Best Practices For Live Chat Agents

17 Jul 2023 By: Natalya Bucuy

Updated

In the year of 2023 benefits of live chat are undeniable. But what are some best practices for live chat agents?

Make the customer happy leaving lasting positive experience with the company. This is the primary goal of a live chat agent. Sometimes it will come easily. Sometimes it will be a challenge.

Here is a quick guide for best practices in live chat communications.

Listening

Have you ever had a conversation when you know the other person is not hearing what you’re saying? It’s frustrating. Being a good listener is essential for successful and productive communication. In a live chat, a critical eye takes the place of a well-trained ear.

Here are tips for making your customer feel heard:

  1. Read carefully and take your time.
    Take sentences apart, reread communications, and really try to understand exactly what the customer is trying to say. Do not scan text for clues. Read. Every. Word.
  2. Be patient.
    If you need a minute to recompose yourself, take one. Do a quick mindfulness exercise – taking a few seconds to yourself will go a long way if you’re more patient when you return to the task at hand.
    Mindfulness is so important. Stay calm, patient, and present with these simple mindfulness exercise.
  3. Ask follow-up questions.
    If something is unclear, do not be afraid to ask more questions to clarify. Confirming that you understood the issue correctly goes a long way and can eliminate misunderstanding.
  4. Empathy is essential.
    Making the customer feel that you are listening and understanding will go a long way, especially if the customer is upset. Using words and phrases that stress empathy can help put through the message that you care about the customer sincerely.
    When employing best practices for live chat agents keep these phrases in mind to express empathy

Staying Positive

Staying positive throughout your communications with the customers reinforces professionalism, lightens the mood, and deflect any negativity with which the customer might have entered the conversation.

Agents can promote positivity by using some of the following techniques.

  1. Be sincere with your attitude.
    The best way to show positivity is…well, to be sincerely positive. That can be a challenge if you are regularly dealing with cranky, irritated customers, but you must make and keep the mood light to create a productive environment for problem-solving.

    Quick ways to adjust attitude:

    Smile – a conscious effort to put a smile on your face instantly lifts your spirits. The practice is proven to be extremely beneficial both socially and healthwise.  

    Practice Mindfulness – feel your body breathing in and out. Count ten breaths, or five, or three, however much time you have. Doing this, especially in the moments of high stress, can help calm you down, ground, and refocus you. Mindfulness can do wonders for your mood and overall outlook. 

    Move – take breaks often and at least once an hour. Sitting still for long can bring you down. Get up and move.

    Use music – if you can, add a soundtrack to your day. Put something upbeat as your background music. If lyrics distract you, use instrumental tracks. Even if you keep the volume low the rhythm and the beat will keep you awake and positive.
  2. Greeting

    Your greeting sets the tone for the chat, so making it inviting, engaging, and positive is important. Most of the time the chat will start with an automated or canned response, but once you begin your interaction with the customer, remember to be personable, friendly, and upbeat.

    It’s also important to pay attention to all the details the client provided in the pre-chat questionnaire if there was one available and any previous communications the client might have had with other agents in the past. If the client is already frustrated with the issue he or she is having, having to repeat the details of the problem again will take the conversation in a negative direction.
  3. Use positive language.

    This is a crucial aspect of online communications as clients do not have other references such as the tone or body language.

    While maintaining an empathetic attitude in communications with clients, it’s important to not use negative words that unnecessarily put you, your company, or any part of the customer experience. Examples of such words and phrases include unfortunately and I’m sorry; both send a message that the agent is apologetic for things that are out of his or her control and set the tone of a negative experience. Be careful in your word choices.

    Other words to avoid include dry “yes” or “no” answers, phrases like “to be honest with you…” and impersonal “It’s the company’s policy.”, “thank you for your patience” and “sorry for the inconvenience“. All these carry negative connotations, make communication stagnant, and generally do not make the customer feel cared for and listened to.

    Other strategies to keep the language of the conversation positive include being mindful of placing blame on the customer, yourself, or your company. Your goal is to solve the problem, not to decide whose fault it was the issue arose in the first place. Keeping your communications solution-oriented and positive will result in a more productive environment.
  4. Dealing with Anger.

    In the true nature of customer service, you will encounter angry customers. When you do, there are a few things to remember.

    Remember to remain calm and cheerful.
    Read communications carefully to avoid further misunderstandings
    Employ empathy and express to the client that you understand
    Avoid being short with the client; do not employ condescending voice.
    Stay away from defensiveness. Defensiveness feeds the accusation.
    Put all your efforts into problem-solving and communicate to the client that you’re doing your best to address the issue at hand.
  5. Saying goodbye and ending the chat.

    While your primary goal is to solve the customer’s problem, regardless of the chat’s outcome, you have to stay professional, courteous, and positive until the very end.

    Always ask if you have answered all of the client’s questions, or if he or she has anything else that you can help with. This is important in chat feedback as if this is one of the last messages a visitor gets in chat, essentially determining the overall satisfaction with the experience.

    Use messages such as “Please chat with us again if you have any other questions” or “Thank you for chatting with us, have a great day.” Always try to sign off with a positive message.

    In case the chat did not produce the desired problem resolution, stay away from phrases like “Is there anything else I can help you with.” This comes across as almost sarcastic. Instead, depending on the situation, use common sense and solution-oriented mindset to end the conversation – restate possible future actions, express for a better outcome in the future, and, again, keep your tone positive.

Problem Resolution

Solving the client’s problem is the reason we’re all here, so that should always be an agent’s number one priority.

Getting to the bottom of the issue is the goal of your communications with the customer. Employ listening skills by reading communications carefully, remain positive, and use the tools below to reach that goal.

  1. Using the Knowledge Base.

    As an agent, you might not know all the ins-and-outs of the various issues you will face when helping chat visitors. Especially if you’re a beginner agent, it will take some time to learn the ropes.

    The knowledge base is an amazing tool that can get you up to speed faster. You can find many answers to common questions in the database. Using features like keyword or category search you can find articles, answered questions, and general guides that will help you help your client. Spend some time browsing through the knowledge base and really get to know it. This great resource will give you a lot of useful information and make you a more efficient live chat agent.
  2. Learn as much about the problem as possible ahead of time.
    With the latest developments in chat communication, you have great tools at your fingertips. Use them.

    When starting your chat you can view the visitor’s past communication history, pre-chat survey information, and their browsing history. By using these tools you can avoid having to ask customers to repeat themselves. Sometimes visitors don’t know what they are looking for or even asking, so in those cases use the history tools to help jump-start the trouble-shooting.

    At times this information can only take you so far. Your current chat should really be about understanding what the client is asking.

    Whether you rely on the history tools, get most of the information you need from the customer directly, or use a combination of both, it’s important to follow up your answers with “Did that help answer your question?”.

    If you are not sure about exactly what the problem is about, it’s ok to ask “Can you please clarify what exactly you are looking for?”
  3. Staying on topic, but engaging in conversation.

    Sometimes a chat visitor will take the conversation off topic. Allow the customer to do so as it promotes positivity and friendliness of the chat, but spend very minimal time on the off-topic questions. At the same time, don’t allow the visitor to control the chat by following the rabbit hole of their off-topic rants. Loop the conversation back around to the topic at hand at the first opportunity you get.
  4. Using Transfer Chat and Whisper Features.

    From time to time, you will run into problems that you will not be able to solve yourself. Don’t panic! Ask for help.

    The whisper feature is great for the times when an agent needs assistance. Another agent or supervisor can jump into the conversation and, invisible to the chat visitor, talk to the chat agent. Do not be afraid to ask for help!

    This feature also saves unnecessary chat transfers, which can prolong problem-solving and upset the client. However, there might be times when a transfer is unavoidable, whether there are technical issues or a problem that you cannot solve on your own. The only thing to be cautious about in these cases is jumping the gun and transferring before you have a full understanding of the issue. You always want to avoid transferring to the wrong department or transferring in a case where some more careful reading into the issue could have helped.
  5. Get creative

    As you get more familiar with the common issues customers have and learn more about the ins and outs of the products and services about which you chat, you will become more confident and efficient. However, there will still be times when you’ll run into challenges. Use those as opportunities for growth, get creative, and learn how to think outside the box.

    The ultimate goal for creativity is to come up with a solution that will satisfy a customer while costing the company as little as possible. With knowledge, creativity often comes naturally because the more you know the easier it is to see a wide range of options for any given obstacle. For the most part, creativity comes with practice.

Minimizing Wait Time

The primary reason for people to utilize a live chat as opposed to other methods of communication is speed. Clients want their issues resolved quickly and efficiently. Agents’ goals are to minimize all wait time and to get to the bottom of the problem quickly.

Here are some ways to achieve these goals.

  1. Use automation to your advantage

    With automated messages in place, you have some time to read over the questions and any other information you need before starting the chat. Take your time and read everything carefully before engaging with the client, but do not make the customer wait too long once you get started.
  2. Use canned responses to save time

    With a solid collection of canned responses, you can save a lot of time that you’d otherwise spend typing. Use canned responses when you‘re able to increase chat efficiency. The quick search feature in canned responses folders is a great way to locate what you need fast. Auto suggestions for canned responses is another great tool when the suggestions are accurate. Make sure you read the answers carefully to avoid errors.
  3. If you need more time, let the visitor know

    Don’s make the customer wait long between responses. Average wait time should range between 30 second and a minute and should never exceed two minutes. An automatic idle response should come in after a five-minute wait, but such long wait times might frustrate the client or cause him or her to leave chat.
  4. Choose the right live chat software.

    Your contact center supervisor must be happy with the live chat software the agents will be using. It must provide all, and we mean all the features required to satisfy easy use by customers but also by agents and supervisors. If something is missing, look until you find one that has everything you need.

Sticking to Specific Communication Style

Depending on your company’s professional image, you will want to stick to a communication style that is consistent with that image.

Here are some specific “choices” for the tone that you can select:

  • Personal–  a conversation that feels personal, like a mom-and-pop establishment, regardless of the size of your company. Make that extra effort to engage customers on a personal level.
  • All Business– You are all about your business and get right to the point with your customers. Deliver information in the clearest and straightforward way possible, creating a professional and consistent company image.
  • Quirky/Funny– Your customers are on the cutting edge; you want a customer service experience that lets them get in touch with the personality behind your brand. Be a cool, knowledgeable friend they never had. Expect emojis and jokes.
  • Fun & Upbeat– You know that customers are bound to have questions, and keeping them happy is your number one priority. Make customer service enjoyable with upbeat, positive interactions which win over even the most irate customers.

Ensuring Proper Spelling and Grammar Use

Proper grammar is integral to conveying what you are trying to say. Make sure spelling, punctuation, and usage are all correct. Watch out for run-on sentences and fragments as those, which are fine in conversational speech, can seem unprofessional in chats. Typing correctly makes you seem smart, authoritative, and trustworthy. On the other hand, even a small typo or grammatical error can make you lose your credibility.

Always utilize your spell checker and, if possible, grammar check, such as Grammarly. Have live chat agents complete grammar, spelling and typing self-assessment test. Proofread your answers before sending. Practice makes perfect, so use resources and tools that make you a better writer. You can also test your spelling and grammar skills with an online game, such as out own Live Help Now challenge.

Sure, this is a lot of information to remember, but everything worth doing takes time and dedication. So employ these best practices for live chat agents and make your customers happy!

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