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How to interact with customers on live chat

Dave Dyson
Anton
de Young

The Chat channel makes it possible to work on multiple support requests simultaneously, which can allow you to solve more issues more quickly. But managing multiple chats simultaneously also means that the you have to constantly switch contexts as you think about the issues each customer raises.

Also, because you chat with customers in real time, they expect immediate or as close to immediate responses as possible, so you have to handle the chat support with that in mind.

To hone your chat customer service skills and ensure that your customers have a satisfying experience during a chat session, here are best practices for managing the chat queue and responding to individual chats.

    Respond as quickly as possible–customer satisfaction drops after 30 seconds of waiting. This means that even after you pick up the chat, the longer the customer waits between responses, the more likely they are of being dissatisfied with the interaction. Don’t leave your customers hanging!

    Keep chat sessions short. Respond quickly and make the total interaction time as short as possible. Shorter chat sessions result in higher customer satisfaction. Longer chat sessions don’t necessarily indicate a bad customer experience, but may indicate instead that the conversation should be switched to a different channel.

    Limit yourself to 2 or 3 concurrent chats. Research from the Zendesk benchmark survey has shown that you can only reasonably handle 2-3 concurrent chats. It’s not only the your ability to keep track of multiple conversation threads at the same time, it’s also the length of time between responses to each, which get longer when you’re handling many chats at once.

    Be a keen reader. As with email and support tickets, customers are often less able to express themselves or explain problems in writing. Read carefully and ask questions. Don’t jump to conclusions.

    Don’t make the customer repeat information they’ve already provided. Make sure to read and respond to information the customer shares in their initial chat instead of asking for details they’ve already shared. If the customer has been in touch repeatedly about an issue, review their past chats for background. This way, they don’t have to keep repeating themselves.

    Be mindful of your tone in text. Tone is often difficult to decipher in a text chat, so be mindful of how you communicate via text. Don’t use all caps, it’s like shouting at the customer. Avoid making jokes because they can easily be misunderstood. Avoid instant messaging shorthand (e.g.: ‘lol’, ‘brb’, ‘afaik’, ‘gtg’, etc.) because not all customers are familiar with these. Ensure your spelling and grammar are correct to avoid confusing the meaning of what you’re trying to say to your customers.

    Communicate your status. If you have to keep a customer waiting or can’t solve their issue right away, tell them what’s happening. If you need more time, let them know you’re working on it and will be with them as soon as possible.

    Be honest when you don’t know the answer. If you can’t answer the customer’s question, say so. If you need to get information from another agent to resolve the customer’s issue, telling the customer that will help them understand why they may have to wait a bit for a follow-up response. This is all about setting appropriate expectations.

    Transfer the chat to another agent when needed. If you need to hand off the chat to another agent, inform the customer before making the transfer. The new agent should take a moment or two to get up to speed on the issue and should never ask the customer to repeat information that was already captured in the chat.

    Move complex and time-consuming chats to the phone or a ticket. If the customer’s issue is just too complex to handle in a chat, move the conversation to the phone or a ticket. Some issues are just better handled on a different channel.

You can find best practices for talking to customers on the phone in Essential customer service skills: how to interact with customers on the phone and on social media in Essential customer service skills: interacting with customers on social media.

Have any tips to share?

Have any live chat support tips to share with the Relate community? Add your comments and let’s discuss.