Step Up Your A-Game: How to Be an Effective Communicator in Chat

April 14th, 2017 | Lin Parkin | Live Chat
Step Up Your A-Game: How to Be an Effective Communicator in Chat

Effective communication is the cornerstone of any successful customer service interaction. But the communication process for live chat takes a special kind of talent. Don’t assume your star customer service representatives on the phone can achieve the same results in chat.

Not only do live chat agents need to possess the same level of patience as your telephone representatives, but they must also be high-achieving multi-taskers capable of handling multiple chats at one time. Furthermore, speaking to customers over live chat is almost like learning a new language with its own vocabulary of patterns and sounds.

To help build rapport, a telephone representative might engage a customer in small talk about the weather while pulling up their account. In a live chat, however, many customers are looking for a faster solution to their problem. Therefore, the exchange in a chat should be centred around efficiency.

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  1. Make a Good First Impression

    Everyone knows you don’t get a second chance at a first impression, so make each one count. Live chat customers can’t see or hear you, but the attitude and tone of your message play a huge part in how you—and your company—are perceived.

    Opening with a cheerful, polite introduction will help lessen some of the tension your customer may be feeling. If enabled, use the pre-chat survey to learn the customer’s name and address them personally at the start of your conversation. You can also use this information to pull up their account in your CRM to help serve them faster.

    Example:

    Mike: “Hi Sue, thank you for using our live chat service. My name is Mike. How can I help you today?”

  2. Read Carefully and Confirm Anything That’s Unclear

    To avoid misunderstandings and longer-than-necessary chats, it’s important to “listen” and understand the problem your customer is experiencing. Try to avoid glazing over the customer’s response. Read their message thoroughly and, if something is unclear, take a quick look at the customer’s current page or navigation history to gain extra insight into their problem.

    Example:

    Customer: “I bought a title from your library, but now I can’t find the download link.”

    Mike: “I can help you with that. I see you purchased Song 2 from our music library a few minutes ago, is that the one you’re looking for?”

    Customer: “Yes”

    Mike: “Okay, I will get you the link. One moment, please.”

  3. Provide Future Self-Help Instructions

    Whether the problem is a lost link, account or technical issue, provide the customer with a quick resolution, and then explain how to avoid having the problem again in the future. It will give them the speedy resolution they were looking for as well as empowering them with self-serve options for next time. This is where your canned responses shine. You can use them to provide general FAQs from your knowledge database. Make sure you personalize the response a little, so you don’t sound robotic.

    Example:

    Mike: (seconds later) “Here is the link to your song.”

    Customer: “Great! Thank you.”

    Mike: “You’re welcome. To avoid this issue in the future…” (enter a canned response on how/where to find download links to songs).

    Customer: “Oh! I didn’t know the link would be on my receipt. Thank you for the information.”

  4. End the Chat Efficiently

    Live chat is a delicate balance of handling multiple chats and providing effective solutions. Most call centers expect live chat agents to handle three to five chats at once. The goal is to end each session as quickly as possible while still providing an exceptional level of service. So, in many ways, the less back and forth there is the better. Before you politely end the chat, ensure the customer doesn’t have an additional questions or concerns.

    Example:

    Mike: “Great! I’m glad I could help. Is there anything else I can do for you today?”

    Customer: “No, that’s all. Thanks again!”

    Mike: “You’re welcome. Thank you for using our live chat service. Goodbye for now.”

    Customer: “Bye!”

  5. Log Post-Chat Notes

    This is an often-overlooked yet critical step in the live chat exchange. It doesn’t just end with you and the customer saying good-bye. The exchange should be accurately logged so there is a record of everything that happened in the chat, particularly anything that may not be obvious from the transcript.For example, did the customer request a follow-up call? When is it to be completed? Who is responsible for the making the call?

    Logging this information also provides a history for other people in your department or other departments to review. Colleagues will find this information helpful the next time the customer starts a chat, sends an email or calls the office.

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Communication Process of A Live Chat

Much like your favourite paperback novel, the live chat process should have a beginning, middle and end. The above example was a smooth, cut and dry process, including:

  • A friendly introduction
  • Confirmation of the issue
  • Resolution of the issue
  • A warm goodbye
  • Logging the chat transcript

To ensure the process goes well, try to have a few do’s and don’ts in place to improve communication and keep all chat sessions on point, such as:

  • Use short sentences and paragraphs to make your messages easier to read.
  • Avoid asking more than one question at a time. Something will get missed!
  • Use correct terminology, but avoid jargon and gobbledygook.
  • Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
  • Ask for clarification to provide the most relevant response.
  • Speak your customer’s language. Use the translate option, so they don’t have to!
  • Avoid using negative words (e.g. “no”, “don’t”, “can’t” or “won’t.”)
  • Read your message before you send it. Does it make sense? Correct any errors.
  • Be professional, polite and personable.

What to Do When a Chat Doesn’t Go So Smoothly

Although many chats are a simple process, it is not always as easy as the example above. Let’s look at some common scenarios and solutions:

Scenario and Solution #1
  • Problem: The customer suddenly becomes unresponsive.

    There are any number of reasons for this. The customer might have been called away from their computer, navigated to a different page or simply forgot about the chat once their problem was resolved.

  • Solution: Employ the 10-minute rule.

    Wait for 5-minutes and ask, “Are you still there?” Then wait for another 3-minutes and say, “We seem to have been disconnected. If you need further help, please feel free to open a new chat. Thanks for using our live chat service. Goodbye for now.” Wait for another 2-minutes, if there’s still no response, end and log your chat.

Scenario and Solution #2
  • Problem: Dealing with an irate customer.

    Live chat is often faster and more convenient than waiting for an email response or making a phone call. Most customers who use the service are friendly and just want a quick exchange. However, there are times that an irate customer will take out all their anger on the agent. It usually starts with all capitalized letters (e.g. “I AM NOT HAPPY!”).

  • Solution: Personalize, but don’t take it personally.

    Live chat can seem a bit impersonal at times, making some customers more inclined to “yell” at an agent than if they were speaking directly to someone. But the more you personalize and empathize with your customer, the calmer they will become (e.g. “I understand why you’re frustrated. I will get this resolved for you, Rick. Can you please hold while I pull up your account?”). Above all, try to remain calm and don’t take anything personally.

Scenario and Solution #3
  • Problem: Long resolution time.

    When juggling multiple chats, you need to be able to analyze problems and provide accurate solutions quickly. Sometimes a customer has a question or problem though that requires in-depth fact gathering, which could lead you to spend your time looking for information, rather than handling your chats.

  • Solution: Keep checking in with each chat.

    When it takes a little longer than usual to resolve issues, use your canned responses to let each customer know you are still there (e.g. “Thanks for your patience. I will be with you shortly.”). Try to resolve the easier chats first while pulling up the necessary screens or accounts you need for more time-consuming chats. For more complicated issues, offer to look into it and email or call once the issue has been resolved, or more information can be provided.

Conclusion

The communication process in a live chat session revolves around patience, comprehension skills, accuracy and speed of resolution. If you or your live chat agents need a little extra help brushing up on their chat skills, download our free eBook with tried and tested tips for delivering high-quality service your live chat contact center.

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About 

Lin Parkin has specialized in digital customer service management, public relations, and content writing for over a decade. She is passionate about changing the way people view online customer service and helping digital customer service teams deliver a stellar experience with each interaction. As a freelance writer, Lin contributes to business and lifestyle magazines as both a writer and editor and writes for business blogs across Canada and the U.S. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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