Monthly Archives: October 2011

Live Chat Success Tips for Non-Native English Speakers (and Native English Speakers Too!)

As a product manager for live chat software, I’ve observed that success with chat doesn’t necessarily depend on what software used but how the software is used! Most recently, I read about an Earthlink Customer’s online experience with a chat representative who is obviously a non-native English speaker. The agent, who calls herself Jane D, used the phrase “do the needful” while engaged in the chat. The question posed by Leslie O’Flahavan of Writing Matters is “Does odd wording harm the quality of customer service chat?”

The answer to this question is that the odd wording did not harm the chat. Unlike website copy, which is expected to be very formal, grammatically correct, and well written, real-time communication is afforded some leeway. For reference, I’ll include the chat from Writing Matters below:

Welcome to EarthLink LiveChat. Your chat session will begin in approximately 0 minutes. Feel free to begin typing your question.
  • Jane D” says: Thank you for contacting EarthLink LiveChat, how may I help you today?
  • LMO@earthlink.net: I want to cancel my earthlink account
  • Jane D: I am sorry to know that you wish to cancel the account.
  • Jane D: Please may I know the reason as to why you are looking to cancel the account with EarthLink?
  • LMO@earthlink.net: I don’t need the account any more
  • LMO@earthlink.net: Please confirm that you will close out the account and that I will not be billed for service after today, October 27
  • Jane D: That is Okay, I understood.
  • Jane D: I will certainly help you in this regard.
  • Jane D: Here I would like to inform you that, At chat we are limited to give the information but the cancellation involves your verbal agreement so please contact us on the voice number 888 327 8454 (working hours 7am – midnight EST M-F or 8am – 10pm EST Sat/Sun) and one of the associates will put in the best effort to help you do the needful today.
  • LMO@earthlink.net: I don’t want to call in. I want to cancel my account in writing.
  • Jane D: As per our cancellation policy, I cannot cancel your account through Live Chat. If you wish to cancel your account, please send a request by Fax to 404-795-1034, including your account number,email address, your contact information and the reason of the cancellation.
  • LMO@earthlink.net: OK, I will do that
  • Jane D: Thank you.
  • Jane D: Is there anything else I can assist you with?
  • LMO@earthlink.net: No, thank you
  • Jane D: Thank you for using EarthLink Live Chat. Should you need further assistance, please contact us again.
  • Jane D: You have a wonderful day ahead!

Jane D’s chat did not “do the needful” simply because she didn’t solve the problem, she took too long to communicate that she couldn’t help, and she acted as if everything was okay — “You have a wonderful day ahead!” — even though the customer was clearly not happy with the result. This had absolutely nothing to do with her accent and everything to do with her lack of control of the conversation and inability to be proactive.

First, let me make it clear that chat agents don’t necessarily have to solve the problem completely if they can at least get the ball rolling for you. For instance, Jane D. could have transferred the customer to a phone rep using click to call or some similar functionality that would schedule a callback. While not optimal, most people would at least feel like they were farther along than when they first initiated contact.
The second problem, which I see a lot when call centers are involved in taking chats, is that the language is just way too formal and lengthy. In most cases, we as customers just want to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, without the bubbly attitude and lengthy chat messages.
In short, it shouldn’t take several chat messages just to get to the point where Jane D. breaks the bad news to you that she is unable to help. Instead, I always suggest a more direct approach, such as in this example below:

  • Jane D: Thank you for contacting Earthlink Live Chat, how may I help you today?
  • LMO@earthlink.net: I want to cancel my account
  • Jane D: I’m sorry you want to cancel, but we do require verbal authorization. The quickest way to accomplish this is to call 1-888-xxx-yyyy and press 4, or send a Fax to 888-yyy-xxxx.
  • Jane D: Please include your account number,email address, your contact information and the reason of the cancellation.
Done!
Third, chat agents must under all circumstances maintain control of the conversation: Don’t say you can help — “I will certainly help you in this regard.” — and then in your next virtual breath say — “Here I would like to inform you that, At chat we are limited to give the information…” — which implies you cannot help after all. You can always help, even if you don’t or can’t completely solve the problem. By taking charge and giving the customer the cancellation number, you have helped. You have helped narrowed the list of ways that the customer cannot find the answer, similar to how Thomas Edison found 10,000 ways not to power a light bulb. Don’t ever say that you can’t help with the specific request. It just angers the customer. Let them figure that out on their own, because when you say you cannot help, you hand the control of the conversation off to the customer, and once you lose control, the conversation is going to head in directions that are not going to be good for anyone.

Lastly, I want to address the issue of non-native English speakers and dispel the myth that American customer service cannot be successful outside of the United States. This is an important point for non-native English speakers and customer service managers alike. We happen to be a global company and many members of our development and support team are located in India. “Do the needful” is a very common phrase there. It’s not used because they’re non-native English speakers but because Indian English still consists of a lot of phrases that were common in early 20th century American and British English.
Our engineers take sales and support chats and do an excellent job of doing so. They are successful because they know the product, and they’re successful because we’ve learned that non-native U.S. English speakers, and those who do natively speak English but not American English, can still be very successful in a live chat with proper training. The secret to success, for anyone, whether you’re a native English speaker or not, is to do the following:
  • Keep it short. Keep it simple.
  • Solve the problem quickly.
  • If you can’t solve the problem, refer the customer to another department immediately, or gather information to get the process started. Respect the customer’s time.
  • Do not ever say you can’t solve the problem, and don’t say it’s not your department… ever! Offer solutions instead, even if they aren’t the optimal solutions. This helps you maintain control of the conversation.
  • Most importantly, be yourself! It’s okay for the end user to know you’re not an American English speaker. In my experience, the shorter, more direct chats generally are the ones that result in my problem being solved, not the lengthy, overly formal opposites.
  • Occasional spelling and grammar errors are okay. You’re not writing a published thesis, you’re just solving a problem. Of course, gross errors or very frequent errors will make you look unprofessional, so don’t get too comfortable.
I want to emphasize one of the above points. The longer you postpone the end of the chat, the more likely it is that the customer won’t accept any alternative solutions you offer. The most effective strategy is to strike fast! Immediately refer the user to someone who can help, if you are personally unable to. If you can do that, you’ll have a happier experience on both ends of the conversation. Long, delayed explanations just foster suspicion, distrust, and dissatisfaction.
I have a similar chat example that I’ve written about in Turning Bad Live Chat into Successful Live Chat. Our example shows a bad chat with a Native English speaking agent and how that chat could look with a slightly different approach that involves giving chat agents good questions they can ask to help them take control of the conversation.

We love to hear success stories! If you have a success story from following these tips, please let us know in the comments below.

How to Create a Live Chat Console Desktop Shortcut in Chrome

Conversion Chat Software Desktop Shortcut
Conversion Chat Software Desktop Shortcut

Some of the feedback and observations we’ve gathered from our customers and from people evaluating our chat software is that it is somewhat challenging to stay logged into the chat operator console.

I’ve personally experienced this myself. Every day when I arrive to work, I launch Google Chrome, navigate to http://login.conversionsupport.com, login with my username and password, launch the chat operator console, and finally go ready.

To reduce the steps involved in getting started everyday, we created a Chrome Web Store Application that makes Conversion Support chat feel more like a local application while still preserving all of the benefits of a Web application.

To install the application on your computer, visit our Conversion Support Live Chat for Websites Chrome App Listing

Page.

(At this time, this is in closed beta and not available publicly until we are sure it’s a quality tool. If you are interested in installing this application and helping us beta test it, please Contact Us and let us know.)

  • In Google Chrome, browse to http://login.conversionsupport.com/chatconsolelogin
  • Click the “Tools” wrench at the top right of the browser.
  • Select the “Tools” menu, and click “Create Application Shortcuts”.
  • You’ll be prompted to create a shortcut on your desktop and in your applications menu. Check both options and click “Create”.
Next time you need to launch the operator console, simply double-click the shortcut icon and login!
If you have any feedback for our team on how we can improve the software, regardless of whether or not you’re a current customer or just evaluating our software using our 30 day free trial, please feel free to contact us by phone, email, or chat. If you use this method of logging into the operator console and find that it helps you stay logged in, please let us know!

Increase Sales Using Live Chat Software on Your BigCommerce Online Store

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