Live Chat Best Practices for Better Customer Conversations

Live chat has become one of the most popular channels for contacting customer service – and it’s now the leading digital contact method for online customers, according to JD Power. Live chat support is twice as popular as email support and three times more popular than social, mainly because users find it to be more useful and a better experience overall.

Live chat for customer service is a win/win proposition for brand engagement: customers of all age ranges love it because it’s…

  • Quicker and more convenient than a phone conversation
  • More personal than an email exchange
  • More private than a social interaction

Live chat can also be more effective for your support agents, allowing them to handle multiple in-depth issues simultaneously with better resolution rates. In addition, live chat can provide unique insights into customers’ issues and motivations – and whether they’re satisfied with the support they receive.

However, less than 10% of companies use live chat on their websites. If you’re not embracing this opportunity to connect with your customers, now is the time to pull ahead of your competitors by implementing live chat.

There are a number of best practices you should consider when adding live chat as part of your customer care program. But before you add this channel to the mix, you need to make sure you’ve addressed some the potential challenges that come with a live chat roll-out.

Planning a Live Chat Launch

Step 1: Make a Plan
Before you go live, think about how your support team will handle the increase in overall case volume. Given its popularity among consumers, you can expect to see more customers connecting via chat instead of phone or email.

  • TIP: Prepare agents to operate efficiently with a potential surge in cases. You may need to limit the number of customers each agent handles at a time while they acclimate to the live chat format.

Step 2: Determine Success Metrics
Measurements like average handle time, first contact resolution rates, and customer satisfaction survey scores can apply to live chat programs as well. Chat support is also an ideal channel to request customer feedback after an interaction to get a better idea of where agents are excelling, and where they could use additional training.

Step 3: Get Comfortable with Chatting
The most important step for live chat customer service? Make sure your team translates the traditional, more formal customer service tone and language to fit live chat’s more casual style. Stiff, formal language will seem robotic and canned when delivered via chat, and could be a big turn-off for customers if it seems stilted or phony.

Chat is all about connecting with your customers immediately and effectively, and the following live chat best practices can help you get your program off the ground and ensure your team is as engaging and friendly as they are efficient.

5 Live Chat Best Practices

1. Manage expectations.
When setting up your live chat on your website or mobile app, make sure that any hours where chat is not available are clearly stated (ideally live chat should be available 24/7, but you may need to limit hours as you’re getting started). Automated chatbots are one way to ensure your live chat is always ready to engage and can help direct customers to responses outside of live agent chat windows. It’s also a good idea to present customers with some quick options for topics they can ask about, or provide links to your knowledgebase for more in-depth questions.

2. Respond quickly, but don’t rush.
When agents are live on the chat, make sure they keep all their active conversations in one place, and have notifications turned on when they’re chatting in real time. However, it’s important to avoid making the customer feel rushed when chatting. Find a balance between quick responses and personalized messages so the chat itself feels more like a natural conversation and not an agent trying to get through as many scripted interactions as possible. Treat complex queries as a series of smaller issues – answer each component one at a time, instead of rushing ahead to a final resolution that might not address the entire problem.

3. Context is key.
Connect your live chat to your customer engagement solutions where applicable to make interactions more relevant and meaningful. If a current customer is logged in and starts chatting, the agent should be able to see previous searches the customer has performed, past issues that have been resolved, recent purchases or product viewed, and more. Automated chatbots can help your team effectively triage chat interactions to make sure that this key information is transferred across conversations and channels where necessary.

4. Be human.
Even if your live chat solution includes a chatbot to assist your live agents, make sure to infuse the chat with your brand personality and real human emotion wherever possible. Provide talk tracks for your agents that are written clearly in your brand voice, but don’t require them to use pre-determined scripts. If your live chat solutions provides integrated CRM context, they’ll be able to assess the customer’s situation and connect on a deeper level than if they’re just copying and pasting. Help more experienced agents with more phone expertise than live chat embrace a friendly but helpful messaging style, instead of the more formal scripts they might be used to. Even just making a tailored product recommendation based on the customer’s previous purchases can help break the ice and give the customer the personalized experience they expect with live chat.

5. Make it a true conversation – get feedback.
Provide options for customers to get a chat transcript at the end so they can save it for future issues if needed, and follow up with an email survey of no more than five questions to gauge how your live chat is helping resolve issues and satisfy customer needs. This survey should reflect the same brand voice and tone of the chat, and could be customized based on the customer’s issue or which agent helped solve their problem. This follow-up email is also an ideal opportunity to offer another personalized product recommendation or promotion and continue the long-term conversation with your customers beyond the chat window.

As more consumers abandon the phone in favor of digital interactions with brands, live chat will continue to grow in popularity as long as it can keep providing positive experiences with a human touch. Whether you’ve already embraced live chat or are looking to launch your own, consider including a conversational concierge like Astute Bot in your toolbox.

Astute Bot helps your live agents focus on complex issues instead of routine questions while still delivering a personalized interaction for each customer. Request a demo today to see how Astute Bot can make your live chat support more efficient for more human customer experiences online.