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16 Live Chat Best Practices to Help You Deliver Superior Customer Service

January 12th, 2017 | Carla Jerez | Live Chat | Blog Home
16 Live Chat Best Practices to Help You Deliver Superior Customer Service
“High customer satisfaction scores and a double-digit increase in converted shoppers have shown the value once and for all of [Live Chat].”

The quote comes from a Forrester case study on Wells Fargo, who implemented live chat way back in 2008 with incredible results.

If the results were skyrocketing conversions way back then, can you imagine what taking the plunge can do today, when consumers are privy to the benefits and convenience of live chat?

As it stands, more and more companies are experiencing the benefits of live chat that Wells Fargo first felt back in 2008. But how might one maximize these benefits? We have created a list of live chat best practices that will help you make the most of this quickly evolving medium, and will help put your customer service ahead of the curve.

Keep Your Average Response Time Low

A high response time can lead to high abandonment rates and customer dissatisfaction. To prevent these issues from occurring, we’ve outlined some key steps you can take for a faster response time:

  • Make the Most out of Canned Messages

    By using canned messages, customer service agents can greet customers swiftly and avoid repetitive typing. By having a customized greeting ready, customers will know that you are ready to help them now.

  • Collect Information

    Utilize live chat features, like pre-chat surveys to know what sort of issue your customers have before they begin typing. Additionally, use this information to make sure that the chats are going to the right department or agent by setting a routing rule.

  • Practice Using Shortcuts

    Set shortcut keys for frequently used operations, like canned messages, to save time.

  • Use Alternate Media

    You can also save time by sending images, files, screenshots, or even how-to videos instead of writing out lengthy, complex responses. This can help make an issue clearer, which will help solve it faster. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words…so save yourself the trouble of writing out lengthy responses!

Set Clear Expectations

Responding to customers immediately is the goal, but with so many customers to attend to, it’s not always going to be possible for most live chat agents. In some cases, setting clear and reasonable expectations is the next best live chat practice. Some small steps you can take are to:

  • Be Clear About Wait Time

    If a customer must wait, let them know for how long, and what it is that they are waiting for. If you have to research their issue or transfer them to a specialist, let them know upfront–this way they’ll know that they’re in good hands, and that you haven’t forgotten about them.

  • Be Clear About Operational Hours

    If live chat support is available 24/7 for your business, say so! If not, your website should also reflect operational hours. Disable live chat whenever your business is closed or your agents are unavailable, so as not to mislead customers.

Be Human

This may seem too obvious for a list of live chat best practices for customer service, but if you’re not mindful, you can easily come off as cold and distant. After all, many customers are still getting used to text-based customer service conversations and have a hard time understanding and communicating a cheerful tone. Check out these tips to help you create a more human connection over live chat:

  • Personalize Chat

    By using the customer’s name and buyer history, you can personalize your greeting and responses to let your customer know that you care about their unique issue.

  • Make a Connection

    It is equally as important to your customer for you to know them as it is for them to know you. Use advanced chat features, such as using customer service representative names and photos so that your customer service representatives can start building rapport at the very start of the interaction.

  • Acknowledge and Empathize

    Whatever the issue that your customer is writing you about, be sensitive to their needs. Acknowledge their concerns, and put yourself in their shoes. This way, they will feel like you care about their issue, and that you’re not just trying to wrap up the conversation as quickly as you can.

  • Use Tone and Voice to Your Advantage

    It is important to have an online live chat presence that reflects the identity of your brand. A part of that is knowing what sort of tone and voice to use. For example, if you are a company that creates skater merchandise, you might want to use a more colloquial tone for your live chat than if you were selling cyber security solutions to government-affiliated organizations.

  • Be Positive

    Regardless of your brand identity, it is important to always stay positive and friendly in live chat. Don’t be curt with the customer—use positive language and symbols such as exclamation points in your greeting and farewell. When ending a chat, avoid abrupt goodbyes, and ask the customer if there is anything else they need help with before logging off.

Let’s compare how each of these two examples use these principles:

Bad Example:

Jason: Hello. Welcome to Live Chat. How can I assist you?

Marie: Hi, I wanted to check my order status. My order number is 0009483021.

Marie: I’m worried it won’t arrive in time for my daughter’s birthday party this weekend.

Jason: OK, one moment.

Jason: Your order is set to arrive in 2 business days. I hope this helps.

Your live chat session has ended.

Marie: ….

As you can see from the above interaction, Jason provided the customer with a subpar interaction. He failed to address the customer by her name, and never gave her his name either, making the exchange feel impersonal and robotic. He also failed to acknowledge and empathize with the customer’s concern. Jason’s tone was very stiff and as a result failed to represent the brand positively. He also ended the chat abruptly, potentially leaving Marie with unanswered questions.

Good Example:

Jason: Hi Marie, welcome to Live Chat! My name is Jason. How can I help you today?

Marie: Hi, I wanted to check my order status. My order number is 0009483021.

Jason: Great, thanks for the information! Give me one moment please while I check on that for you.

Marie: Thanks. I’m worried it won’t arrive in time for my daughter’s birthday party this weekend.

Jason: I understand your concern… I wouldn’t want my child’s gift to arrive late either.

Jason: It looks like your order is set to arrive in 2 business days, so it should arrive by Friday, just in time!

Jason: Is there anything else that I can do for you?

Marie: Great, thank you! Yes, I also wanted to make sure I entered the right shipping address. My address is 12390 Mulberry Ln, Coral Springs, FL 33067. Is that where it’s being shipped to?

Jason: No problem, let me check that for you.

Jason: Yes, I have here the shipping address as 12390 Mulberry Ln, Coral Springs, FL 33067. It looks like you’re good to go!

Marie: Thanks so much!

Jason: Not a problem! Is there anything else I can do for you?

Marie: Nope, that’s it.

Jason: Great, I’m glad I could help you!! Thanks for being a customer of ToyCityInc. – We hope your daughter has a very happy birthday!

Marie: I appreciate it!

Your live chat session has ended.

This time around when it came to connecting with the customer, Jason went above and beyond to deliver both a positive and productive live chat interaction.

Make Communication Crystal Clear

Whether you are using a canned response or typing out an answer to a unique issue, an important live chat practice is to always send out messages with quality content. Doing so ups the credibility of both your customer service representatives and your brand, and keeps customers coming back.

  • Read Customer Messages Carefully

    It can be very frustrating as a customer to ask for help on an issue only to get a totally unrelated response. Always make sure that you are reading your customer’s message carefully, and that you aren’t making any assumptions about his or her issue. This will also make multi-tasking with various chats less confusing, and will help you avoid sending the answer to one customer’s issue to the wrong customer.

  • Give Accurate Responses

    This practice applies to any means of communicating with a customer, and is no less important for live chat. Don’t let the emphasis on responding quickly to a customer ever compromise the quality or accuracy of the response. If you don’t know the answer to a customer’s problem, ask for help or research it as best as you can.

  • Provide Detailed Solutions

    By providing a solution in detail, you can show customers how you came to the solution, and even empower them to find the solution themselves in the future. If you cannot solve a customer’s problem, be sure to explain why, and to present the next best possible solution. Make sure that you cover any potential follow-up questions for a quicker resolution.

  • Use Principles of Good Writing

    Make sure that live chat messages use proper grammar, spelling, and sentence structure. This will make your customer service agents seem more professional and more credible. Avoid overly-technical lingo, abbreviations, regional jargon, and references that the customer might not understand.

  • Proofread Before Sending

    Make sure that you proofread your responses before sending your messages. One helpful tip to keep the quality of your company’s messages consistent is to give your agents a list of common spelling and grammatical errors that they can reference. Make use of chat features such as live chat supervision to control and monitor the quality of the chats that your agents are sending out. If you need to improve chat quality, you can also have agents perform a peer review of customer communications, knowing that an extra set of eyes will provide an extra guarantee of quality in your service.

Let’s look at an example of all of this advice in action:

Bad Example:

Joanne: Hiya Ariane! My name’s Joanne and I’m v. excited to help you!

Ariane: Hi Joanne. I need help with how I can update my subscription to your service. I live in Germany and cannot call your office, as it would be very expensive. Is there any other way I can update my subscription?

Joanne: Yeah, I got you. Worry not, my friend! Lemme give you the play-by-play on how you can renew your subscription right now from your home computer!

Ariane: OK.

Joanne:
  1. Clickity-click on “my account.”
  2. Go to “My subscriptions”
  3. Select “Subscription Preferences”
  4. Select from one of the 3 available subscription options and payment plans that we have available!
  5. Enter your credit card information, and you’re g00d 2 g0.

Ariane: I think I follow… I’ll give it a try…

Joanne: Cool beans! Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you, or if you have any doubts!

Your live chat session has ended.

While Joanne was being very friendly and a little bit quirky, the language that she was using was unclear, and left the customer uncertain. And on top of that, despite her great English, Ariane has also shared that she lives in a country where English is not the first language. Keeping it comprehensible is always important, but is even more so when the customer is faced with obstacles that might keep him or her from understanding clearly, such as not being a native speaker, or age. Let’s try that again, Joanne.

Good Example:

Joanne: Hi, Ariane! My name’s Joanne and I am very excited to help you! How can I assist you today?

Ariane: Hi Joanne. I need help with how I can update my subscription to your service. I live in Germany and cannot call your office, as it would be very expensive. Is there any other way I can update my subscription?

Joanne: Absolutely! One easy way that you can renew your subscription is right now from your home computer!

Ariane: OK.

Joanne: Let me give you some instructions on how to do that:
  1. Click on “My Account.” You can find this option in the upper right-hand corner, next to the text that says, “Welcome, Ariane!”
  2. Once you have done this, you will be redirected to a different page. On the right-hand side, click on the option that says: “My subscriptions”
  3. A drop-down menu should appear. From this menu, select the last option: “Subscription Preferences”
  4. From this page, you will be able to manage your subscription. Select from one of our 3 available subscription options and payment plans.
  5. Once you have decided which option best suits your needs, enter your credit card information, and your subscription will be updated!
  6. Please note that it can take 1-2 business days to process this update within our system.

Ariane: Great, thank you!

Joanne: Your welcome! Please let me know if there’s anything else I can do for you, or if you have any other questions.

Ariane: No, I think that’s all.

Joanne: Thank you for choosing SubHub! Have a wonderful evening.

Your live chat session has ended.

This time, Ariane left the conversation clear on what she had to do, and confident in her ability to carry out Joanne’s instructions.

Conclusion

By implementing these best customer service practices in your company, we hope that you will be able to enjoy all the benefits that this evolving customer service channel has to offer. What are some of live chat practices that you find most useful?

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About 

Carla Jerez is a senior content writer at Comm100. She has a degree in Creative Writing from Florida State University and has years' experience writing for the SaaS industry. When she’s not writing, she’s reading, traveling, or playing around on Photoshop. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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