Live Chat: Things to think about when using chat for support.

Live Chat as a channel of interaction with customers has become very popular for retail and for other types of support. If you are thinking about adding Live Chat to your customer service and support arsenal there are some things to consider.

Nearly 90% of companies have chat on the customer service page but only 40% have it on the products page. Be sure to leverage live chat for both support and upselling/cross-selling. Make it available and convenient on any page where a customer might need questions answered.

Another consideration is the format of chat. Due to the inherent incoherence of a chat discussion, it is very easy for misunderstandings to occur, particularly with customers who are not familiar with this type of social application. And because there is no face to face interaction or even tone of voice to go by, both customers and agents find it hard to get on the same page, as it were. They begin to communicate at cross purposes until the discussion breaks down completely. The most common reason for this conversational dissonance is the customer’s inability to make the problem or question clear so the agent has a good starting point. The customer and the agent each have a different understanding of the problem.

You may decide to use predefined scripts for troubleshooting or selling. Make certain that the agents are not hamstrung by these scripts. Get them the training to figure out when to deviate from the script and to understand that not all situations and not all information is covered by those scripts.

There are some very nice upsides to having live chat as a customer service channel.

  • Chat entries can be precomposed and then pasted into the chat application, saving some typing time and repetition.
  • Questions can also be composed in advance if there are particular pieces of information desired.
  • Chat can be used for “virtual” office hours, letting people know the best time to try to contact you. Chat can be set up to show on the customer screen whether or not chat is available at that time.
  • Excellent teamworking tool for internal use. Groups of people can open a chat and discuss problem resolutions and other items. Most chat applications allow private messages to be sent as well to specific participants.
  • Chat logs can be saved. Instead of entering the conversation after it happened, as in phone support, the chat is the conversation, already typed in. These logs can then be used to create content in a knowledge base.

As with any application, it is best to define how chat is to be used before installing it.

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