3 Ways Not to Use Canned Responses in Live Chat


Canned responses (also known as prefab replies and macros) are a boon to your customer service. They solve common customer problems in a timely manner while driving up your customer satisfaction score (CSAT) and lowering resolution times.

Be wary, though. They can also become a crutch for ill-trained or overstretched agents and can turn on you in the snap of a finger:

  • 38% of consumers find scripted, impersonal responses frustrating.
  • 43% of businesses say their users find their scripted responses most frustrating, (which we found after surveying 400 consumers and 100 businesses on their live chat experiences).

It’s clear, using canned responses to save time and please customers is an art. But how do you do that?

In this post, I’ll discuss three live-chat situations where canned responses aren’t appropriate. I’ll also analyze an actual exchange I recently experienced as a customer to illustrate my point. Unfortunately, as you’ll see, you don’t have to be a customer service professional to feel like canned responses are being used on you.

Personalize your canned responses

The number one rule with canned responses that cannot be stressed enough is that they must be modified to fit the customer’s situation and needs. Start personalizing the moment you greet the customer in your chat because that’s just a live chat best practice. If the customer thinks it’s a canned response, then it’s not working.

Think of it in terms of building a house;  canned responses are your foundation and framework. Personalization is your functional furniture and special details that make a house really feel like a home.

Consider a canned response that says, “I’d be happy to help you today.” How much better does it sound if you personalize it?  “I’d be happy to help you with your reporting questions today, [Michael].”

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Canned responses: 3 ways not to use them

Whenever possible, avoid using canned responses in these three situations:

  • If you are unclear of what the customer is asking. This is a big no-no. If there’s confusion, a canned response that offers the wrong solution or instructions will, at best, frustrate your user and prolong the chat. At worst, you’ll  break something and create another problem. Remember, your customer needs help solving problems, not creating new ones..
  • If you are feeling pressed for time. Don’t underestimate your users’ innate ability to know when they are being rushed. Trust me, they can totally pick up on it, and it makes them feel like you have better things to do.
  • If there isn’t a relevant canned response. You can’t fit a square peg in a round hole and sometimes the best macro to use is no macro at all. Write from knowledge, and if you don’t know the answer, ask a teammate or look into it. It may take a little longer to resolve the customer issue, but they will appreciate receiving the correct information the first time.
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Another thing to keep in mind is that overly polite or stuffy macros do come across as pre-fabricated and insincere. Keep it cordial, of course, but don’t make it so over-the-top that your users feel like they’re talking to Emily Post.

Stodgy macros:

‘Good morning. Thank you for contacting us. How can I help you?’

‘Please kindly allow me a moment while I pull up your account.’

‘I’m sorry you are facing this issue.’

Once again, with a little more oomph:

‘Hey there John! Thanks for reaching out to Acme. What can I help you with today?’

‘I’m going to take a minute and pull up your account in our back end. Hang in there Sue’

‘That’s no good! I’m really sorry this is happening to you Bob and I completely understand how it would affect your business’

I don’t know about you, but I can actually hear the support rep saying these in my head and I’d much rather carry on a conversation with the second person than the first. You want your users to feel like you’re excited to talk to them and help them with their issues.

A canned response cautionary tale

Let’s review a real exchange I had just a few days ago with a computer company that shall remain nameless. I emphasize in bold type what I believe to be canned responses. I may be completely wrong, but it’s unlikely.

Initial help request from me: I’m having a bit of trouble with my computer. It won’t go to the BIOS screen after I turn it on and then just resets. I’ve checked the RAM and the power supply. I’ve also reset the CMOS on the motherboard. Do you think it may be that the motherboard is faulty? I just bought it 6 days ago.

After about 30 seconds, the agent responded.

Agent: Hello Michael. How may I help you today?

Me: I’m having a bit of trouble with my computer. It won’t go to the BIOS screen after I turn it on and then just resets. I’ve checked the RAM and the power supply. I’ve also reset the CMOS on the motherboard. Do you think it may be that the motherboard is faulty? I just bought it 6 days ago.

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Agent: I’m very sorry to hear this is happening to you. I will be happy to help you out.

Me: Thank you very much!

Agent: Michael, please check to make sure the RAM is seated properly in the motherboard.

Me: I’ve already checked the RAM. It is properly seated.

Agent: Alright. Please allow me a minute.

Me: Sure, take your time.

Agent: You may also try to reset the CMOS by switching the cap on the pins from the 1-2 position to the 2-3 position for ten seconds and then placing it back on the 1-2 position.

Me: I’ve also already tried that as well. Still the same issue.

Agent: Can you please let me know your model number?

Me: FGX56000PN1

Agent: Thank you.

Agent: Alright. I’m very sorry to hear this is happening to you. If your computer is still within the warranty period, you may send it back to us for servicing.

Me: I just bought the computer 6 days ago at Best Buy, so it should be.

Agent: I can give you directions to send the computer to us for servicing.

Me: That’s alright. I’m pretty sure the motherboard is dead. I will bring it into Best Buy and exchange. Thank you.

End of live chat.

Was I even talking to a real person? The conversation felt so sterile and robotic that at some points, I wasn’t so sure. Here’s why it seemed the agent didn’t even take the time to read my initial help request (and subject of the chat) and was just using canned responses to carry out the conversation:

  • I had mentioned already trying both of the suggested fixes.
  • The agent never even acknowledged my actual question (“Do you think the motherboard is faulty?”).
  • The agent used the exact phrase, “I’m very sorry to hear this is happening to you,” twice during our 17-message exchange.
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Classic case of the agent not having relevant canned responses. And yes, I did feel that the exchange was a complete waste of my time. I ended up being so frustrated that I returned the computer and exchanged it for a model from a different manufacturer.

Bad support and bad form on the canned responses, am I right?

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Reliving the exchange with proper canned response usage

Now let’s see how this conversation should have gone after submitting my initial help request:

live chat canned responses

Agent: Hello, Michael. I understand you are having issues with your computer and think it may be a problem with the motherboard. Is that correct?

Me: Yes, that’s correct.

Agent: Alright. I’m very sorry to hear this is happening to you. It looks like you’ve already checked the RAM and reset the CMOS, which is what we suggest when the BIOS screen won’t show up. As you just purchased this 6 days ago, your computer is still within the warranty period, so you may send it back to us for diagnosis and servicing.

Me: Wonderful! Can you please give me the directions to do so?

Agent: Absolutely. Please allow me a minute


See how much easier that could have been? That’s what great support looks like when canned responses are used properly and personalized. Efficient and effective. Why make things harder on yourself and your customers?

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