Chat is a powerful tool for keeping in contact with your customers, and we’re proud
of how Conversion Support strengthens our clients’ bottom line. Whenever we work with a new customer, we remind them of something crucial: More important that the actual tool is how you use it.
A company could employ the sharpest customer-facing live chat interface, but without the sharpest operators using it to communicate the right information to customers, chat’s just not going to work. Chat supports your customer relationships; these best practices support chat. 1. Ask targeted questions. Outcome-oriented queries keep customer-to-representative chats moving along. Customers and companies love that. Nobody likes wasted time. Your chat operators need to ask the correct questions to gather accurate information, and then use that information to deliver a substantive response.
Auto sales is a terrific example. One of our most prolific
chat users works in this industry, and they make a practice out of asking five question types that regularly deliver solid leads (and happy customers).
If you’re in a customer-facing industry, what top five questions do your customer service agents regularly ask?
2. Don’t fall back on cliched phrases to pad responses or buy time. When a phone representative drones through an overused phrase meant to rhetorically soften a request, my cortisol levels palpably rise. Please don’t patronize your customers by saying how happy you are to look up their purchase order for them. Just do it, and deliver your response succinctly, clearly, and correctly. Be friendly without being fake or saccharine.
A successful chat is a human-to-human interaction—that’s the beauty of live chat!—so why revert to machinelike, preset phrases that don’t mean anything? That’s subverting the implicit message of live chat. Despite the digital delivery system, you’re still two humans conversing in real-time. So be human.
3. Put experts in charge. Live answers are useless if they’re wrong. We’ve found that the most successful users of live chat are the companies that put experts front-and-center, facing their customers. Again, if a customer is chatting with you, they’re engaged. They’ll get frustrated if they have to wait too long for the right answers. Dodge that bullet by making sure your live chat operators know their stuff.
4. Make sure chat enhances your customers’ experience. That means you’ve got to give them something worthwhile: An answer, an insight, a mollified concern, even a friendly, capable personality to embody your brand. Think of live chat as a product for your customers and an investment for you. Live chat gives you sales leads and a stronger connection to your customer base. What, specifically, can live chat give your customers?
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.
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.
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 number of steps in this process, our engineers have created a login page for logging directly into the chat operator console and skipping the control panel. To access the chat operator console directly, simply navigate to http://login.conversionsupport.com/chatconsolelogin in your web browser.
I’ve taken this a step farther and have used Google Chrome’s “Create Application Shortcuts” feature to put an icon on my desktop that launches the console login page when I click on it. If you use Windows or Linux and run the recommended Google Chrome browser, simply follow these steps to create a shortcut icon on your desktop:
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!
We’ve been in the live chat business long enough to gain a strong understanding of what makes a good chat. When we first started out, we were tempted to treat live chat as a tool that our client’s customers could use to ask questions and get answers. However, today we know that is not the most successful strategy.
In the past, our Client Setup team would build scripts with embedded FAQ’s. Our chat operators used these FAQ’s to find answers to common questions and then regurgitate the answers in the live chat to website visitors impatiently waiting on the other side.
We quickly found that this wasn’t a scalable solution.
In order for us to provide really great service, our agents needed to know enough about our client’s product or service in order to answer questions intelligently. However, the problem we faced is that, with thousands of clients, it’s just not possible for our chat operators to be knowledgeable experts in every single vertical domain.
As a client, you could opt to pay for dedicated agents, but in most cases, this is just simply not cost effective.
Of course, with shared chat operators, where our
chat operators take chats from any website, we found that inevitably a website visitor would ask a question that either wasn’t on the FAQ or that was formatted in a manner that made it difficult to find in the FAQ.
The other problem we encountered was that the length of the FAQ was directly proportional to the length of our response times. The longer the FAQ, the longer it takes our chat operators to locate the information in question. Additionally, most website visitors quickly exposed us as a counterfeit, immediately seeing that they were communicating with an answering service instead of a knowledgeable expert, capable of answering complex questions.
Here is an example of a bad chat from our darkest days, with the operator’s name hidden to protect the innocent:
Operator [7:55 PM]: Hello, thank you for your interest in Safecycle, your Motorcycle Safety Course provider. How may I help you? Guest [7:56 PM]: I am interested in taking the course. Do you have classes on Saturday? Operator [7:59 PM]: I am sorry. I don’t have that information. Can I take your name and number and have someone get back to you? Guest [7:59 PM]: You’re kidding, right? You work for Safecycle, but you don’t have the schedule? Why are
you here?? Operator [8:00 PM]: I’m sorry, but someone will be here tomorrow to assist you further. What is your name? Guest has left the chat…
The answers to all of our questions were… well… questions!
Today, the story is much different. Today we know that a successful chat service strategy involves the chat operators and the website visitors reversing their roles. Today, instead of our chat operators cringing at their agent desktop waiting for a question they cannot confidently answer, our chat operators are the ones who ask the questions.
Today, our Chat Setup experts meet with you to come up with at least five questions that we can ask website visitors who visit your website and start a chat. For instance, our Chat Setup expert would meet with Safecycles and come up with some questions that our chat operators can use to gain control of the conversation and maybe also provide Safecycles with some additional information that may help them provide better services to the leads qualified from the website.
Below is an example of a successful chat today:
Guest [6:45 PM]: Do you have classes on Saturdays? Operator Dave G. joined… Dave [6:45 PM]: Hello, thank you for your interest in Safecycle, your Motorcycle Safety Course provider. Dave [6:45 PM]: Have you taken a safety course before or would this be your first time? Guest [6:46 PM]: Umm. I used to ride when I lived in Massachusetts, but the rules are different in Maryland. They want me to take their safety course because I’m only 20. Dave [6:46 PM]: I see. Dave [6:46 PM]: Do you currently have a motorcycle? Guest [6:46 PM: Yes. Dave [6:47 PM]: What kind? Guest [6:47 PM]: It’s a 2003 Yamaha 700. Dave [6:47 PM]: Ok, great. How long has it been since you last rode? Guest [6:48 PM]: About 4 months I think. Dave [6:48 PM]: Ok, excellent! Who am I chatting with? Guest [6:48 PM]: My name is Karen. Dave [6:49 PM]: Well Karen I think we can help you, but I’ll have to get your information over to the right scheduling department. Can I have a phone number and an email address where our registration office can reach you? Guest [6:49 PM]: 825-775-6365 Guest [6:49 PM]: firstname.lastname@example.org Dave [6:49 PM]: Great! I’ll forward this along, you should expect to hear from someone from that office soon. Have a great evening. Guest has left the chat…
The main difference between the two chats is that one chat resulted in a qualified lead, an individual interested in a product or service, who has taken the first step towards converting to a sale. The chances of converting this qualified lead into a sale is significantly higher now that we’ve asked some questions and made the website visitor feel more invested in what our client has to offer.
The similarity between the two chat is that the operator still doesn’t necessarily have to be an expert on the product or service. In both cases, the operator knows absolutely nothing about the product or service, but by asking questions, we accomplish several things:
We show more interest in the website visitor.
We gather information that may or may not be important to our client.
We engage the website visitor in a conversation.
Most importantly, we take control of the conversation.
We gain credibility in the eyes of the website visitor.
We can still answer questions, but we suggest limiting it to the top 5 most frequently asked questions
In summary, by taking control of the conversation and asking the questions, we provide a much better user experience to the website visitors, build great rapport through live chat, and provide a much bigger lead capture success rate for our clients. Contact us today at 800-220-5390 or sign up on our website at http://www.conversionsupport.com/sign-up.html to get started with a successful live chat service strategy.
While our company has been in business for more than ten years, chat software is something that we’ve just recently released for public consumption
Early in the game, it’s wise to control costs and operate as efficiently as possible
One of the ways that we’ve operated as efficiently as possible is by keeping personnel costs down
We don’t have a large sales department
Instead, I personally take calls from new prospective leads
When someone who wants to explore our offerings clicks on one of the chat icons on the website, there is a very good chance that person will chat directly with me
We also don’t yet have a support department or an account management department
However, there isn’t much workload there yet either
Thus, I have also chosen to take on this role, and I personally handle all support requests and account management duties
In addition to the sales and support duties, I also work with the design agency and our development team to quickly respond to the feedback we get from our customers
Most recently, we signed up a new client who was very excited to get started with us but who quickly became dissatisfied due to the many usability flaws that were rampant in our application
It was easy for us to think that the un-sexy features, like “Forgot password” and the ability to customize your chat greeting, were just not important
Well, we were wrong
Our new client tripped over every single unimportant usability bug you could think of
Now, you might be asking yourself, who cares? So what? They tripped over it and now it’s there and life goes on
Well, it’s not so simple when you put yourself in their shoes
Imagine yourself juggling a sales team and giving status reports to your boss on a new Internet Sales campaign and you’re working with not one but two contractors to get updates made to your website, and this software that is supposed to solve all your sales problems suddenly eats up 30 minutes of your time, simply because you can’t login! Then, when you call the support line and the guy who answers can’t hear you and you can’t hear
him, and your boss is walking into your office asking you for status updates and why you haven’t launched your sales campaign yet, well, let’s just say that this isn’t going to give you any faith in the
vendor you’re doing business with
Instead, you’re going to be pretty upset with the vendor for making you look like a fool in front of your boss and stakeholders
The main thing I hear others say is that it’s important to listen to your customers and get their feedback, and I tell them that is exactly what we’re doing
This client told me that all of those basic, take-them-for-granted things do matter
We’ve listened, and we’ve spent some development time going through the application to make sure that the next busy customer that walks through our door won’t have to trip over those same loose ends
While there will still be loose ends to tie up, our goal is to not see the next customer struggle with bugs that a previous customer had to deal with
In the field of product management, there is a theory called the Kano Model which relates to customer satisfaction
This model divides features of a product into three distinct categories: Basic, Performance, and Excitement
For items in the basic category, no one will ever praise you
Don’t expect a pat on the back from your boss, your customers, or anyone that you come across in your daily life
However, when these things fail, you better believe there will be some form of dissatisfaction
It can create an environment where your clients get a bad feeling about you, or distrust you, or have buyers remorse, wondering if they made the right decision to go with you as their vendor and partner
As a result, the feedback we received and are subsequently acting on is this: Make sure the basics are taken care of!
Now, this doesn’t mean that the main features of the application aren’t important
We’ve also been working on the features, from the Kano model, that we know drive excitement
These are the features that, if ommitted, won’t cause any grave disappointment, but if those features are included, we’ve discovered that they excite new clients and lead to new business opportunities
accept chats. However, I want to take a moment to talk about why a 24/7, always-on chat strategy is important for maximizing your lead capture rates.
We train our chat agents to ask a series of questions to chat leads with the goal of taking control of the conversation in order to successfully capture contact information. Ask for this information too early, and you’ll lose the lead. But if you ask for this information after asking a series of qualifying questions to Build Great Rapport With Live Chat, then when you
do ask for contact information, the chat guest will be more comfortable handing the information over.
It’s true that your staff are going to know your product much better than our chat agents; however, we recently compiled some statistical data in order to compare the lead capture rates of our equivalent experts, our sales team, with our lead capture chat agents. The numbers were surprisingly close!
Of call of the chats taken by our sales team, 21.53% of those were qualified leads where we captured contact information. Of all of the chats that overflowed to our contact center chat agents, 22.46% of those chats were qualified leads with contact details captured.
Had we chosen to operate our chat campaign without using the overflow services of the call center, we may have lost over 100 leads over the course of a 4 month period. It’s definitely worth doing the math. You may discover that the cost of an overflow plan will pay for itself in the form of more sales.
Read any Live Chat research study these days, and you’ll discover that Live Chat can be a valuable tool that can turn your website into a cash machine. Statistics suggest
that Live Chat can increase your sales by 40%. Live Chat can lower your shopping cart abandonment rate, and it can improve customer retention rates.
These numbers are great, but there are things that you need to put in place before you’ll start to see these results.
At Conversion Support, all of our chat operators are trained to handle chats on behalf of our clients who use our overflow chat services. While your employees will know your product or service best, it’s up to us to step in and handle customer inquiries when your staff is too busy to handle the inquiries themselves, or when they’re gone for the day.
Lead Capture Chat
For many of our customers, we provide lead capture chat services. The goal is to capture contact information from the website visitor, ask qualifying questions, and then forward that information onto your sales staff so that they can follow up. In order to provide the best possible service and
ensure the highest lead capture rates, we created the concept of “opening questions”. These opening questions are go-to questions that the chat operator will use to take control of the conversation.
For instance, let’s say your business is providing motorcycle safety instruction to new and seasoned riders. Our operators may or may not know much about motorcycle safety, but we’ll still build rapport with your Web site visitors by asking some questions related to the field of motorcycling.
Potential Live Chat Customer
Do you own your own motorcycle?
What kind of motorcycle do you have?
Have you ever taken a motorcycle safety course before? If so, when and where?
Do you currently have a valid motorcycle endorsement?
These questions should be general enough so that the chat operator can ask them at any point in the conversation. For instance, assume the first question the chat guest asks is, “Do you have openings on Saturday for the safety course?”. If the chat operator doesn’t have access to that information, it’s tempting for him or her to say, “Sorry, I don’t have that information, can I take a message?”. The chat operator will generally have much better success by instead asking, “Well, how much experience do you have with motorcycles?”
The chat guest will most likely assume that this is part of the scheduling process and will comply, answering the series of questions posed by the chat operator and contributing to the conversation. In this scenario, the chat operator should begin to wrap up the conversation by saying, “Now that I have this information, I’ll forward this to our placement specialists, who will contact you for scheduling. What’s your name and number?” Remember, we’re asking them to do something for us, so to sweeten the deal, we’ll offer something in exchange. “Also, please send me your email address. I want to send you the list of required safety items for the class so that you can be sure to come prepared.”
By using the above questions to first gain an understanding of the type of experience the chat guest has in the subject, we increase our chances that he or she will be satisfied by handing us his or her contact information. If we successfully build rapport first, the chat guest should feel more of a sense of accomplishment.
Additionally, by asking for contact information in exchange for something else, your chat operators increase their chances of capturing a lead and leaving the chat guest feeling satisfied.
Any industry can benefit by providing chat operators with some general, basic questions to help understand the chat guest and his or her needs. Our team will work with you to identify some great questions to help build rapport, based on your unique product or service, giving the chat operators the opportunity to strike at the peak of the conversation.
Our goal is to leave the chat guest feeling satisfied that your staff is working on their request while
they wait for a follow-up call.
Give us a call today, and ask about our 30 day free trial at 1-800-220-5390. You’ll speak with one of our chat specialists to learn more about what we can do to help your business make the most out of your Web site.
We recently made some improvements to the design of the Guest Chat Window that appears on your website when your website visitors make inquiries. The improvements are mainly cosmetic, but they greatly improve the user experience.
Our design team draws inspiration from Apple. Like Apple, our goal has always been simplicity in design. Too much clutter creates confusion, and too many decisions place an unnecessary burden on the Chat Guest. The chat window still boasts the same simplicity in design but with a few new features:
Live Chat Software Emoticons
Body language — a key component in face to face conversation — is lost behind the veil of a keyboard. In addition, tone of voice is absent, as are many other visual and auditory cues that can make the exact same sentence have a fundamentally different meaning in the context of a chat. A jovial message sent in good spirits can easily be misinterpreted as an insulting jibe.
Emoticons negate the potential for messages to be taken the wrong way. This powerful tool, if used correctly, can make the chat seem less scripted, robotic, and more engaging; it essentially allows the Chat Operator and the Guest to relax and be themselves.
However, like any tool, it can be used, and it
can be abused. It’s important that your chat operators are properly trained on using emoticons sparingly. Like a compliment, they can be overused, which dilutes their meaning and impact.
The majority of people do want to connect with another human being, even if it’s behind the anonymous veil of a live web chat. Emoticons are one tool to help facilitate this and make your chats feel more engaging, which results in higher satisfaction, increased lead capture rates, and lower shopping cart abandonment rates.
Live Chat Loading Message
Waiting for Live Chat Agent
Chats which are not answered promptly result in abandoned chats. According to a Forrester Research Study, The ROI Of Interactive Chat, chats that wait in the queue longer than 60 seconds are more likely to abandon. The study finds that 45 seconds is an ideal wait time metric to use when determining your staffing needs.
The loading message is an animated image that is designed to give the Guest something to read while waiting for the Chat Operator. The first 20 seconds of the wait time involves transitioning through the four screens. A blank screen can make 20 seconds seem like 5 minutes, whereas an engaged Chat Guest is more likely to experience the wait as a much shorter duration. Our goal is to respond to chats in less than 20 seconds, and we designed the loading screen with this in mind.
No Send Button Needed
Live Chat Agent Chatting With Sales Lead
Some people have suggested that our designers add a “Send” button to the Guest Chat Window. Drawing inspiration from the extreme attention to detail that Apple puts into the Mac OS user interface, our designers strongly feel that this is an unnecessary element that creates distractions in the chat window as well as embeds a black mark in the design itself.
The general argument from designers is that the send button is like a vestigial organ. It has no purpose since the Chat Guest can simply press “Enter”. So to meet all of the needs, simplicity in design as well as an intuitive user interface, our developers have added a message to the chat window input box to help the less seasoned chatters figure out what actions they need to take to send a message.
Once again, the Guest Chat Window still sports the same simplistic, streamlined design, except with tools that enhance communication and lower perceived wait times. Learn more about our software offerings and the 30 Day Free Trial. Try out the software for yourself, and let us know what you think!