression of the company?
This is the question that has been bubbling to the surface as companies adopt video chat: the customer service channel that delivers a highly personalized, in-store experience without your customers ever having to leave their homes.
And the appearance of your video chat agents can be a tricky subject for managers to navigate. Giving direction on someone’s appearance has traditionally been reserved for the realm of bricks and mortar shops. But video chat means that offices are now transformed into business areas visible to customers – and appearances matter. Being able to diplomatically handle these issues means that there is a higher chance that your company’s video chats will be perceived professionally.
This blog post will help you decide if your agents are ready for their on-screen debut, and which physical considerations need to be accounted for so that their video chat presence is top-notch. It will include tips on helping agents make the transition to video chat, so that you can avoid any simple mistakes that might affect the quality of your customers’ experience.
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(…Because, well, there is).
Let’s start with the consideration that we mentioned in the introduction: agent dress code.
Video chat demands the same amount of polish from your agents that your customers expect from in-store customer service reps. The uniform and/or dress requirements for in-store customer service reps is just as important as the overall aesthetic of the store itself.
After all, you are selling a brand, and it is important that your reps represent this brand.
Part of this involves telling the right story. Are you a sporting franchise? Your representatives’ dress code may be sporty. Are you a trendy smoke shop targeting Millennials? Maybe you want your reps to sport a more casual look. Are you an upscale perfume store? Your reps’ dress code may be traditional business or business casual attire.
The same is true for video chat. Consider the following questions when deciding how to dress your live chat agents for video chat:
Remember that although agent appearance for video chat has several things in common with in-store rep appearance, video chat is still its own channel with its unique challenges and considerations. In order to put your best, most professional foot forward for video chat, we recommend that your agents do the following:
To achieve the most consistent branded look, consider printing T-shirts for your live chat agents, and requesting that their pants be a certain length and color. Your customer will typically only be seeing your agent’s upper half; however, should your agent have to get up to ask a supervisor a question, a glimpse of pajama pants can really kill an otherwise professional image.
While rolling out of bed and into the office (or into your home setup if you are a remote live chat agent) can be tempting, your agents shouldn’t forget to take care of their hair before they engage in a video chat with a customer.
This doesn’t mean necessarily setting up a fancy ‘do (unless of course your agents work for an airline company or another business that encourages it). But you do want your agents to make sure that their hair is brushed and sitting relatively flat and/or together when they are on camera.
Bits of hair sticking up out of place or flyaway strands can be incredibly distracting and even irritating to some customers. Having hair in your face is an even bigger faux pas, and one that can create an unprofessional image and even ruin the point of video chat (if your customer can’t see your agent’s face, then why call in with video chat in the first place?).
Encourage your agents to check how their hair looks on camera before they begin a call, and to make any last-minute touchups at that time.
Should agents notice any hair mishaps while they are on a video call with a customer, encourage them to avoid fixing it until after they hang up. Fidgeting with hair on-call can be more distracting for customers than just leaving a problematic piece of hair as is, and can even call attention to something that a customer might not have picked up on otherwise.
Consider inviting your agents to keep a portable and/or disposable comb at their desk drawer, just in case of any hair emergencies. The same can apply for hair ties. Buying your agents mini grooming kits can be a great way to underline your commitment to a professional image, while helping them to look their best. You may also want to consider investing in headsets with a thick head band, which agents can simultaneously use to pull their hair back out of their face should it be necessary.
Once your live chat agents have their video chat apparel all sorted out, it is important that they do their best to maintain the quality of their appearance.
If your agents’ clothes are exceptionally wrinkled to the point where it is noticeable on camera, you may want to consider asking them to iron them. Remember, you want your customer service department to look polished. While this may not be necessary for every dress code, wrinkle, or in the event that your targeted audience just isn’t going to care, ask that your agents use common sense as far as maintaining the aesthetic and presentation of their clothes.
Maintenance may also include taking care to not wear damaged or stained clothes. Video chat attire with an obvious frontal tear or stain should be replaced. In the event of a spillage accident during a break, ask your agents to clean up their outfits as best as they can before starting up their next video chat. A dark stain on an otherwise well-put together look will be distracting for customers, and will look unprofessional.
Consider inviting your agents to store an extra shirt or a jacket in the office, in case of any unfortunate coffee or food spills throughout the day. Alternately, keep a stash of stain remover pens ready for any mishaps.
In and out of the office, makeup isn’t going to be for everybody. If your agents enjoy putting on a bit of makeup and would do so to assist customers in-store, then this is something that can give their video chat presence an extra pop.
Webcams tend to wash out an image, and flatten it. Adding a bit of lipstick can help punch up the contrast and vibrancy of your agents’ image. Blush is said to be useful in helping the user look more awake, healthier, and even friendlier – and can be used as such for video chat as well. Depending on how high definition your company’s webcams are, foundation and concealer can also help to correct any dark circles, uneven skin tones, and blemishes that the camera might pick up.
Your live chat agents each have their own personalities and preferred means of expression. With that comes varying methods and degrees of makeup application, ranging from heavy makeup, to no makeup at all.
As a manager, it is important that you respect individual agents’ choices on that matter, and that you learn how to discuss the use of makeup for video chat gently and sensibly. Telling live chat agents that they would look better with more or less makeup can damage your relationships with your agents, reduce their engagement, and can ultimately result in an uncomfortable work environment and even employee turnover.
As Nancy Etcoff, research psychologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and author of Survival of the Prettiest: The Science of Beauty , writes: makeup is a “grooming ritual” that can provide a “temporary confidence boost in some.”
However, she also notes that “women who feel that makeup use is obligatory but unwanted – that it requires a forced confrontation with the mirror when they’d rather put their attention elsewhere – do not feel more confident after using it. Research suggests that women can feel objectified by makeup, and for such women, any potential advantage may be offset by the emotional labor of wearing it.”
Enforcing a mandatory use of makeup, like the mandatory use of heels in the workplace, can have serious consequences. However, facilitating discussion about makeup use can be helpful, and can steer your agents towards a professional video chat look.
Consider making a fun step-by-step “How To” sheet, on how to achieve a variety of acceptable makeup looks that are ideal for video chat. Consider including fun facts in this worksheet on why each look will work well for video chat specifically. You can even task your agents to come up with their own ideas for video chat looks, for even better engagement.
If you want to go the extra mile, consider having a professional makeup stylist come in and do free makeup tutorials and/or give free samples to your agents. This can help redirect agents who use inappropriate, non-brand conforming, or very over-exaggerated makeup towards different looks. It can also help inspire agents who usually don’t wear makeup to try something new.
Sometimes, even the introduction of video chat itself is enough to inspire agents who usually come into work without makeup to add makeup to their routine!
Although makeup can help correct dark circles, the best cure is a good night sleep. Having a healthy eating, sleeping, exercising, and hygiene routine can help your agents come to work feeling fresh, awake, and visibly ready to start the day.
What your agents are eating can have a big impact in the physical health of their skin, hair, vision, and more. It can also make a huge difference in mental health, and energy levels. Sleep has been proven to have effects such as lowering blood pressure, reducing risk of heart disease, and improving memory, to name a few. Exercise can help clear up acne, reduce inflammation, and better posture. And good hygiene will help your agents take care of their skin, hair, teeth, and nails.
All of these practices can make a difference (however small) in your agents’ appearance on video chat, and your customers’ impression of your team.
Consider hiring a nutritionist to have a private consultation with each of your video chat agents, to help get each of them started off on the right track to healthy living. Also consider encouraging corporate sports events, such as marathon participation, or catering healthy food options. A fruit bowl at work can be a great start to encourage healthy eating. And hiring a yoga instructor to teach yoga classes can help improve physical strength, digestion, posture, and reduce stress levels. Many large employers have occupational health programs as well, which can be a great way to help employees adopt healthy life habits. These can help agents accomplish goals such as to stop smoking, adopt diet plans, etc. and can greatly contribute to both their health and happiness.
These steps will help open the door to not only a great presence for your live chat agents over video chat, but also to increased job satisfaction and contentment. Remember – offer these tools but don’t push. In the end, it will be up to each live chat agent whether they decide to adopt a healthy lifestyle or not.
The way your agents appear on video chat will ultimately be a collaborative effort between you and them. If you address these appearance considerations with care, you will be well on your way to creating a video chat aesthetic that reflects your brand and exudes professionalism.
We hope that these tips have given you the direction you need to guide your live chat team towards a successful video chat future.
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