Training Your Reps to Handle Live Chat

Offering live chat on your website can boost your business. When you provide the live chat option, customers can more easily engage in conversations with your sales reps.

Without chat, these customers might fill their cart, but abandon it when they run into some complicated process or question they can’t answer. With chat, they perceive you are easy to do business with because they can get immediate help.

But your reps should be well trained to handle live chats, since it’s quite different from telephone service. Here are a few quick tips for chatters.

Introduce yourself. Make sure the customer knows with whom they are chatting and that the agent is ready to help. A simple, “My name is ____. How may I help you?” will suffice. This gives the customer a chance to introduce their question or concern.

Be professional. Humor is tricky: The best advice is to avoid humor and jokes with live chat. There may be times when the customer initiates them but even then be careful. What may seem funny to you may be rude to someone else due to cultural and personal differences. The last thing you want to do is to offend your customer.

Avoid using Jargon, abbreviations and slang.They may reduce keystrokes, but too often these “time savers” come across as unprofessional. Worse yet, when the other person isn’t familiar with your shortcuts, he may become very confused. But customers may communicate with you using these same shortcuts, so you need to know the basics so you can understand them.

Watch the use of canned text. Most chat systems offer shortcut buttons that store phrases or sentences that are used often. They’re great for answering those “often asked” questions. But remember that using canned text incorrectly is analogous to responding to a consumer question on a phone call with an answer that is totally out of context.

Many chat customers can pick up on when they’re getting an all-purpose, boilerplate answer—that’s not what they’re using live chat for. So when using canned text, review it to ensure its relevancy to the conversation before hitting send and modify it if you need to.

Be well spoken. As with in-person conversations, your customers not only judge you by the way you communicate they also judge the company. So when chatting use proper punctuation and capitalization. Always check your spelling, and just before you push send, review your message to make sure it’s error free.

Be courteous. Keep chats short and sweet: There is nothing more annoying than someone asking multiple questions before you have time to answer one. Remember that in chat, and don’t ask more than one question per message.

What’s more, if the customer asks multiple questions in one message, only answer one question per chat. (Be sure to reference what question you are answering.)

Be patient. You may be a whiz on the keyboard, but some customers are not as fast and efficient. They might type slowly when chatting or their responses may seem brief. Patience is a virtue here—keep in mind that the chat is about getting their questions and concerns handled and not about winning some imaginary chat race.

End it well. Don’t forget the close the chat—ending well is just as important starting well. Allow the other person to initiate the end of the chat conversation.

Why? Because you may think the chat is over, but the other person may not. You may find that the customer had an additional question. And when ending the chat, thank the customer for his or her time, and end with a “bye.”

Kathryn Jackson is an associate with call center consultancy Response Learning Corp.

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