A few weeks ago, my cable bill came and it was more than I expected. I tried to figure out why, but eventually I needed to chat with the service team of a certain notorious cable company.
I thought live chat would be the easiest way to get information on the extra charges.
Impersonal, inattentive, and inefficient – a study in all the things that customer service shouldn’t be.
From my perspective, it felt like the agent wasn’t actually listening to my problem. He kept offering generic responses that didn’t answer my question.
He would disappear for several minutes at a time, which made it seem like he was working on other cases while I was sitting there waiting. In the end, I had to call a separate division of the service team to ultimately figure it out.
My takeaway impression? Unhelpful, disinterested, and inattentive were signature to this cable company’s personal touch.
What’s the live chat etiquette you show your customers?
Customer service has made leaps and bounds in recent years – but to me, it seems like live chat has been left behind. I’m not alone here either. When Kayako talked to 400 consumers about the live chat service experience, 38% cited poor user experience as live chat’s biggest defect.
Let’s change that.
Support as a competitive advantage
Why’s live chat service experience important? Think about what’s at stake every time a customer interacts with your brand. Negative experiences can seriously impact your bottom line, as 38% of consumers are unhappy with the customer experience in general, according to data from American Express.
Top-notch support can have a huge effect the opposite way. Customers are willing to pay more for a better support experience, even if it’s not consistent!
- Up to 86% of consumers would spend more on a better experience – and only 1% of them indicated their customer service expectations were consistently met.
- We found that 47% of customers say they haven’t had a positive live chat experience in the last month.
What do these numbers tell us? Live chat conversations are nothing if not inconsistent.
Consumers don’t expect quick, high-quality support… but they still prefer live chat over phone, email, and social media. There’s a huge opportunity to build a live chat experience that helps you get ahead of the competition.
How can you take advantage of this opportunity?
- Get basic chat etiquette right. Build a support strategy where your agents or reps can deliver on a consistent level of satisfaction.
- Implement a personal, branded style for customer support that leads to more customers coming away with positive and memorable live chat support experiences.
Live chat support etiquette to follow
Before we get into branding your support interactions, let’s brush up on the live chat etiquette your team should already be following. These best practices create a solid foundation of live chat satisfaction. You can build a truly personal and branded experience on top of this.
- Be welcoming. Hopefully no one on your team is breaking the cardinal rule of customer service. Introduce yourself, make an effort to connect on a personal level, and above all, don’t be rude.
- Give customers one-on-one attention. Live chat enables your support agents to work through multiple customer concerns at the same time. That’s great – but be smart about how this plays out on the other side of the computer screen. Make sure each customer is getting the same one-on-one attention they’d get on the phone or in-person.
- Listen. When there are fifty chat conversations waiting to be handled, it’s tempting to jump in with the first solution you think of. Resist this. Listen and find the best way to solve the customer’s problem.
- Give agents what they need to solve customer problems. Customer who choose live chat don’t want to hear that they have to contact a different team to solve their problem. Give service agents the tools and authority they need to solve customer problems from the first touchpoint.
- Overcommunicate. It’s easy to question whether you’ve been disconnected or the agent has disappeared through a live chat, so it’s important to communicate every step of the way. If you have to move away from the chat to double check or look something up, tell the customer that’s what you’re doing. This is not only courteous, but will assure customers you’re diligently working toward a solution, even when you’re not typing.
Adding your brand’s personal touch to live chat interactions
Your live chat service is running on solid ground – awesome! Now let’s make it your own. Remember, a service experience is only as good for your brand as it is memorable. The last thing you want is for your effort to go to waste because it sounds exactly the same as every other live chat a customer has been in.
Take these key steps to set your live chat apart from the deluge of impersonal service.
1. Write scripts in your brand’s voice
Customer service scripts are a necessary evil. They take away the personality of the service experience, but they’re the only way to scale it. Breathe life back into these scripts by infusing them with your brand’s voice.
Bring the style and voice you use on your company’s website, blog, and social media into the service script – it should sound like your brand. Collaborating on the script with your company’s copywriter or content department is an easy way to make this happen. The content team lives and breathes brand voice, and they can be a powerful ally in bringing that voice into live chat.
2. Implement brand voice training for your support team
As helpful as service scripts are, you don’t want agents using canned responses all the time. Once you have a top-notch script in place, help your support agents understand the brand’s voice.
Put together a guide for your service team to help them learn to speak (and type) like the brand. Note the brand’s style, including where you stand on things like using contractions, speaking in the first person, word choice, etc.
Your content or social departments can come in handy here, too. Ask for their help putting together a comprehensive guide that agents can use to get the chat personality right.
3. Encourage support agents to connect on a personal level
If there’s one constant challenge in the customer service world, it’s finding that delicate balance between consumers’ desire to speak to a real person and their expectations for quick support.
That balance isn’t just elusive, it’s evolving constantly, too. Our report found that younger consumers prefer live chat (a change from baby boomers’ preference for phone support.) Younger consumers love live chat – in part because the user experience is so similar to popular messaging apps.
We also found that a whopping 95% of consumers would sacrifice speed for better support. That’s why it’s key for agents to personalize live chat interactions – to bring the desire to speak to a real person back into balance with live chat’s speed.
Invite your team to think of chats like a friendly conversation. It’s important to solve customer problems quickly, but give agents the freedom to take a breath and get to know customers.
4. Ask for feedback and constantly improve
We’re used to asking for feedback on service quality and interactions – at least as far as solving customer problems goes. You can take it a step further and ask customers for feedback on the experience as a whole.
Was it memorable? Did they feel as if they had the agent’s full attention? Did it feel like live chatting every other brand on the internet? You already end live chat interactions with a survey, so it’s as simple as adding a few extra questions.
Of course, the key to customer feedback’s effectiveness is that you have to implement it. Audit your live chat service etiquette on a regular basis and take customer feedback into account.
To bot or not to bot?
While we’ve been talking about personalizing customer service, there’s an even bigger discussion happening around us. Yes, we’re finally talking about chatbots and artificial intelligence (AI).
There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to chatbots interacting with customers on your behalf, and whether or not to use them is ultimately dependent on you, your brand, and your customers.
Whichever you choose will have an impact on your live chat support and how it reflects your brand. With that in mind, here are some things to consider:
- Efficiency: Bots work faster than humans, and they’re more cost effective for the company. On the flipside, it’s also important to have humans backing up bots in case there’s a robot uprising or they just get wonky.
- Cost to build and program: Chatbots (and any AI for that matter) are only as good as their programmers. There’s usually a pretty big upfront investment to build a bot that’s actually valuable for your team.
- Customer persona: Some customers will hate talking to a robot – even if it’s a million times faster and a thousand times more accurate. Think about who your customers are and how they’ll feel about chatting up machines.
- Priorities: What’s your top priority as a company? Bots are a good option if you’re worried about speed and cost-savings, but if nurturing customer relationships is more important to you, humans are your best bet.
Personal, branded live chat support
Plenty of companies are content to employ live chat for it’s efficiency only, but there’s a big opportunity to provide human, personable service.
Customers are 50% more likely to stick with your business when they’re satisfied with the support they get, and we all know loyal customers are worth as much as 10 times their initial purchase. Add all that together, and you’re looking at a huge difference for your business.
You have what it takes to take advantage of this gap in the customer service revolution – follow the live chat etiquette we’ve laid out, and you’ll be swimming in loyal customers.