As the popularity of online shopping continues to grow, customer service departments are switching from traditional email and phone support to online chat support. In fact, a recent Sitel study indicated that 57% of consumers requiring support would search online before falling back to email and phone. Support via online chat is therefore an important component for companies with an online presence.
Online support chat is implemented differently than classic phone or email support. For example, each online customer support agent will typically handle multiple customers simultaneously while maintaining the appearance of undivided attention to each customer. While this practice allows the support department to operate more efficiently, it can, if not implemented correctly, alienate valuable customers with long response times and impersonal conversations. The list of best practices below will help guide you as you implement and optimize online chat in your support department while continuing to provide valuable service to your customers.
1. Maintain a Sense of Urgency
Visitors expect to get immediate attention when they connect to your chat session, so your chat agent must send out an initial greeting message without delay. Even a simple “Hello” message can provide a warm feeling and enhance the impression of your brand. You can help speed up the response rate by providing a pre-canned greeting message, personalized with the chat agent’s name.
2. Show Genuine Concern
Train your chat agents to provide agenuine sense of concern for each customer. It may be difficult at times, because customers often ask the same questions. But recognize that each customer is unique and will not tolerate being treated impersonally. Also recognize that many customers do not conduct research before starting the chat session. For example, they may not check the FAQ database or read the product details adequately. Your chat agents must therefore remain patient and enthusiastic with each and every customer.
3. Address the Pain First
Customers start chat sessions on your site because they have a problem that is causing pain. Chat agents need to recognize the immediacy of the situation and quickly go to work to find a solution. In some sense, this is like a phone support call, where the customer expects the problem to be resolved in the course of the conversation. Note that an upsell opportunity may occur. For example, the solution may involve the customer purchasing an upgrade or a completely new product. Chat agents should be very careful to frame the upsell as a solution to the problem rather than a cheap trick to sell more products. In other words, the chat agent should thoroughly address the pain before the upsell.
4. Stay Professional
Chat agents must remain professional at all times. As front-line representatives, they are the face of your company. They should never become impatient, rude or patronizing. While a little humor can help provide a sense of humanity, it should be used sparingly and never single out any person or group of people as the target of a joke. Likewise, political statements or current news topics are off limits. All communication should use polite phrases and convey a deep sense of respect for the customer. Finally, management should periodically audit chat communications to ensure professionalism and courtesy are expressed at all times.
At the end of the chat session, the agent should ask whether the customer has any outstanding questions or issues. The agent should also offer to email a complete transcript of the session to the customer for future reference. Further, the agent should provide contact information in case the customer has more questions after the chat has concluded. Finally, the agent should kindly ask the customer to take a satisfaction survey to rank the quality of the chat conversation and help spot problems that should be addressed in future sessions. The bottom line is that the customer should feel better for the experience and be motivated to chat again without hesitation if-and-when another support issue comes up.
Recent studies indicate that a majority of customers prefer to use online customer support tools when interacting with support departments. Online chat provides a great opportunity for companies to use their online presence to help their customers. But online chat is different than offering support via traditional phone or email, so your chat agents need to implement a set of best practices that are designed to keep customers satisfied.
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