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.
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.
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.