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15 Live Chat Tips to Help You Chat Professionally with Customers

Note: This blog post was originally published on Nov. 20, 2015, and as it is one of our most popular posts, we have updated it to include the latest research, up-to-date statistics and best practices in this topic.
They copied my product, they copied my strategies yet they failed miserably in the business, because they couldn’t copy my professionalism.
Amit Kalantri

For many customers and customer service agents alike, live chat can be an extremely comfortable source of communication and problem solving.

Although your customers may be curled up on their couches watching Netflix while they shoot your company messages, professionalism over live chat is just as important as it is when you are talking to customers in person or over the phone.

But what are some techniques that your business might use to ensure that the live chat messages that you are sending fit the professional image you want to present?

We put together the following list of live chat tips to help you cultivate your company’s professional chat abilities.

1. Dress for Success

To “dress for success” is a basic rule, and one that at first might seem like an unnecessary live chat tip. But by encouraging your live chat representatives to come to the office dressed well, you create an atmosphere of professionalism and preparedness among your staff, which translates into your customer service.

To see this tip in action, let’s have a look at these two scenarios:

Jacob comes into the office in the morning wearing sweatpants and an over-sized hoodie. He pours himself a cup of coffee from his massive thermos, and blinks sleepily as he logs in to his computer. Even with the coffee, he finds it hard to wake up, and has a difficult time focusing throughout the day.

Now, let’s see how that changes when Jason puts a little more effort into making a professional appearance:

Jacob comes into work dressed professionally, wearing a dress shirt and a nice pair of pants. His attire says, “I’m ready to start the day,” and he finds transitioning into his work environment easy. He spends his day focused, and produces work that he is proud of.

By ditching the hoodie, Jacob changed his image, and with it, his workplace psychology. By dressing seriously, Jacob began to take his role in the company more seriously.

The result was greater productivity, and more attentive customer care. Even though his live chat customers couldn’t see the way he was dressed, by following this tip, both Jacob’s attitude and professional chat service excelled.

2. Smile before You Dial

We mean… before you connect. This is a rhyme that companies use to encourage their sales representatives to have a cheerful presence when they make sales calls over the phone.When engaging in professional chat with customers online, that cheerful presence is no less important than it is when talking with customers over the phone or in person.Compare these two live chat scenarios:

Dana is having a bad day. Her son is at home sick with an ear infection, and kept her up crying last night. She logs onto her work computer, frowning as she thinks about how long her day is going to be. When she receives her first chat message of the morning, she responds like this:

Alan: Hi

Dana: Hello. How may I assist you?

Alan: My 3G data is not working internationally. Can you help me?

Dana: Yes, one moment please while I pull up your account.

Even though Dana is not face to face with her customer, her mood is reflected by the curt nature of her responses. Let’s see what happens when Dana approaches her professional chat with a smile.

Dana is having a bad morning. Her son is at home sick with an ear infection, and kept her up crying last night. As she logs into her work computer and starts up her live chat, she takes a deep breath and manages a small smile. She responds to her first chat message of the day like this:

Alan: Hi

Dana: Hello, and welcome to Live Chat! How may I assist you today?

Alan: My 3G data is not working internationally. Can you help me?

Dana: Absolutely, I’d be glad to! Allow me one moment to pull up your account.

This time, Dana managed to greet the customer in a way that was friendly and warm. By smiling, or at least having your emotions relaxed and in check before you start your chat, your tone will be more inviting, and your efforts to help your customer will seem more sincere and genuine. You are also less likely to be interpreted by your customer as being curt or rude, which will boost both your professional chat reception and customer confidence.

3. Customize the Chat Window

Your image is your brand and you have only one opportunity to make that first impression. Choose to make a positive first impression.
Cindy Ann Peterson

Chat window customization is a live chat feature that can have big gains as far as the way that customers view your company’s professional chat abilities.

When you are chatting with your customers, the live chat box is what creates the customer’s visual first impression of the interaction with your representatives.

To have the highest professional impact, customize your chat window to feature your agent avatar and company logo. Make sure that each representative’s avatar fits company guidelines, and furthers your brand image.

Check out these two different representative avatars:

representative avatars

This first example features a colloquial avatar that you might see on a social media messaging platform. The photo is dark and unclear, and the man gazing out the window does not fit the professional look that customers want the attentive representative who is assisting them to have.

representative avatars

The second example features a brightly lit, professional, front-facing photo. This is a live chat agent who customers will feel more confident trusting with their issue.

Tip: Not all chat vendors are created equal! Depending on what type of live chat software you’re using, you may have limited customizability options. Make sure you choose a chat vendor that allows you to customize your chat window according to your brand guidelines.

4. Prioritize First-Contact Resolution

When working with live chat, customer service representatives are highly encouraged to help a customer resolve their issue as quickly as they can. This means delivering a quick Average Response Rate, making the most of canned messages, and multi-tasking between various chats to ensure that no customer gets stuck waiting in the chat queue.

A speedy conclusion to a chat is great, but not if it doesn’t resolve the customer’s issue. If your company is producing quick chat wrap-ups, but ultimately leaving the customer without a resolution the first time, the customer will walk away from the interaction feeling frustrated and unimportant. It will also have the effect of adding more emails, phone calls, and live chats to your customer service queue, as a customer whose issue was not resolved the first time will likely try contacting your company again. A higher chat volume or ticket number compromises your customer service experience, by reducing agent efficiency and augmenting wait times.

Prioritizing first-contact resolution is something that both your customers and your customer service representatives will feel the advantages of—your live chat representatives will feel more empowered to provide your customers with the help that they seek, and your customers will walk away with a positive impression of the experience. The more customers that you satisfy the first time, the more your brand will also become associated with professional chat and superior customer service.

Recommended for you: One and Done: How to Optimize Your First Contact Resolution Rate

5. Use Positive Language

Often in customer service, it is not what you say, but how you say it that matters. Hence, our next live chat tip: when chatting with customers, it is important that you make use of positive language.

Positive language is something that you can practice every day. It is a customer service tool that is important in difficult situations like saying no to customers. Let’s investigate the differences between a response to a customer issue that uses positive language and one that does not:

I’m afraid we no longer offer that option.

This answer evokes a negative emotion right off the bat with the words: “I’m afraid.” It also offers the customer no positive turn-around.

See what happens when we try that again:

We no longer offer that option, but I would be happy to introduce you to a similar new feature that might satisfy your needs.

Although this answer did not make the option that the customer wanted suddenly re-appear, it met the situation with a positive turn-around that opened doors for the customer instead of closing them.

The use of positive words, “I would be happy to,” helped create a sense of ease and overall positivity in a difficult situation.

All in all, the use of positive language communicates a sense of professional chat mastery in a customer service situation.

6. Know Your Product

To represent your company means to know your product, inside and out. Here are two important ways that you can make sure that you and your company are on top of your game:

  • Make sure that you are doing your part in keeping yourself up to date with new features and releases, and that you are as much an expert in your line of work as you can be.
  • Share the knowledge: make sure to provide proper training to your employees, and to have meetings and periodic training sessions whenever there is new material that they need to be keyed-in on. This includes updates to company policy, products, discounts, rewards programs, and more.

The key to professional chat is to have as many experts working with you as possible. Incentivize live chat agents to become experts in what your company has to offer, and the knowledge will trickle down into your customer-base.

7. Take a Whole-Company Approach

For your company to come across as professional on live chat, it must show seamless professionalism on every front.

This means all departments of your company being in sync with one another. By keeping your departments in constant communication, your whole team will be able to ultimately contribute to your customer’s live chat experience.

Take this scenario for example: there is a problem with website, and customers who have an American Express credit card are not able to place their order online. You receive several live chat messages from concerned customers about the issue.

Instead of simply telling them that they can solve the problem by calling in to place their order over the phone, it is important that your live chat representatives pass the issue on to their supervisors, who can pass the issue on to the website developers or the billing department.

A whole-company approach means that broader customer issues are more swiftly addressed, and that the customer service experience is smooth and effortless for both employees and customers.

8. Speak in a Way That Is Accessible to Customers

Being professional does not mean that you should be excessively formal. Speaking with customers in a way that is friendly and approachable will make them feel like your brand is relatable.

To ensure that you are speaking in a way that is accessible to customers, avoid the following:

  • Using abbreviations (especially uncommon ones).
  • Using regional slang.
  • Making obscure references.
  • Overcomplicating steps when you need to teach a customer how to do something.
  • Excessive reliance on technical terms.
  • Using large, uncommon words that a customer might not understand.

Instead, practice the following live chat tips:

  • Gauge how the customer is speaking and reciprocate. If they are speaking in a way that is very formal, reciprocate. If they are using lots of smiley faces, don’t be afraid to smile back!
  • Spell out words instead of abbreviating them.
  • Substitute uncommon or difficult words for ones that your customers are more likely to be familiar with.
  • When explaining to a customer how to accomplish something, keep it simple. Use chat tools like screenshots and image file sharing to aid the process.
  • Make use of live chat tools such as built-in auto translation when talking to customers who speak a different language.

Speaking in a way that is accessible to your customers is vital to professional chat, and is something that your customers will appreciate.

9. Practice Good Grammar and Spelling

Some customers have a hard time forgiving common grammar errors or misspelled words—even simple mistakes made by a live chat representative can result in customers thinking less favorably about your customer service.

When chatting with customers, make sure to represent a positive, professional brand image by making use of live chat spell-check features, and double checking your messages before you send them.

10. Stay on Topic

Staying on topic while chatting with customers is important for several reasons. It avoids wasting precious time and leads to a prompter resolution.

Avoid sending your customers irrelevant information that might complicate an issue or hinder it from being solved. If a customer presents you with several topics that he or she needs help with, work to solve them one at a time.

Sometimes customers just enjoy having someone to talk to. If a customer gets off topic, be courteous, but try and discretely keep the conversation moving in the right direction, like in the following example:

Matt: Did you watch the game last night? What a close one!!

Steven: I did, it was definitely exciting!

Steven: Okay, so your tracking number is 34328900039. You can log onto the USPS website and use it to track your order at any time!

Matt: Perfect, thanks!

Here, you can see that Steven politely engaged in the topic that Matt presented, but professionally continued to move the chat towards its goal: resolution and customer satisfaction.

11. Collect Relevant Information

Making use of relevant customer information is one way to make yourself an expert in each and every customer. Have your live chat agents reference the pre-chat survey as well as information on the customer’s account or in their chat history when possible before asking customers for more information. This will save the customer from what might be the frustration of having to repeat themselves if they have spoken with a different representative about this issue before.

Here are two examples, to illustrate this.

Sandy: Hello, and thank you for contacting us! How may I assist you today?

Jennifer: Hi, I spoke with a representative yesterday about a problem with a projector that I purchased and he gave me some steps to fix it, but they didn’t help.

Sandy: I’m sorry to hear that. Can I ask which model of projector you own? What steps did he suggest you to take? What sort of issue are you having?

Jennifer: An issue with the power.

Sandy: Did you make sure the outlet you plugged it into was functional.

Jennifer: Yes.

Here, Sandy has no clue about what is going on with the customer, forcing Jennifer to repeat herself and relive the frustration of not having her issue fixed. Let’s try that again, this time, checking the customer’s information first:

Sandy: Hello, and thank you for contacting us! How may I assist you today?

Jennifer: Hi, I spoke with a representative yesterday about a problem with a projector that I purchased and he gave me some steps to fix it, but they didn’t help.

Sandy: I’m sorry to hear that. I see that you ordered the Z1000 Video Projector about five months ago. I also see that you already tried tightening the bulb and resetting the machine, is that correct?

Jennifer: Yes, it is.

Sandy: Okay, great. Since those steps did not work, I recommend that you send the projector to our address at 2334 Foxtrot Ln, Grapevine, TX 76051. Since you are still covered under warranty, we will be happy to send you a new projector.

Jennifer: Great, thank you.

This time, after Sandy checked Jennifer’s chat history and purchase history, she resolved Jennifer’s issue quickly and painlessly. By following this live chat tip like Sandy did, your professional chat agents will appear caring and well-informed.

12. Use Listening Skills and Empathy

When chatting with customers, make sure that they know that you are hearing them, and that their concern matters to you. Use the same good listening skills that you would use in person over live chat – acknowledge them, and then find a solution.

While empathy is important, avoid colluding with customers against the company on an issue. (Read more on empathy statements and phrases that show customers you care.) Check out these two examples of listening to and empathizing with a customer:

Genevieve: Hi, and welcome to Live Chat! How can I help you?

Joshua: I am very upset with your customer service… I tried calling in two days in a row and after waiting on the phone for 20 minutes got nothing… unbelievable!

Joshua: I had to call in because your crummy product broke in the mail…

Joshua: It looked like it had been smashed into pieces!

Joshua: Hello???

Genevieve: I’m very sorry about that, sir. I agree – the company should work harder to produce quality products. I can’t believe that you had to wait so long – nobody should have to go through that.

Joshua: You got that right!!

Here, Genevieve failed to provide basically listening skills. Her empathy also took the form of speaking badly about the company with the customer, which wasn’t very professional. Let’s give that a second try:

Genevieve: Hi, and welcome to Live Chat! How can I help you?

Joshua: I am very upset with your customer service… I tried calling in two days in a row and after waiting on the phone for 20 minutes got nothing… unbelievable!

Genevieve: I understand. I’m so sorry to hear about that… I’ll be sure to solve your issue today.

Joshua: I had to call in because your crummy product broke in the mail…

Joshua: It looked like it had been smashed into pieces!

Genevieve: I’m very sorry about that, sir. We care about providing our customers with quality care, and are very sorry to have let you down. I can refund your product right away if you would like, or send you a new one immediately. If you would like me to order you a new one, I will forward it to my desk first so that I can package it personally with extra care. Please let me know how you would like to proceed.

Joshua: Ok…It was supposed to be a gift for my wife, so we can try that.

This time, Genevieve employed model listening, empathy, and service skills, and successfully portrayed how to have a professional chat with a customer.

13. Don’t Leave the Customer Hanging

Just as it is important to not vanish on a customer in person, it is important to not disappear on your customer while chatting.

Here are some ways in which you can avoid leaving a customer hanging over live chat:

  • Make sure that when you are on break or out of the office, your chat is turned off so that you are not receiving incoming chats that are going nowhere.
  • Pay attention to new chats, so that you can respond quickly to new messages.
  • Make sure that when you are talking with multiple customers, you keep your response time low, and don’t leave any customer in limbo waiting for a response.
  • If you have to keep a customer waiting while you check on something, be courteous and let them know how long they will wait.

14. Follow Through

Don’t make any promises to customers that you cannot keep. If you tell them that you will send them a follow-up email, or that you will put their name on a do-not-call list, do it!

The best time to honor a customer’s request is as you are chatting with him or her. If you are slammed with incoming chats, emails, and phone calls, and the customer’s request is not time-sensitive, put it on a list of things you need to get done by the end of the day, and commit to that list.

If you are ever unsure of whether you can honor a request, it’s always better to ask someone who knows first, rather than to make a promise to a customer that you later have to break. Your customer will take your company’s word more seriously if you can follow through 100% of the time.

15. Give a Fond Farewell

Thank the customers for their business, and avoid ending the chat abruptly. Some ways that you can do that are as follows:

Wait for the appropriate signal from the customer that the chat is over before closing the window (such as he or she closing the chat first).

Avoid closing the chat while the customer is typing.

Ask the customer, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” and wait for his or her response to ensure that you have covered everything of importance to the customer.

Your professional farewell will be the last thing that your customers walk away with—make sure to make it count!

Recommended for you: Saying Goodbye: 5 Rules for Ending Your Live Chat Sessions

In Conclusion

Professionalism is a key to Perfectionism.
Yogesh Chauhan

By implementing professional chat practices, you can show customers that your company is an industry leader that they can rely on. The more you become an expert in practicing these live chat tips, the closer you get to perfect customer service. What are some of the ways that you can start strengthening professional chat in your business?

Download now: 50 Customer Service Training Activities for Live Chat and Telephone Teams

Download now: 50 Customer Service Training Activities for Live Chat and Telephone Teams

A professional and effective support team is helpful to customer loyalty. The activities in this eBook can be great training materials to help your support agents chat professionally with customers. Each activity focuses on a particular area of learning and comes with suggested debriefs. This helps your team link activities to learning and apply the learning to the workplace.

Download Now
Isabella Steele

About Isabella Steele

Isabella is a freelance editor, writer, and blogger with Comm100. She is passionate about helping people, teams, and organizations grow into their full potential, and excel in their service. In her spare time, you can find her traveling, painting, or drinking copious amounts of coconut water. Connect with Isabella on LinkedIn.