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.
In order to make our live chat software look more like a part of your website, we’ve created an embedded version of the chat window to replace the popup window. Not only does the embedded chat window look like a part of your website, but also it helps your website use a more customer-service, people-oriented approach to dealing with your customers, resulting in increased sales and customer loyalty.
We’ve added the ability for each of your customer service representatives to add a photo or avatar to the chat window, which your customers will see when they interact with your sales or service team.
To add a photo, simply click on the default image in the operator console, browse for an image on your computer, and upload the image. When your customers have a question they cannot find the answer to on your website, they will see and interact with a real person via live chat.
If you are interested in adding the embedded chat window to your website, or would like to start a 30 day free trial and experience the benefits of live chat software, contact us today!
If you are an
forget to replace XXXXXXX with your chat window unique identifier.
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.
If you’re a desktop operating system vendor, and you’ve created a development platform that helped your customers build their businesses on top of your platform, wand your developer customers are now leaving your development platform
What do you do? If you’re smart, you’ll look at where your customers are going, and you’ll follow them
Microsoft and Skype leaders were discussing a potential $7 billion dollar acquisition deal
We were talking about how important it is for Conversion Support to integrate with tools that potential customers are already using because it’s a strategy that involves us following our customers and bringing the product to where they are
Zendesk, for instance, integrates with tools like Salesforce, Basecamp, Freshbooks, Google Analytics, and many more, because these are where they’ll find many of their customers
Some of our competitors already integrate with Skype for this same reason
theory is that many people will already be using some form of IM client, so why not just deliver leads through these existing hooks
Integrating with other applications sounds like a great strategy for Conversion Support’s Live Chat product, and it’s a great strategy for Microsoft to acquire applications that these businesses are integrating with
Microsoft is fighting the moving tide of developers leaving their platform in exchange for the Web, not by fighting change head on, but by embracing it
If this Microsoft-Skype deal goes through, not only will it be one of the biggest deals for Microsoft ever, but it will also position them as a leader in the Internet development space
If this deal goes through, we may see Microsoft become one of our integration partners, branded in the form of Skype
It’s very likely that many other businesses with Web based products may discover that Microsoft has crawled back into their lives
This is a great example of good, strategic management, and it’s another example of
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