Live Chat Etiquette in Customer Service

Chat Etiquette in Customer Service

Communication is one of the most difficult areas of human life. Even in personal relationships it can become quite a struggle, what to say about customer relationships where in less than a few minutes you have to establish a connection, preferably a pleasant one, with a person whom you never met in your life and whom you know nothing about. And people are different, they have different views, values and expectations. How to communicate with them effectively?

Building an effective communication is about getting to understand the customers’ needs and wishes.  Despite all the diversity, we all as human beings have the same needs and desires.

Know what customers want from you

According to customer experience impact report conducted by Harris Interactive, 73% of consumers expect the customer service agent to be friendly, and 55% expect to receive the information or help they need.  It is interesting that the expectation of friendliness tops that of getting real help. At the same time it is quite natural, as who would want a help tip barked out at them.

These percentages actually show us that decent soft skills are much more appreciated by customers than any technical aptitude, at least when it comes to customer service. From my own experience working in customer support, I can tell that sometimes showing too much technical expertise with a little imbalanced wording can even be damaging. Nobody wants to deal with a smart ass.=)

While technical skills are fairly easy to build, it doesn’t seem like soft skills are something that can be trained to a person. It takes quite a bit of sensitivity to be able to feel the emotional undercurrent of any live conversation and navigate your way through it. Ultimately it requires uninterrupted attention and total involvement with the other person and their problem. Are we capable of this? It is very questionable, but not easy for sure.

The corner stones of a chat conversation

Despite all the difficulty it is certainly possible to improve your communication skills by constant observation and reactions that arise to certain response patterns that you generate. There are several key points during the course of any conversation, which if you pay attention to them can drastically improve the overall customer experience and the customer impression from interaction with you.

  • How you start is how you end

Set the tone of your conversation with a greeting. It should be short but pleasant, personalized with the customer’s name if available or any other information you have access to and that sounds appropriate to use. Depending on the nature of your business, you may want to sound more warm and personal, or sometimes more formal and professional. By trying different forms of greetings, you can find out what works best with your type customers.

  • Fast and furious

Maintain reasonable speed in accepting the customer’s chat request and typing your responses. What is reasonable speed? It is probably around 2 to 3 minutes maximum. You don’t want to rush and show carelessness, but being swift while maintaining your accuracy is the goal. Learning blind typing is essential in customer service.

  • Education is key

If you need to transfer the customer or put them on hold, let them know you are doing that and why. They will be happy to wait and do their other stuff in the meantime. Don’t leave the customer unawares of what is going on, even if you have gone to check something for them and have a good cause for not responding.

  • Regular check-in

If the customer in their turn have gone to check or do something and have not responded for a while, check in with them how they are doing and if they need any help. Being proactive on chat pays off a thousand fold.  Due to the nature of chat which allows the users to multi-task, sometimes chat sessions can be stretched well into several hours with the customer going on and off. It is not the best interest of your business, and regular check in, besides being a good tone and display of care, is a solution which allows you to reduce the time that each interaction takes.

  • Serve the table in the right order

First provide the main course and then some dessert with a topping. Something extra always looks good.

It means that you should first provide the information which directly answers the customer’s question and then go into the details if the situation allows you. It is important to compress the information into one short and relevant answer which you can type within 1 to 2-minute time frame and post it as one message. If you break it down into pieces, it will disturb the natural flow of the conversion and will many times create a misunderstanding, as the customer will be reacting to your partial answer.

If the question asked requires a more detailed answer, it is better to give a short answer first and tell the customer that you are now going to explain it in more detail.

For example, at Provide Support Live Chat we have a feature which allows you to add different chat images to different websites and pages. If you were contacting me with the question, “Is it possible to use different chat icons on my other website?” instead of saying “Yes, it is possible. To upload a different set of images, please log in…” and giving you all the instructions, I would rather say “Yes, it is possible. Let me explain to you how you can do it” and then would go on with all the details in the next message. That would give me extra time to write a response which is detailed and accurate enough without trying the customer’s patience.

  • Say No to canned responses

I don’t mean literally, as they can be quite useful, but avoid sounding like you are using them even when you are not. Does that make any sense? It is true that our mind is a machine which works in repetitive patterns and it is very hard to avoid clichéd answers. Still, if you are aiming for excellence in customer service, it is the only way to go. Make it your creative practice to give the same information, but style it differently for every client.

When is a good time to use a canned message? The time is right only when the customer is asking you for some sort of instructions, where every detail, every step is important. If you were to start typing them over in your own words, there’d be a great chance of you missing something. These are the only situations where canned responses are much appreciated by the customers. In all other cases they only contribute to creating the atmosphere of indifference and detachment.

  • Stay on the bright side

If you have to say the negative news, say it first and finish with the positive. It is actually a scientific fact that one of the most effective ways to create an enjoyable customer experience is to stack the painful parts of the experience early in the process. Check out this interesting article on the topic.

Ultimately you’ll kill 2 birds with one stone – you will sound frank and open about something you don’t have or can’t do, and will maintain the positive flow of the conversation.

  • No rumours digi digi

Just in case you haven’t heard it, here is your link.

If you have to speak about your competitor, remain positive and don’t spread any rumor. Deliver the facts if you know them, without attaching your own judgment to it. Criticizing someone behind their back never looks good and it will definitely spoil the customer’s impression of your company.

  • Finish gracefully

Well, I’m sure you know how to do it. Thank the customer for chatting with you and invite further communication in case of any questions/issues. Just don’t leave like an Englishman, without saying good bye.=)

You can practice your eloquence here if you want to and if the customer allows it by staying. It will surely not hurt, unlike a wordy greeting.

I hope you enjoyed these tips.

While customer service is not an easy thing to do well, try not to view it as a burden that goes along with having a business. After all, it is just another sales opportunity. Take it for what it is and have fun with it.

Do you have any other interesting etiquette procedures you would like to share with us? Please do so in the comments.

Provide Support is a leading software provider in customer service, offering live chat and real-time visitor monitoring tool for websites. Empowering customer service with live chat.

Maria Lebed

Maria Lebed

Maria is a Customer Service Advocate and Social Media Coordinator at Provide Support, LLC. She is a writer and blogger on customer experience, customer service innovation and live chat support service.
Maria Lebed

21 thoughts on “Live Chat Etiquette in Customer Service

  1. I agree with your comments about canned responses. It may seem like a real time saver, but there are a few people out there that actually get angry. For the most part, customers are very professional and polite. “No rumors” is also important to remember because you want the chat to stay on task and remain professional. Thank you for these tips.

    1. Thank you for your feedback! I am glad to hear that you enjoy reading our blog and find useful information to develop your business.

    1. Thank you for your comment. I apologize, I did not quite understand your question about confirmation from a developer. You can send me your question here, otherwise, you may also contact our chat support team. We will be happy to answer any of your questions.

  2. Awesome looking website. I recently built mine and I was looking for some design ideas and you gave me a few. May I ask you whether you developed the website by youself?

    1. Thank you for your feedback on our website. Sorry for a late response. I just recently found a bug in my comment notification system.

      To answer your question, yes, the website is designed in-house, by our own developers. Thank you for taking the time to read and leave a comment.

  3. Thanks for a excellent advice! I just come to your blog and really like the information. I expect to be learning your blogposts in the future. Excellent write-up, really useful. I believe plenty of visitors will locate this very useful.Keep write-up in coming future too!

  4. Thanks, i really enjoyed this article. I think you made some great points. I’ve ben working with Live Chat for over 10 years and I think you hit most of the key points.

  5. Thanks Amanda,

    The article provided me with a great insight on Customer Support. I am a Trainer myself and found the article very interesting. Points on-

    Being Fast, yet accurate
    Customer education
    Providing the customer with proper information
    Saying No
    Staying away from spreading rumors and
    Finishing the chat gracefully

    are TRUE.


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