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The Etiquette of Live Support Chat

Now that you have a live chat feature on your website, you're ready to take the next step by using it to increase sales and cultivate good relations with your customers.

One of the benefits of live support chat is its ability to give your website a human touch. It allows you to reach beyond your static webpage to make a positive personal impression on your site visitors, in order to cultivate leads and increase sales. So it doesn't make sense to go through the trouble of adding live chat just to blow it by giving your visitors the impression of disinterest or even rudeness. This article will give you helpful tips for getting excellent results from live chat on your website.

Although most of your chats will take place in a business environment, friendliness still counts when interacting with your customers. While conversing with your website visitor, and the chat turns out to be a long one, or you are speaking to a repeat customer, you can easily convey warmth by stating the customer's name a few times during the chat. Pay close attention to the customer's questions. Making the customer to repeat himself gives the impression that you're not being attentive. It helps to be complimentary during the chat. For example, if a customer asks a difficult question, instead of writing something like, "Beat's me," you should respond, "Good question, Stan. Hold for a minute and I'll find out for you." The few extra keystrokes are worth it.

Researchers have found that approximately 90 percent of communication is non-verbal. Live chat removes this channel, which means that miscommunication can result if words are taken for their literal meaning or the context is confused. Keen judgment is called for here. If you make a statement that could be misunderstood or if you want to add emphasis, emoticons should be used. For example, let's say a customer tells you she wants to end her chat with you to continue browsing your site unassisted. If you respond, "Okay, browse away," she could assume that you were insulted and that you want her to leave your site. But if you follow the same statement with an emoticon, the statement instantly becomes friendlier. Note the difference: "Okay, browse away. :)"

Pre-written (canned) messages are wonderful time savers; they're great for answering those repeat questions. However, such messages should be written very carefully, as most customers will be able to tell when they've been sent a canned message. Sending poorly written canned messages defeats the purpose of having live chat on your website. This is because customers are not clicking on your live support chat button to get all-purpose, boilerplate answers-they're seeking to talk to a live representative who has an active interest doing business with them. If you are finding that you need to give out the same canned message with every chat, or if you must frequently resort to canned messages, a review of your website for deficiencies may be in order. Customers might be asking you such questions because some important information is missing or hard to find on your website.

Like the canned messages feature, the webpage "push" feature is an excellent way to swiftly convey information to your website visitor. But prudence is also needed here. You will not want to push pages to your customers without notifying them beforehand. Pushing a page to them without warning might even seem intrusive. After all, you will have just taken control of their browser! Alternately, if you do not want to interrupt the flow of your chat, instead of pushing a page to a customer, you can simply send the customer a URL in a message. The URL in the message box will be clickable, and the customer can open the link at leisure after the chat ends.

As with in-person conversations, it is always a good idea to be well spoken. Being well-spoken is a hallmark of intelligence, education, and professionalism. Therefore, when typing your messages, try to write syntactically correct sentences, use proper punctuation and capitalization, and watch your spelling. People will judge you on these things. In terms of communication fluency, live chat is no different than a face-to-face meeting.

A big question is how long should you wait before proactively inviting your website visitors to chat - or whether you should even do it at all. The answer depends on the purpose of your website and what pages your customers are viewing. For example, if you have a real estate website with several hundred listings, you might want to wait until your visitors have had a chance to view some listings before jumping in and asking them what they are looking for. A travel agent, on the other hand, may initiate a chat after the visitor has had a minute or so to view the information on the home page. Visitors of educational institutions, government departments, and other websites that do not have an e-commerce (sales) component should probably be left to browse on their own. These visitors will use the live help button if they have customer support questions.

No matter your language, proper speech is a hallmark of intelligence, education, and professionalism. Being well spoken in a live chat is no different than a face-to-face meeting, in terms of leaving a good impression. Visitors will judge you on how fluently you communicate. Therefore, when typing your messages, strive to write syntactically correct sentences, use proper punctuation and capitalization, and watch your spelling. After you type your messages, just before pushing on the SEND button, glance over what you wrote to make sure it's as error free as possible. Even with the best writers, errors will slip into the messages now and then. This is human and can be overlooked. But if your messages are riddled with misspellings and syntactical errors, visitors might get the impression that your company does business in a like fashion.

Not every customer that you invite to chat will be willing to interact with you. And some customers may wish to cut their chat short for one reason or another. For those customers who wish to cut the conversation short, it would be useful to have a quick, polite closing statement available in the form of a canned message that you can send quickly in order to leave a final good impression before the customer leaves your site. The content of the message would be dependent on the sort of image you want your company to project. For example, if you do online computer repair consulting you would send along a message something like, "If your system gives you any more trouble, stop by the site again, and we'll see what we can do for you." If you are a real estate agent, you can send something like, "Thanks for checking out my listings. Feel free to call me if you have more questions: (phone number)." On the other hand, if your business is e-commerce sales, you can write, "Thank you for your interest in our products. Please visit us again soon!"

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