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How to Deal with Difficult Customers over Live Chat

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Chapter 3

Enhancing Real-Time Live Chat Support

After focusing so much effort on prevention, it is reasonable for a customer support supervisor or manager to feel that the large majority of possible issues have been prevented. But the reality is that focusing on prevention in support does not account for issues like delayed shipping, damaged products, or subpar service. Focusing all efforts on prevention is not sustainable — operators must be prepared to engage in a live chat that adequately mollifies customer rage and dissatisfaction.

Emphasize Customer Support Soft Skills

Soft skills are slightly more difficult to teach, as they are the inherent skills that allow people to work effectively with others. But every live chat operator needs a good reminder that great support focuses on kindness and effective listening.

Be an Effective Listener

Difficult customers want to be heard at the end of the day. A customer support operator who listens well can actually realize the best method for resolution. Those who aren’t listening carefully risk embarrassment or consumer rage by asking for the customer to repeat themselves (which is inefficient). They also risk implementing the wrong solution.

The following are tips for effective active listening:

  • Take a deep breath. When the operator’s mind is wandering, they should be instructed to practice breathing that will focus their minds and bring them to the present.
  • Use small affirmations. These are the small phrases that show the customer you are engaged in what they are saying, like “I see” and “I understand.”
  • Summarize what the customer is saying. Miscommunication issues can arise online with different typing and communication styles. When appropriate, provide the customer with a recap of their statement–this not only helps force you to be engaged, but also acts to clarify any miscommunications.

Show Empathy

It’s imperative to emphasize the importance of empathy in customer service operators. The simplest and most direct way to train operators in expressing empathy is to remind them to use phrases that show understanding, like:

  • “We understand how you feel, we’re very sorry. We’re going to take care of this for you right now.”
  • “I understand how you feel—would you like me to transfer you to my colleague who is specialized in this issue?”

And to apologize in a genuine and effusive way:

  • “We’re very sorry, but fulfilling that request isn’t possible at this time. Let me check and see what I can do for you.”
  • “We’re deeply sorry about *Issue*. Let me speak with my supervisor to see how we can correct this for you.”

Be Expressive

When chatting online with your customers, the following should be followed to master an effective tone:

  • Do not use caps lock, as this can be perceived as aggressive.
  • Use the appropriate auto spelling and grammar features — customers hold an operator’s command of language to a higher standard.
  • Exclamation marks show excitement and positivity. While they should not be overused (no one is truly excited all the time, so it may come off as disingenuous), they should be used periodically to avoid sounding bored or disengaged.
  • Use positive phrasing and avoid words with negative connotations when possible.

Stay Calm and Don’t Take It Personally

It is important for you to remember that the attitude customers are expressing is due to the situation. They are not directing it at you who is the other end of the chat.

Also, they may not think before they send the text message so they may say something hurtful without intending it to be taken that way. When you react to the anger or other negative emotions expressed by the customers, it isn’t productive and can lead to more problems.

You need to be very careful when crafting responses when chatting with a difficult customer. Tone can be misconstrued in a written conversation so any text that could be interpreted as anger, resent, sarcasm or condescension cannot be sent to angry customers.

Understand What the Customer Really Wants

During a conversation with a difficult customer, you need to cut through the anger and bluster to determine what the customer is really looking for. It can be something as simple as an apology, a free upgrade to resolve the problem, or a discount on their bill. Sometimes the customer is looking for nothing more than just having the issue fixed quickly and efficiently.

Don’t just offer free items or a discount until you know what resolution the customer is looking for. Offering things at random will only frustrate the customer because you are not serving the customer’s needs. Often looking through the customer history, prior chats, and notes made by other chat operators can help provide insight into what the customer wants to resolve the situations.

In addition, experience of handling similar situations with other customers can be useful in determining the best resolution. If you don’t have experience handling this type of complaint, you can ask other operators or supervisors for assistance. If you think you are not able to resolve the complaint, just pass the chat to a more experienced operator in the team.

Admit Your Mistakes

Admitting mistakes proves the company is human and will help customers to be more willing to forgive. It is when companies try to hide their mistakes and refuse to accept responsibility that do customers become difficult and even leave a company.

It is important for your company to have a policy in place on how to handle product recalls, software issues and other types of company-wide problems that may arise. This way you can handle such issues quickly, supply customers with the information they need and let customers know what can be done to rectify the situation.

The customer is always right policy doesn’t always work, though. Sometimes a customer isn’t always right or they try to take advantage of the situation by asking for valuable products or a high amount of money to compensate them for the frustration they experienced. You should know how far you can go to satisfy a customer.

Reach Resolutions Efficiently

When working with customers in real time, the best way to ensure satisfaction (other than through quality service) is to promote efficiency. The following are methods to obtain record fast resolution times:

Use Dynamic Chat Scripts

Using scripts is a sure way to deliver quality with speed. The important thing here is that operators are aware of how to effectively combine scripts with unique and personal touches. For example, phrases that can be canned include greetings, empathy, follow-up questions for additional support, and goodbyes. Personal touches include references to the specific issue at hand, as well as addressing the customer by name.

See if your live chat solution provider has a canned message feature. This can really aid operators to deliver scripts efficiently, without having to waste time copying and pasting scripted responses manually.

If your team does not already have a script, you can use Comm100’s Live Chat Scripts to Make Stellar Operators to help you get started.

Systemize Multi-Tasking for Operators

Multi-tasking is crucial for live chat operators, a s they can answer more active customers as they wait for replies from others.

To manage multi-tasking effectiveness, operators should be assigned a maximum number of chats based off of experience. Newer and less experienced operators should have lower limits. Check with your live chat provider to see if they have a feature that can help you manage these unique limits.

Additionally, make sure your live chat solution offers tools that promote efficiency such as canned response, file transfer, spell check, keyboard shortcuts, etc. and train the operators to use them to the full potential. Another feature worth noticing is typing indicator, which allows operators to see what a customer is typing in real time. Operators can use this to their advantage and be prepared with a response before the customer even hits send.

Create Channels for Operator Collaboration

When a team has an influx of new operators or a number of specialized departments, it is crucial that team members can collaborate on difficult support issues.

If your live chat has options that allow operator collaboration (inter-operator chat,
chat transfer, chat monitor, etc.), it’s crucial to enable them. Train operators to know
when to reach out for help, and when to attempt to handle situations independently. It’s always helpful for new operators to be able to send drafts to superiors should
they feel any hesitation about a particularly difficult situation.

Empower Your Operators

Give operators (depending on their experience and their performance) ascending levels of decision-making. For example, an operator may be able to best serve a customer through screen share. While this is clearly a technology that can be abused to intrude on customer privacy, seasoned operators should be given a high level of trust to do what is necessary to efficiently and effectively serve customers — if they must consistently wait to ask for permission from superiors, the company risks testing the limits of customers’ patience.

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