Today’s customers are not as enthusiastic about phone calls as previous generations. While traditional phone support still has its place, the truth is that 22% of customers don’t like talking on the phone. They are used to texting and emails as the most effective and efficient forms of communication, and they want a similar way to communicate with businesses.
To meet your customers where they are, the simplest thing you can do is offer live chat. According to Kayako, 41% of customers prefer live chat when contacting support—that’s almost 10% more than phone support (32%).
Live Chat: What is it? Who uses it? Why is it valuable?
Live chat is a powerful customer support tool that should be a main feature of every contact center. It has the highest satisfaction levels of any customer service channel—73% compared to 61% for email and 44% for phone. And that’s because it combines the best of phone and email into one seamless experience.
- According to a customer experience trends report by Zendesk, 54% of customers choose their customer support channel based on whether they need an immediate response. On live chat, that means a response in under ten minutes, according to HubSpot.
- 45% of consumers don’t care if they interact with a live agent or chat bot, as long as the service is fast, effective, and accurate (Business Insider, 2018).
- Organizations that scored 90% or higher on live chat customer satisfaction had an average wait time of 46 seconds. The lowest scores had an average wait time of 25 seconds (Forbes 2019).
- Chat interactions that include co-browsing, where the agent can interact with a customer’s web browser in real time, show customer satisfaction rates at 89.3% (Comm100’s 2019 Live Chat Benchmark Report).
Both B2C (67%) and B2B (66%) businesses successfully use live chat for customer support, according to Zoho, and there are many benefits to them for doing so. For example, B2B companies who use live chat witness, on average, a 20% increase in conversions. And eMarketer found that 35% of people will make a purchase online after using live chat.
For contact centers, live chat is an incredible opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to quality customer experiences, but only if it’s done correctly.
9 Call Center Chat Best Practices
To ensure that you are successful with your customer service live chat offerings, there are nine essential call center chat best practices you must follow.
1. Respond Quickly
Make responding quickly your number one priority for live chat. Customers expect near-immediate responses. In fact, the average wait time for live chat support is just two minutes and 40 seconds, and the average handle time is just six minutes and 50 seconds, according to a recent SuperOffice study.
2. Effectively Use Canned Replies
Canned replies can be very valuable tools when used correctly. Use pre-approved messages to greet customers quickly and to let them know you are ready to help.
Canned messages can also be used effectively to ask customers questions or to collect information. However, they should be used sparingly. Too many canned messages can make the conversation feel stilted so that the customer doesn’t feel engaged, supported, or understood.
3. Personalize Support
Just like with phone calls, live chat agents should be granted the freedom to personalize the support they offer. It’s essential to connect with the customer and to demonstrate that you care about their unique issue. To do this, the agent must have the ability to get to know the customer and build rapport at the very start of the interaction.
A few ideas include:
- Using advanced chat features that allow your agents to use their name and photo as part of their customer service.
- Demonstrating emotional intelligence and empathy by acknowledging customer concerns and being sensitive to needs.
- Using an appropriate tone and voice that reflects your brand identity.
4. Make Sharing Information Easy
Live chat offers the ideal opportunity to collect customer information while the customer is on hold and during the conversation. For example, pre-chat surveys can be used to identify the customer’s issue before your agent begins the interaction—this can also help you successfully route the customer to the appropriate agent.
It’s also a good idea to allow alternate media within the live chat so that customers can better explain their needs and your agents can better solve the problems. Images, files, screenshots, and videos can all take the place of lengthy or complex responses and can help make explanations clearer.
5. Set Clear Expectations
While the goal is to answer every live chat immediately, it’s not always possible, and that’s okay as long as the customer knows exactly what to expect. You need to be very clear about wait time in your live chat.
And don’t forget to clarify your operational hours. If you offer 24/7 live chat support, make sure your customers know that and then ensure you always have someone on hand to respond. However, if live chat is only available during normal business hours, you must be clear about that as well. Make sure you disable your live chat whenever your agents are unavailable so there’s no confusion, and make sure to offer another way to communicate with you during those downtimes.
6. Provide Thorough Responses
When communicating through live chat, it can be tempting to type out responses quickly so that the customer does not have to wait for a reply, but that can be a mistake. If you want your agents to be credible, it’s essential that they always take the time to read the customer’s message carefully before responding.
The quality and accuracy of your agent’s responses are as important as timeliness. If necessary, allow your agents to use a canned response requesting more time while they research as necessary to solve the customer’s problem.
7. Follow Good Writing Principles
While some written mistakes are expected in live chat, try to keep them to a minimum by proofreading before sending. You want all of your agent communications to be professional quality, which means the fewer spelling and grammatical errors the better. Consider implementing proofreading software such as Grammarly to help you out.
8. Follow Up Before Concluding
Just the same as on the phone, it’s essential that your agents follow up with the customer before they close the conversation. They should always end every live chat by asking if the customer has any other questions or needs or if there is anything else that they can do. This helps ensure that you cover any potential follow-up questions before the end.
9. Implement Live Chat Quality Assurance
Finally, the most important thing you can do is create a live chat quality assurance program. Live chat has the highest satisfaction levels of any channel because of the efficiency and immediacy of the experience, but only if it’s used effectively. To know if your live chat support is meeting your customers’ standards, you have to regularly track and monitor its effectiveness.
Unsurprisingly, monitoring live chat is very similar to monitoring traditional phone calls. There are many overlapping criteria, including:
- Emotional intelligence
- Politeness and tone
- Communication skills
- Response time
- Resolution quality
However, live chat also presents some unique opportunities that agents do not have on the phone. For example, it’s easier to push a customer toward a purchase or downloading resources via live chat than on the phone. It’s also simpler to keep records of live chat and to search text for critical information and insight. Live chat analytics also tend to include data about referral links, customer systems, time spent on the site, number of visits, location, and more.
The problem with live chat quality assurance is that when you’re only dealing with text, it can be difficult to accurately track tone and emotion. Are they only ending the chat because they’re confused and it went on too long? Were all their issues truly covered? While a customer might say in text that they are satisfied, it can be difficult to know if they are fully happy with their results.
Scorebuddy Offers Chat Quality Assurance via Scorecards
Scorebuddy’s quality assurance software is ideal for monitoring live chat within the contact center. You can easily create custom QA forms that will allow you to evaluate every conversation based on key performance metrics.
You can ask simple questions about response times, whether or not the customer’s name was used, or if all issues were covered. And you can ask more difficult questions such as how well the agent resolved the customer’s problem, if they demonstrated empathy, and if expectations were appropriately set at the beginning. It’s possible to use a mix of standard numeric, blind scoring, non-numeric, and holistic scorecards to provide a detailed analysis of every chat and ensure that every interaction meets your standards.
This ability to consistently score each chat is especially useful for companies who utilize “bots” as part of their live chat process. It will help you track performance successes and failures, identify common pitfalls, broken processes, or potential gaps. It will also ensure that you regularly test your chatbot’s performance and functionality.
To learn more about the benefits of using Scorebuddy to monitor your live chat interactions as well as all of your multichannel customer support, read The Ultimate Guide to Call Center QA today or contact us now.