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Customer Service

Live chat is perfect for providing customer service. It’s quick and efficient, and that’s exactly the kind of service customers want. But before launching chat, make sure to set your team up for success. Adding a chat tool to your website because you think you should without a solid plan can backfire in a big way. Before launching chat, make sure you’ve trained your agents, created a knowledge base, and written a collection of canned responses for your team to use.

How to help customers over live chat

As live chat becomes more common, customer expectations expand. With more opportunities to use chat to get help with an issue, customers experience varying levels of service. However you decide to use a chat tool, make sure your business is one of the good examples of doing it, rather than one people like to complain about to their friends. Providing customer service over live chat has the potential to result in a lot of happy customers. If you can manage to keep it quick, efficient, and accurate, they’ll be thrilled.

When you decide to add live chat to your customer service options, next you’ll need to decide where and when, create your canned responses, and prepare your team. Read on for details:

Decide who can access live chat

When you decide to add live chat customer service to your website, first you’ll need to decide where it’ll be. Will you offer chat support to every customer? Every paid customer? New customers during their first few months? If you can’t manage to staff live chat around the clock for every customer, think about when your customers are likely to need you most — in both time of day and in their customer journey — and prioritize chat then. Consider your goals when deciding where to launch chat. Do your customers send a lot of emails asking questions about basic tasks within your product? Allow them to access chat and help them find the documentation they need. Are you looking to increase sales when potential customers browse your product page? Set up proactive chat and greet them before they give up and move on.

Create a collection of canned responses

Canned responses are pre-written blocks of text that you know you can re-use over and over again. They save time because you don’t have to write out a full response to your most common questions. It also keeps answers consistent across multiple agents — regardless of who on your team is chatting with customers. Brainstorm the questions your customers are most likely to ask in a chat and write canned responses for agents to use. Be sure the text is short enough to work well in a chat setting, and make sure your staff knows they should use them as a jumping off point and customize for each customer as needed. Your chat or ticketing system may have a spot for storing replies — Chatra does — or agents can use a tool like Text Expander.

Train your chat agents

If your agents are already experienced in other forms of online customer service, like email support, great! There is lots of overlap, so they won’t have a huge learning curve. However, there are some specific skills to develop for chat support, so be sure to help your team develop these before diving in and disappointing customers in real-time:

  • Ability to write concise messages. Chat boxes are smaller than emails or web pages, so the messages you drop into them should be too. Agents should practice explaining tasks in short, digestible bits of information that won’t overwhelm the box. Communicating through bullet points rather than paragraphs is a good thing here.
  • Understand what a user means even when they’re not saying it quite right. Chat is fast-paced and that can be good or bad. While it only takes a few minutes to frustrate a customer, a chat agent can also be the hero that fixes their issue in that amount of time too. They must learn to pay close attention to what the customer is saying and interpret their words to fit their technical knowledge. The customer won’t always know the name of the feature they’re complaining about, but they’ll always expect their chat agent to know what they mean.
  • Be brief and keep it moving. Live chat requires a fast pace. Agents should practice ending chats quickly without leaving a customer hanging or making them feel unappreciated. Some people will want to linger or chat about things that are off-topic, but it’s essential that a chat agent doesn’t get bogged down in chats that aren’t actually making a difference in the queues.
  • Assess customer tone and chat accordingly. Some customers who start a chat are going to be furious or frustrated or both. A chat agent must be able to assess the situation and understand what the customer is feeling, then adjust their communication style to fit the situation. It isn’t the time for a smiley emoji or a super casual attitude. Due to its immediacy, live chat can spiral out of control quickly, so it’s essential to develop the skills to prevent that from happening.
  • Ability to juggle multiple chats. When an agent is first starting out in live chat, the idea of chatting with more than one customer at a time is daunting. However, with time and practice, an agent should be able to chat with more than one customer at a time. A skilled agent will regularly handle three customers at once, and depending on how the conversations are going, maybe even five or six. The trick to making it work is learning to pace chats in a way that lets you cycle through them. Ask the user questions for clarity or give them a task to complete, then check back once they’re ready for the next bit of information.

Using knowledge base articles with chat

A Harvard Business Review study found that 84% of customers said their expectations weren’t met in their last interaction with a support team. When working in live chat, one way agents can very quickly disappoint a customer is by taking too long to get them the information they need. The customer likely started the chat with the expectation of speed, so anything less than basically instant is a letdown. To assist your customer service agents in providing the help a customer needs more quickly, create a knowledgebase full of helpful documentation they can link to when longer instructions are needed to solve a particular problem. Instead of writing out every detail, the agent can link to the document and the customer can refer to it anytime. Plus, once a customer uses the knowledgebase to find a solution to question, they’re more likely to check it out next time they need help, which is a good thing since the goal is to get them the answer they need as quickly as possible to avoid frustration.

Beyond the more obvious benefits listed above, a knowledgebase provides some other great results, like:

  • Increased Productivity. Your chat agents can move on from answering the same question over and over again in detail and instead quickly provide a link to the details the customer needs and move on.
  • Better Customer Experience. No one likes to wait around for help. When a chat agent is juggling multiple chats, that can mean they leave one customer waiting around for a reply while they’re working with another. To decrease the wait and increase happiness, a quick link to a knowledgebase article can get the customer moving along instead of waiting around. To avoid making a customer feel like they’re being ditched, the agent can invite them to review the information and ask any questions before the chat ends. That buys your customer service agent time and also lets the customer know they’re welcome to stick around if needed.
  • Increased Job Satisfaction. Most people don’t like to do the same mindless task over and over for months or years on end. When a knowledgebase is in place and customers are directed to use it — whether through prominent placement on your contact us page or links provided during a chat — that frees up time for your agents to focus on answering the more difficult questions. The ability to spend time solving trickier issues gives them a chance to grow their skills and dive deep into the product, and therefore feel a greater sense of satisfaction at a job well done.
  • Improved Cost-Effectiveness. Live chat is more cost-effective than phone support, and a knowledgebase reduces the expense of live chat even more. Chat can resolve issues more quickly by linking customers to the appropriate support documentation and therefore move on to other queries more quickly.
  • Increased Product Knowledge. A knowledgebase provides your agents with a bunch of documentation all about your product that they can use to learn more about it. This is especially helpful for new hires who may not know every feature inside and out but still need to be able to help customers. Plus, if your agents are responsible for updating the knowledgebase, that’s a great way to stay on top of product changes and gain a deep understanding of things too.