Businesses use various customer service solutions to provide support and information and boost customer retention. Support channels such as email, phone and social media help businesses connect with customers via their preferred method. Live chat is a relatively new support channel that offers the convenience of email with the immediacy of phone calls and the reach of social media.
We’ll explore live chat and highlight seven ways to optimize your live-chat support to create satisfied customers and manage customer relationships to ensure loyalty and repeat business.
Live chat is an instant-message-like system that connects customers to support reps instantly. You’ve likely seen or used a live-chat option on a company’s website. Customers can avoid phone calls and wait times and type their questions into the system, and reps can often answer questions and solve problems immediately.
Adopting live chat can help your business in at least two ways:
“Beyond making customers happier, chat provides businesses with rich quantitative and qualitative data,” said Karl Pawlewicz, former head of marketing communications for live chat software company Olark. “Businesses can look through real-time chat reports and understand when they’re busiest, which pages generate the most questions, what conversations are converting (to sales), what topics come up most often, how busy their service team [is] and so much more.”
Live chat helps customers get quick answers to problems and improves customer service. Live-chat best practices take the support channel to the next level to create an exceptional experience for your target customers.
When you’re implementing live chat on your company’s site, keep these seven best practices in mind:
Customer satisfaction directly correlates with a quick response rate. Customers don’t want to sit in front of their computers, waiting for a greeting or reply.
“Customers prefer live chat because they can get an answer quickly,” Pawlewicz said. “When a customer starts a conversation, start with a quick response. This way, the customer knows they’ve reached a live person.”
For quick live-chat responses, follow these tips:
You’re at an advantage with live chat because you can read what a person is saying and think for a few moments before typing a response. But this also means you need to respond to every detail of the conversation.
“It’s important when using chat for customer service to understand [in] full what the customer wants to do,” Pawlewicz said. “Communication happens quickly over chat, and sometimes what a customer types doesn’t fully convey what they’re trying to accomplish. … Let them fully explain the situation – then ask the right questions before offering a solution. Don’t rush to think you immediately know the answer.”
If a chat is moving too quickly, slow the pace so you can offer the best replies. “Be quick to respond but deliberate in how you solve problems,” Pawlewicz said.
While live chats usually justify a friendly, conversational tone, some customers prefer more professional interactions, especially if they’re frustrated or apprehensive. You can still be personable, but consider your customer’s disposition and concerns before answering.
Here are some tips:
Beyond tone, it’s essential to empathize with your customer’s experience, especially if they’re having trouble. Put yourself into each customer’s shoes, and ask yourself, “How would I feel in this situation? What sort of response would help me feel like I was being understood and sympathized with?”
If a customer is happy, be happy with them. If they’re frustrated, show that you share their concerns and will help them as much as possible. Use “I” messages to convey empathy and show customers that you get their situation. For example:
The more you empathize with a person, the more they’ll trust you. Treat your customers as you would a friend in need while establishing a professional relationship. People opt in to live chat because they value human interaction when they need help. Make sure you deliver just that.
It’s a good policy for businesses and customers to provide a copy of the interaction between a team member and a customer. Here’s why:
Customer surveys can improve and streamline customer support. Consider pre-chat surveys and post-chat surveys.
Never promise something in a live chat that you aren’t absolutely certain you can deliver. Don’t feel so pressured by – or even sympathetic to – a customer that you say something you can’t take back.
If a customer is in touch because of an urgent need or is dissatisfied, an unfulfilled promise will only worsen their view of your company, marring your reputation. It’s much better to say something like, “I’m sorry, but that’s not something I can offer.”
Like all good business practices, live chat adds value to your company, but it also requires a bit of a balancing act. A good chat agent can make a positive impression on your customers, thus building customer loyalty, repeat business and word-of-mouth referrals.
Russ Mudrick contributed to the reporting and writing in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.