Live Chat Best Practices

by Amy Bennet in Amy Bennet, Live Chat

In a world fueled by technology and a culture plagued by busy-ness, where many people turn to texting and instant messaging as their first and fastest route of communication, it makes sense why live chat is a growing channel for customer support. A recent Gartner report suggests that its presence as a customer engagement channel will increase from 2% to 10% of all interactions by 2018, with over 80% of companies making it available for their customers. The benefits of live chat both for customers and the companies that serve them are numerous, but only if it’s being used correctly. That’s why we’ve put together a checklist of live chat best practices.

Understanding Where Live Chat Falls in the Customer Journey

Understanding customer behavior is key to delivering outstanding customer service, which is why it is vital to reflect on the customer journey. Today’s typical customer, with uninterrupted Internet connection wherever they go, is quick to hop online to find answers to their questions. Their go-to resource of choice may range from Google to FAQs to blog posts to forums and social media. Increasingly, given the option, they’re turning to live chat.

Live chat means they can multi-task more efficiently and get real-time answers with none of the nonsense of waiting on hold or pressing ‘1’ for English. Their interaction with live chat is more than likely one of the first interactions they have with a brand; it almost always precedes a call to customer service, rather than the other way around. That means they’re at an early stage in the customer journey, giving companies the opportunity to truly delight them, build customer loyalty, and reduce the need for channel switching.

Live Chat Best Practices for a Better Customer Experience

The challenge is that live chat isn’t exactly a plug-and-play option. If you don’t have a strategy, any positive outcome will be a result of pure luck. Establishing live chat best practices is necessary to create consistency and reduce customer frustration.

1. Ask Questions

Answering a question with a question may sound cliché or even simplistic, but it’s often the most necessary route to take. Making assumptions about a customer’s problem will likely lead to further miscommunication and frustrated channel-switching, so asking questions is vital. Make sure your customer knows you’re focused on finding a resolution but that you’ll need more information (and confirmation) from them to do so.

This is particularly true if you’re using live chat for sales support in addition to customer service. Many prospects use live chat to get an idea of pricing or specific features, but to answer these questions, you almost always need more information first (that’s why we wrote the article, Why Asking for Contact Center Pricing Shouldn’t Be Your First Question).

Sometimes you simply won’t have the answer to their query no matter how many follow up questions you ask. You may need more time to research or consult a subject matter expert. This should be communicated to the customer with care; they’re looking for a fast resolution, and if you can’t provide that, you need to take action to minimize their frustration.

2. Be Concise

It’s so easy to slip into industry jargon no matter what your product or service. But customers simply aren’t as familiar with technical lingo. It’s equally easy to get wordy in your responses, over-explaining or repeating yourself to get the point across. But neither of these tactics are efficient in reaching a resolution.

Customers who choose to use live chat are looking for quick answers. Sometimes they’re in a rush, and sometimes they’re simply too intimidated to call. Being concise in your answers and using familiar language is the best way to serve these customers and deliver a delightful experience. While you’re at it, be diligent in avoiding typos; it just doesn’t look good for your brand image.

3. Be Personable

We’ve all experienced a customer service call where the agent on the other end of the phone is obviously reading from a canned script. That’s something we strive to avoid at all costs here at Blue Ocean Contact Centers. But it’s important to realize that the same thing can easily happen over live chat. Just because the interaction is written instead of spoken doesn’t make a script sound any less robotic.

Your live chat strategy should align with your customer experience strategy, empowering your agents to empathize with the customer in order to truly understand their needs and help them reach a resolution. At the end of the day, no one wants to be treated as just another customer; they need to know their unique concerns are being heard by a real, live human. Frequently asked questions may require a templated answer for the purpose of efficiency, but modifying that template to support the individual customer will reinforce a differentiated customer experience.

4. Build a Knowledge Base

Building a resource center for answers to frequently asked questions is a valuable way to deliver consistency and efficiency in your live chat support. Whether it’s a hub of blog posts, how-to articles, troubleshooting manuals, or video tutorials, ensure you’re covering all the typical questions with clarity.

Live chat agents can refer to this knowledge base for help answering customers and also direct customers to specific articles for more in-depth information. This is a great approach to achieve both personable service and consistent responses that don’t depend on robotic-sounding templates. For the agent, it saves time and allows them to more competently tackle simultaneous chats. For the customer, they receive personalized attention as well as access to a wealth of information. This also means they know where to find answers next time they have a question, which should help to reduce volume for both live chat and inbound calls.

Is Your Company Using Live Chat?

There’s little doubt that live chat is making a significant impact on the future of the contact center. It’s one of the most versatile ways to engage with your customers and deliver a differentiated customer experience. But it takes careful strategy and diligent best practices. It’s not a side job for an already busy agent. It takes commitment.

Looking for some help with your customer service initiatives? We’ve got you covered. Click here for our Pricing Request Form to tell us more about your contact center needs.

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