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How to perfect your live chat support

Written by on September 7, 2016

Running a largely online business these days has become even more of a challenge than it used to be. Lots and lots of companies are joining the fray and the standards are quite high. Customers expectations are skyrocketing: fast load times, fully-featured solutions, very low cost, reliability and so on – the list is very long. And if they don’t see the entire package you risk losing them on the spot – or worse, getting bad-mouthed (bad reviews, negative word of mouth, etc).

So, it’s vital to keep tab on your customers’ impression of you at ever increasing frequency while also as unobtrusively as possible. For a long time email was primarily the means for an online business to do that and it has its pros and cons. Now a new channel is gaining traction – it’s the live chat capability being offered by many sites online. This is direct and effective and at the same time raises the bar in terms of how fast and in a well thought out manner you need to ‘be there for the customer’.

We at Megaventory offer an online inventory system – a very mission-critical functionality for certain businesses – and support is crucial to be well-timed and to the point. As such, we have jumped on the opportunity and have been using live chat extensively for quite some time now. Out of that experience we’ve put together a cheat sheet for when using live chat which helps everyone in the team keep focused.

So here it goes:

  1. Before we reply, we assign the chat to ourselves to avoid more than person sending simultaneously an answer.
  2. Obviously, the faster you reply, the better. Taking 1-2 minutes to respond is ideal (visitors spend on average 2 minutes on our one-page site), and 3-4 minutes is the most common response time managed. However, even if we’re talking about a request that for whatever reason has been left unanswered for hours, we still say something as they may revisit the site and will see the reply then.
  3. If a question is general, reply generally and ask for particular requirements so you can provide a useful, informative response (yes we support X, but we don’t support Y).
  4. If a question is specific, answer briefly and to the point – with a couple of short sentences at maximum – or ask for clarifications.
  5. If it’s a specific question for which you don’t know the answer, you can always say ‘please let me look into it and get back to you – leave us your email so we can send you a reply’.
  6. Before writing an answer, check and use the canned responses where possible – and keep adding to their list whenever you write something that’s likely to be reusable. This is very important to reduce response times.
  7. Before writing an answer also check the knowledge base and answer using a link from it preferably. This is very important to reduce response workload overall.
  8. If we’re talking about visitors to the website – and not actual users – the primary goal is to get them to sign up for a trial there and then. The secondary goal is to get them to give you their email, or to setup a demo call (which will earn us the email too). Trial and demo call requests should be accompanied by a link so it’s easy for them to understand immediately what they need to do.
  9. If we’re talking about actual users the primary goal is to give them a correct answer fast. There are two secondary goals:
    1. To train them to use the knowledge base so they get replies through that too on their own – always refer to the knowledge base when you get a chance, and
    2. To ask for reviews in our site of preference – customers are at their most responsive when their questions have been addressed
  10. Another goal to keep in mind when chatting with a visitor or a customer is to understand what features they need. Requests by visitors go to Pipedrive for future follow up, requests by users go to Trello to enrich our product development efforts. Both channels of feedback end up in a backlog of features which are evaluated and implemented.
  11. A final goal is to enrich the knowledge base with any request that is not already included. Once the session is concluded, see if what you’ve written can be repurposed as a knowledge base article. Generally speaking, any answer requested has either already been written (and can be found in the knowledge base) or is to be created on the spot (and can be added to the knowledge base). Either way, answering one question is used multiple times.
  12. While it’s a good idea to keep them talking, reply and keep the chat going, in reality, only a few cases need that. Any answer you give may very well be the last message to that person as you can lose their attention very fast so go for the basic goals as early as possible.

Live chat may seem easy and straightforward – we’re doing this for our personal lives everyday, so how hard can it be, right? But when doing it in a business context, it all starts to be more nuanced. From making sure you hit quick response times to actually achieving goals, it’s a skill that needs to be mastered.

Still, the list above isn’t exhaustive – did we miss something? Let us know in the comments and happy chatting!

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