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Customer Support Through Live Chat – A Human Approach

A study conducted by Forrester Research titled “Making Proactive Chat Work” states:

“Many online consumers want help from a live person while they are shopping online; in fact, 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a website can offer.

Communicating with customers over the phone is a special kind of talent. And, it wouldn’t be wise to assume that a good phone support agent will be able to replicate the same success story over live chat as well.

Live chat agents must be multi-taskers with the ability to handle multiple chats efficiently. Speaking to customers and addressing their concerns in tune with their vocabulary, patterns, and sounds.

The medium works for customer support because it’s fast and personal.

But offering great support over live chat is tough. The support team needs to be available and ready to answer questions promptly during the listed business hours. While at the same time being friendly enough to make the chat fun and engaging for them.

So how can you reassure and nurture your online customers? Well, the undermentioned tips and pointers can give you a good start.

Let’s dive in.

1. Be Instant

One of the unique benefits of having and using live chat support for customer support is that it captures the customer’s attention in an instant, unlike email correspondence which always does take some time. However, the flip side is that customers are accustomed to receiving immediate service. In fact, studies have shown that an overwhelming 60% of customers hate waiting longer than a minute before receiving support.

Hence, when support staff receives a chat request, it’s important to respond to them as quickly as possible, ideally keeping the response time to less than 60 seconds. Should there be a delay, the support staff may end up losing the interest of the customer altogether.

The key here is to ensure that once the conversation starts the support staff should aim to be as prompt as possible and answer questions without keeping them waiting. There’s every probability that customers who are not receiving the expected level of service are likely to leave the conversation.

2. First Impression Matters

One seldom gets another chance to make a first impression, make sure you make it count. Though there is little probability of seeing and hearing the live chat agent, it is the attitude and the tone that plays a major role as to how the customer perceives you.

A few important things here can be considered to be kept in mind when chatting with customers:

  • Being cheerful and polite can take you a long way – Doesn’t matter if you’ve had a rough day, never deflect mood swings onto the customer. Messages should always be kept positive and polite. The positivity of chat support agents can help alleviate the customer’s worries and concerns.
  • Sarcasm can be criminal – Remaining as helpful as one can be as a support agent even if the customer acts difficult is the key to customer success. Avoid joking and never irritate them.
  • Be Elaborate Providing a complete answer is the key here. The customer will appreciate it. Use full sentences, punctuation, and complete phrases. And never, yes, never reply with a plain “yes” or “fine” to a customer’s questions.

In short, when chatting with customers, make sure the right tone is being set.

3. Reciprocate Likewise

Maintaining a rosy attitude is important, but so is speaking your customer’s language. Mirroring the style and reciprocating accordingly is important. Not only will it help to ease off the discomfort that some customers feel when using live chat, as support agents it might even help you learn something useful about your customer base.

Of course, “speaking your customer’s language” today, is an absolute need. Also, there’s a fair chance that a majority of a businesses’ customers are non-native English speakers. In such cases, businesses should either provide multilingual chat support or even use an automatic translation tool.

4. Drop the Jargon

When speaking to customers, many support agents make the mistake of over-estimating the customer’s knowledge of the product or service. The support agent should always assume that the customer knows very little about your offering. And using jargon should also be avoided when describing features or how the stuff works. Things should be explained using simple language, and ensuring the customer understands what you’re talking about before moving on.

5. Be More Human

In order to overcome language issues altogether, companies might hand out a “style guide” suggesting as to how to respond better to customers. However, it’s not a good idea to rely on this too much since it can make the conversation sound overly robotic.

With a majority of the companies receiving the same set of questions over and over again, companies fall into the trap of having their responses seem following pre-set templates. While this can be a handy strategy if customers ask a question that’s exactly like the one in the guide. However, in most cases, the support staff should be trying to answer the customer’s unique queries, instead of trying to fit them into one of the fixed responses. The support staff, at the very least, should modify the template answers before sending it to the customers.

The key out here is to solve the customer’s problems. And the style guide may not always contain all the right answers.

6. Be Sympathetic

Instead of simply answering the customer’s queries and sound mechanical, businesses should consider stepping into the customer’s shoes and view problems from their perspective.

For example, there is a possibility that the customers might be interested in product X, but perhaps product Y is better suited to their needs. Therefore, instead of mechanically listing the features of both, the support staff must try and understand their requirements and highlight the reasons as to why product Y would be a better choice for them.

The support staff must always remember that it is not the list of features that concerns the customers. All they expect is a product or service that solves their specific issues and addresses their concerns.

7. Honesty is the best policy

Nothing is worse than lying or misleading a customer into taking a decision, especially if it comes with the intention of padding the bottom line. The customer support staff must always give their honest opinion and clearly state all the facts for a customer, thereby helping them make a reasoned decision.

It’s fine not to have an answer to something. A simple acceptance of not having relevant information always helps and adds to the trustworthiness quotient.

8. Be Specific

Live chat can be an active and a capable medium in targeting specific customers. While most platforms offer a plethora of information about customers businesses should be careful about using all of it to provide better service. Looking through a customer’s chat history (if any) before starting a chat is a good idea to learn if they have had any issues in the past, what product or service they have already purchased, and perhaps even their temperament.

Even if it is a first time conversation, the support staff can still find out as to where they are located (IP address) and what language they speak.

Using these various data points, businesses can have their customer support staff start to engage the customer on a personal level immediately. This kind of service often surprises the customer and ensures their loyalty to your brand.

9. Make Appropriate Use of Technology

Today, most of the live chat platforms come loaded with handy features like shortcuts, triggers, and departments. Though incredibly effective and useful when serving customers, these features also help businesses save the much precious time and money. However, it’s important to remember here that live chat is intended to create a personalized connection between you and the customers. The additional tools should not be utilized as a substitute for friendly communication.

Therefore, before using them, careful thought should be given to understand whether they would enhance the dialogue or merely make things “more efficient.” To cite an example here, when creating a Trigger action, the customer support staff must ensure that it helps engage the right set of customers, rather than pinging everyone.

It is a known fact that Live Chat is increasingly gaining popularity as customers have started demanding greater personal attention while being served. It is expected that businesses consider and take note of the tips and points mentioned above and ensure that the support staff is prepared as live chat agents. Thereby, ultimately understanding the customer’s pain points in human terms and providing a solution that is relevant to them.

The Verdict

Live chat today, as a medium of customer support is fast growing in popularity due to its ability to add a human touch to the overall conversion process. And this “human” aspect of live chat is expressed through a proactive staff of chat agents. The chat agents must be in every way as talented as the sales and support personnel and should have the added ability to express themselves in ways that would help them engage with customers on a personal level.

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Jason is a Sr. Technical Writer currently associated with ProProfs Chat. He enjoys writing about emerging customer support products, trends in customer support industry and the financial impacts of using such tools. In his spare time, Jason likes traveling extensively to learn about new cultures and traditions.