Live Chat Etiquette Simplified

“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business”. – Henry Ford

The quote is possibly the sum of what customer service ought not to be. When companies focus only on profits and not customers, they deliver poor customer experiences. This in turn leads to customer dissatisfaction and would have them ‘sharing their plight’ with anyone who will listen – including sharing these experiences on visible platforms. Within the realm of customer service is live chat and we will look at what constitutes live chat etiquette. This mode of connecting with customers is supposed to be fast, efficient and effective. Good communication is the most crucial factor – especially because it is possibly one of the toughest things to achieve. Irrespective of what one might say, misunderstandings and potential problems are a reality. Good communication is therefore the cornerstone of live chat etiquette since it helps to understand precisely the needs and expectations of the customer.

The basic premise of customer service – is to understand what customers want and expect and according to research – 73% customers want that the customer service person they interact with be friendly and courteous. Another 55% expect that the information they need or help they require be available to them immediately. Both these statistics when combined form the basis of live chat etiquette – the customer service person must not only be polite but also be available and have sufficient knowledge to respond satisfactorily to the customer – serving both the top requirements of customers. It could be safely assumed then that soft skills are as important as knowledge within the live chat etiquette realm of customer service. Live chat etiquette translates to a fine balance between supporting customers with knowledge but without being cocky and discourteous. Customers want information on the company and its offerings complemented by precision, etiquette, swiftness and politeness.

Live chat etiquette is so important since the kind of communication that goes into interacting with customers over this medium is completely different to that used when interacting in person or via the phone or email. In order to maintain live chat etiquette, the live chat agent must know exactly how to deliver the message – with the least possibility of misinterpretation.  The slightest error can be the cause of serious misunderstanding with the customer. Live chat is supposed to boost sales by providing instant help to the users and by keeping the users on the company’s website for a long time. However, if they believe, that live chat etiquette is being violated they may not return to the website or even be interested in doing business with the company. As a customer, what do you believe constitutes live chat etiquette? Let us look at the ‘common’ ones.

The most basic of live chat etiquette would probably be for the agents to introduce themselves and ask the ‘customer’ to state their name too. Doing so lends a personal and human touch to the interaction, which otherwise could come across as robotic and impersonal.  Using names during the ‘conversation’ ensures that there is a certain connection between both sides and the customer feels more comfortable while interacting. Live chat etiquette suggests that the agent must come across as friendly and empathetic in order to enhance positivity and a willingness on the part of the customer to share more information and be open to suggestions and solutions offered. To enhance the personal feel, a photo of the current live chat agent would be highly beneficial.

Live chat etiquette requires the agent to be patient, allow the customer to ‘talk’ and pay close attention to what the customer may be trying to convey. Reading carefully whatever the customer shares at the beginning of the chat would ensure that the customer would not need to repeat any information. In addition, if a customer regularly communicates through live chat, it would be advisable that their chat history be reviewed before starting a fresh chat. Within the realm of customer service, every company would have certain policies, set terms, phrases, and possibly even scripted answers. However, if live chat etiquette is to be maintained, then sounding robotic or using rote scripts would not engage a customer. In addition, the use of technical and industry jargon could be highly irritating for a customer – live chat etiquette suggests that the language used must be simple and easily understandable for the customer.

Customer service is about building and sustaining good relationships with the customers. Live chat etiquette would suggest that making jokes or using language that suggests sarcasm could potentially damage the relationship. Customers come from different backgrounds and cultures – what may seem like a joke to the agent could be offensive to or misinterpreted as an insult by the customer and could effectively cause a breakdown in the ‘conversation’ and relationship. Among live chat etiquette best practice, avoiding jokes or any kind of communication that could be open to misinterpretation must be avoided at all costs.

The reason a customer would connect with a company via live chat is to save time and get instant responses. As part of live chat etiquette best practice, the agent must have adequate knowledge and communication skills to answer the customer’s queries with the least amount of effort and within a few words. The message must be precise and lucid but a long and elaborate answer to start with might put the customer off. In the event that the customer requests for more details, it would be suitable to elaborate. As part of live chat etiquette, it would advisable to appear professional, use correct and adequate language while remaining courteous and honest during the entire ‘conversation’.

Another of live chat etiquette best practice is to never speak ill of or make fun of competitors. When customers pose questions regarding your company, its policies, pricing, product quality and features, the live chat agent must stick to providing data related to the company. Avoid praising or putting down the competition – both would serve to create interest in your competitors. Under all circumstances and through the entire ‘conversation’, the agent must maintain live chat etiquette.

While typing out an answer, even if the customer is annoyed and could be ‘shouting’ by using capital letters, live chat etiquette best practice is that the agent must never respond in the same way. Using all capitals amounts to shouting and being disrespectful and is a complete no-no in the customer service realm. If the customer is overly ‘loud’ and frustrated, the agent must remain calm but point out that the conversation is becoming unfruitful.  Live chat etiquette is an understanding that as the agent speaking with a customer, you are engaged in a business conversation and hence must remain mindful of one’s behaviour. Ensure that you remain focused on the customer and the conversation and keep aside any other activities or distractions. In addition, it is imperative to ensure that spelling and grammar is accurate in order to make a good impression on the customer.

Live chat etiquette is essential since the main aim is to help the customer in a spirit of service rather than making them feel like your company is doing them a favour. Customers would connect for a number of reasons – the very premise of a live chat – and it is the responsibility of the agent and the company to ensure that customers receive professional and the best kind of service. Live chat etiquette best practice would be to provide speedy, friendly, effective and pleasant service to customers and make them willing brand ambassadors and loyal fans of the company.

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