Are We Ready? Effectively Training the Live Chat Agent

March 5th, 2014 | Kevin Gao | Live Chat | Blog Home
effectively train live chat agents

This is the fourth article in a five-part series on creating a live chat strategy.

Part 1: Why Live Chat? Developing Strategies & Goals

Part 2: What Do Online Consumers Want? Meeting Live Chat User Expectations

Part 3: Who Really Needs Assistance? Influencing the Choice to Live Chat

Part 5: How Are We Doing? Measuring Live Chat Effectiveness

When seeking to deliver a great online experience, perhaps the most important ingredient are your live chat agents. The customer is depending upon your agents to possess product or service knowledge and have the ability to deliver the information in a quick yet pleasant manner. What should companies focus on when training live chat agents? Here are a few ways to insure your live chat agents provide a great experience for customers and positively impact your company.

Soft Skills

Let’s start with the basics – soft skills. Chat agents should possess the ability to relate to customers in the same manner as phone agents. Begin the chat with a hearty greeting such as:

Welcome to XYZ Company. This is Charles. How may I assist you today?

It’s important to exercise good listening skills although chat agents listen by reading the customer’s chat input. Allow the customer to complete their thought before interjecting. Acknowledge that you’ve “heard” the customer’s request by simply chatting

I can help you with that.

When handling a customer’s chat regarding an issue with your products or service, it’s a good idea to offer an apology to the customer.

I apologize for the inconvenience.

Empathize with the customer’s situation – put yourself in the customer’s shoes – as this goes a long way in retaining customers experiencing product or service issues.

I can see your point on that.

Should you encounter an angry customer, focus on resolving the issue. Should the customer’s chat language continue to show evidence of anger, continue to focus on resolving the issue.

I understand and will do my best to take care of this issue for you.

Refrain from being drawn into a confrontation by staying focused on resolving the issue.

When pausing during the chat session, always get the customer’s permission before doing so and provide the timeframe for the pause duration and the reason for the pause.

Allow me to pause for 2 minutes here while I research your situation. Is that okay? Thank you.

If the pause is about to go beyond the given timeframe always chat to advise the customer that you’re still investigating, researching, etc. and establish a new timeframe. If the need should arise to transfer the chat to a different department, offer to connect the customer to prevent their needing to initiate another chat. Always insure your customer is satisfied at the end of the chat interaction.

Mrs._________. Have I fully addressed your situation today?

This gives the customer an opportunity to express their level of satisfaction with the interaction. Thank the customer for contacting your company and wait until they end the chat before disengaging. Utilize your live chat platform’s ability to create canned messages for the greeting, acknowledgement, empathy, apology, pause, satisfaction and closing statements. This saves time for your chat agents and helps to insure statement consistency across your agent population.

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Platform Skills

Live chat customers expect to receive quick and efficient service when contacting your live chat agents. It’s imperative that chat agents are thoroughly trained on your live chat platform. When chat agents are familiar with the “tool” they are utilizing when assisting customers, they perform tasks with a high level of confidence. Here are a few ways to make sure chat agents are platform experts.

Agents are tasked with providing both a customer and organization friendly experience when chatting. It’s important to be fully trained on all customer and agent – facing platform features. Take the agent on the customer’s journey. For example, when the initiating a chat request, customers might be presented with a pre-chat survey which gives the ability to choose the reason for wanting to communicate.  Make sure agents are familiar with what happens next for the customer.

Advise agents on how to access all platform features required for servicing customers.

  • Where are canned messages located?
  • What are the steps required to reach the knowledge base and how to I retrieve specific information?
  • What actions do I take to send the customer a PDF file?
  • How am I able to see what website pages visitors are currently viewing?
  • How do I initiate a proactive live chat?
  • What’s the procedure to transfer this chat to another department?

Let agents experience the platform as their customer will – When I do this – my customer sees that. It’s critical for both the agent’s morale and your company’s long term revenue when agents are thoroughly familiar with platform features.

Product/Service Knowledge

In order for chat agents to successfully handle inquiries and requests for support, product and service knowledge is crucial. Customers are expecting agents to have the skills and knowledge for answering questions and providing solutions. It’s up to you to make sure this happens by providing the necessary products and services training.

Get the products in front of your chat agents. If possible, allow them to experience the product or service as your customer does. When products are services are upgraded, make sure to advise chat agents. Remember to upgrade knowledge bases and directories and point out to chat agents where these changes have occurred. If your chat agents perform outsourced duties, make it a requirement that vendors provide updated information in a timely manner.

Stress that your agents are providing services to their customers and the ability to provide accurate information is crucial to customer retention. Advise chat agents of specials or discounts before releasing it to customers. Integrate this information into your live chat platform and allow for easy retrieval.

Writing (Chatting) Skills

Customers utilize the live chat option because it’s become known as a fast way to interact with companies. A key component of a live chat interaction is the agent’s ability to exercise good writing skills. Just as phone agents are expected to use proper language, grammar and a cheerful voice, the same is expected of live chat agents. Utilize the auto spelling and grammar check feature of your live chat platform to insure agent communications look professional. Brevity is the focus when live chatting – keep sentences short and to the point.

See the conversation below for example:

Customer
When can I expect to receive my order?

Operator
Standard shipping is 4 to 5 business days.

Agents must be able to write as if they were talking on the phone. Keep the conversation flowing by mixing free form and canned messages. This helps the agent to appear human and not so robotic. Refrain from industry jargon when chatting as this may confuse customers and extend the chat session. Maintain pleasantry by utilizing punctuation that exhibits enthusiasm.

Remember, punctuation acts as your voice tone when chatting. Interject the customer’s name while chatting to personalize the conversation.

Mock Chats

An excellent way to help your agents learn your live chat system quickly is to engage with them in mock chats. Pretend you’re a site a visitor and engage a new agent using your live chat system. While conducting the mock chat, walk him/her through introductions, basic chat functions and using canned messages and links.

Also, while training during a mock chat, have the agent practice pushing you files and links as well as do a few transfers to other agents or operators. Do a mock chat or two during the initial training phase, and then ensure you do another before the agent goes live and starts accepting chat requests from site visitors.

Tech Support Tips

In addition to being the most effective way to communicate with visitors to your website, live chat is also an excellent tech support tool. Live chat features such as canned messages and links, the ability to push files and screen sharing and co-browsing, create a power-packed support environment with which CRMs or Help Desk systems cannot compete.

Providing tech support with a live chat application is relatively straightforward. Train your agents to go slow and ask short, simple questions to get to the root of problems and to make solving them easier and faster. More important than training your agents to provide tech support is making sure they have the resources they need readily available.

Ensure your tech support agents have canned links for knowledge base articles, how-to tutorials, videos and other resources they need to help customers resolve issues or problems. Make sure the agents know how to find the resources quickly and then send them to the customers who need them.

Secret Evaluations

Creating an effective live chat solution requires that you train your agents before they start, and then continue to provide training on an ongoing basis. Ongoing training should include reviews of scripts, mock chats and secret evaluations.

Secret evaluations can be performed by a manager or a pre-selected customer. Of course, the primary goal of a secret evaluation is to perform the chat without the agent having knowledge of its purpose.

Secret evaluation chats keep agents on their toes and encourage them to be at their best at all times. When used effectively, secret chat evaluations can be an invaluable tool in learning just how well your agents are performing.

These are just a few basic skills necessary for providing a great online experience. At Comm100, we know that platform features such as canned messages, typing indicator and pre-chat surveys play an important role in one’s ability to efficiently and effectively provide live chat customer service. We also understand the importance of taking the time to properly train your live chat agents. Give them soft skills training, comprehensive live chat platform training and make sure they exercise good writing skills while chatting. Your customers and chat agents will love you for that!

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About 

Kevin Gao is the founder and CEO of Comm100. With over 10 years' hands-on experience as an entrepreneur, he's always ambitious to revolutionize the way of online customer service and communication. Connect with Kevin on LinkedIn.

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