Chat etiquette plays a huge role in customer service. Professional and authentic interaction with clients goes far beyond the opportunity to make a sale. It helps to build a lasting relationship with the customer, inspire future communication and create fans and advocates of your brand.
How to treat the customer to be able to appreciate all these benefits and escalate your service to a more professional and human level?
Customer service training is the most important part in achieving these goals.
Professional line of communication is not that obvious to expect your service agents to get at it intuitively. It is especially true with new employees who often need help finding the proper style of communication which would stick with your business objectives and allow them to maintain their authenticity.
Below are some guidelines on how a service agent can best handle the major key points in a live chat conversation.
1. How to start a chat
Use a proper greeting. It may sound very basic, but actually not everyone does it right. Greeting is important, as it sets the tone for the whole conversation.
Quite often the service agents fall into one of the two extremes: either their greeting is too short and informal, or too long and formal, both of which betray the lack of respect and concern for the customer.
Greeting should be professional, while remaining friendly and personal at the same time. A good example would be:
“Hello John, thank you for calling Provide Support. How may I help you?”
Or you can start with a shorter but more personal greeting:
“Hello John! How are you doing?”
I am personally a fan of this one, as it works really well. Many customers are actually surprised with this question, in a good way. Probably because support elsewhere rarely ask them this question. It instantly sets the rep on friendly terms with the customer and the conversation becomes less formal and template based while keeping a business tone.
After the customer confirms his wellbeing you can move on with:
“Perfect, I am really glad to hear that! How may I help you today?”
or you can express your sympathy if the customer is not doing well:
“I am really sorry to hear that. Is there anything I can do to help you?”
If the customer starts the chat with a description of his problem, you can respond in the following way:
“Hello Mary. I understand the problem and will be happy to help you. Let’s see what I can do.”
If the customer did not provide his name, you can ask for it. It will show your concern and attention:
“Hello! May I have your name please?”
Once you have the name, make sure to spell it correctly.
2. How to ask for more information or verify your understanding of the question/problem
To avoid any confusion and a long chat, make sure you understand the customer’s issue before giving your instructions or offering solutions. There are many ways you can ask for clarification politely:
“Let me check that I have this right…”
“Let me see if I have this correct, you want me to…” or “You would like for me to…?”
“If I understand you correctly…”
“Tell me more about…”
“So you are saying that…correct?”
“This is what I understand you are telling me…”
3. How to say “I don’t know”
If you don’t know the answer to the customer’s question, be frank about it, however, avoid using the too straightforward “I don’t know”. Here’s how you can play it out nice:
“That is a good question, let me find out for you.”
“I’m not sure, but let me find out for you.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have the information on that. May I put you on hold for a few minutes? I will clarify this with our manager.”
“I’m sorry, I don’t have the information on that. May I have your email/phone number? I will find this out with our accounting department and get back to you shortly.”
“I’m sorry, this question would be out of my expertise, but Daniel from the tech support department will be able to help you. Would you like me to connect you with him?”
4. How to transfer
It is no secret that most customers do not enjoy being transferred. So if you have to transfer, do it only when it is absolutely necessary. Otherwise, try to find out the information for yourself.
Before transferring, inform the customer why and to whom their call is being transferred.
“Jerry, I am going to connect you with Steve from the shipping department. He will be able to help you with this problem.”
“Jerry, let me transfer you to the marketing department. Steve will be able to answer your question.”
It is also important to notify the person to whom you are transferring the chat, give them the customer’s name and explain the nature of their question or problem.
5. How to put on hold
If you need some time to investigate the problem, ask the customer’s permission to put them on hold.
“Would you mind holding on for a few minutes while I am checking this with our administrator?”
“May I put your call on hold while I am checking your order?”
“Can I put you on hold for a moment?”
On receiving their consent, make sure to thank the customer before leaving the chat. When you are back, thank them again for waiting.
“Thank you for waiting/holding. I have the details of your latest payment, let me send it over to you.”
If you feel resolution of their problem is going to take a longer time, ask the customer whether they would like you to call or email them back rather than waiting on hold.
“Jan, I will need to put you on hold for a few minutes to run a few tests and see if I can reproduce the problem. Would that be ok with you or would you prefer I call/email you back with the details?”
If you’ve been away for too long and the customer has been inquiring about your absence, make sure to apologize to them.
“I’m sorry to keep you waiting. I have managed to reproduce the problem. Here’s what needs to be done to fix it.”
6. How to admit fault
Be direct and clear about the fact that you made a mistake. If it is your personal mistake, say that.
“Rob, I’m sorry, I made a mistake and gave you the wrong price for this item. The correct price is…”
If it is someone else’s mistake, say that it was “our” mistake attributing it to the company rather than to the individual person who is not present in the chat room with you.
“John, I’m sorry, we made a mistake and sent the invoice to the wrong email address, which is why you did not receive it. We are going to resend it now to the correct address and add a few more days to your subscription to make up for our error.”
7. How to say “No”
Saying a blank “No” to the customer may appear quite rude. The best approach is to use the “Compliment Sandwhich”, my favorite tactics which John Rydell beautifully describes in his article “Simple Tips on Having the Hard Conversation”. This tactics is basically about adding two positive statements on either side of a bad one.
For example, if the customer is asking to be connected with a team member who is not available for a chat, you would usually say:
“I’m sorry, Joan is not available right now. May I help you with something?”
First you express empathy that the customer’s desire cannot be fulfilled at the moment – “I’m sorry”. Then you make the actual negative statement – “Joan is not available”. After that you complete your response with something positive, an offer of help – “May I help you with something?”.
You could extend this to deal with more complicated situations. Here are a few more examples.
“I’m sorry, we cannot lower the price for this item any further, but we have a similar product which is priced cheaper because it doesn’t have the built-in face recognition. Would you be interested to take a look at it?”
“I’m sorry, we don’t have this feature at moment. We do intend to add it to our service and we can notify you when it has been done. Would you like to receive an email update?”
8. How to follow up
If you promised the customer to call or email them back, it is desirable that you do that within a 24-hour time-frame, even if you don’t have an answer to their question yet.
“Rob, I just wanted to let you know that we are still investigating the problem. We don’t have a solution yet. I will email you as soon as we have found the bug.”
“Jerry, we haven’t been able to complete the transition of your account yet due to a small database issue on our server. We are fixing this now and hope to have everything ready for you by tomorrow. We will keep you posted.”
If you missed a chat request and have the customer’s contact information, your client will no doubt appreciate it if you follow up with them right away:
“Hello Tom. I’m sorry we have missed your chat. Is there anything we can help you with?”
9. How to handle complaints and angry customers
Start by showing sincere sympathy and understanding, acknowledge the customer’s feelings.
“I am really sorry this has happened. Let me see if I can find a solution to it.”
“I’m really sorry about that. Tell me what happened.”
“I’m sorry you are having this problem. Let’s see if there is anything we can do to help the situation.”
Express your willingness to help commit till you find a solution or compromise to deal with the issue.
“I’m sorry you are not happy with our product/with your purchase. Let’s see what we can do to make things right.”
“I’m sorry you didn’t receive your purchase on time. Let me find out what I can do to make it up to you.”
“I’m sorry this has happened. I understand your frustration, and I will do my best to help you.”
10. How to deliver on a promise
Sometimes it happens that a customer has been promised something which is impossible to accomplish, either through lack of knowledge or misinformation.
Instead of direct denial “We could not have promised anything like that”, reassure the customer that you are going to verify that which he had been promised and offer him apologies and or make it up to him if there was a mistake.
“Let me put you on hold for just a few moments and verify this information.”
“If I understand you correctly, you were promised… It appears there has been a mistake. Let’s figure out how we can resolve this”
11. How to handle several clients simultaneously
When you have to deal with several clients at the same time do not give the impression that you are rushed. If it is necessary, take the extra time for yourself by telling the customer that you are going to check the information for him and asking him to hold for a few minutes.
The customer is not concerned with slower responses or minor delays, they are concerned with lack of your attention. It is ok to make them wait if you first ask their permission for it.
“Jerry, let me review your transaction history. Please bear with me for a few more minutes.”
If your responses are delayed and the customer enquires about it, never tell them you are dealing with other clients. The customer should always have the impression that he is the only one you are dealing with at that moment. If there are any delays, attribute them to your checking up the information for the client.
“I’m sorry for the delay on my part. I am pulling up your account details. Please allow me another minute. I’ll be back with you right away”
12. How to treat those who contacted the wrong chat
It is important to treat all callers with respect, even if they are not your clients or potential customers. Most people who are contacting you by chat have some sort of online presence and if you are rude with them or reluctant to give them a clear answer, they can leave false negative comments about your company in online forums or on social media. To avoid such situations, make sure to come up with a friendly response to such callers.
“I’m sorry, you have reached the wrong company. This is…, we are not affiliated with…”
If they apologize for having reached the wrong chat, reassure them everything is ok and end the chat.
“No problem. Thank you for your call. Have a good day.”
If they insist that you should still help them, don’t let yourself be trapped into an endless chat, give the user a reason why you cannot help them and close the chat room.
“I’m sorry, we would not be the right company to help you with your question. We don’t deal in…We appreciate your contact. Have a good day.”
13. How to wrap up the call
Ask if you can be any further assistance. If any further action is to be taken, clarify what was agreed upon.
“Mary, is there anything else I might help you with today?”
“John, is there anything else I can do for you? As agreed, I will post a note to our billing department regarding your payment and we will follow up with you on that by tomorrow.”
Thank the customer for calling your chat line. Invite them to chat again. End the conversation with a definite “goodbye” or any other expression which leaves no doubt that the conversation is ended.
“If any other questions arise, please feel free to contact us at any time. Thanks so much for calling. Good bye.”
“Thank you for chatting with us today. Have a nice day. Good bye.”
Who should hang up first? Preferably, let the person calling hang up first. If they forget to close the chat room right away, keep half a minute pause after your last message and then close the chat room.
So there you go. I hope you find these recommendations useful.
Just a quick final tip: you can turn some of these phrases into canned responses in your live chat client and save time to yourself and your operators typing this over.
If you are like myself, rooting for a better customer service around, give a heads-up to this post on social media and share it with your employees and colleagues.
Thank you for making it to the bottom!