Can you use emojis when chatting with customers, and how do you avoid sounding like a robot? Why is empathy so important, and where should you put your chat widget? Keep reading for a 10-step guide on how to improve your live chat!
While most of us are used to communicating with our customers by phone and over email, there’s often some confusion surrounding best practices in live chat.
Blurring the lines between real life conversations and written language, live messaging has brought us a whole new language and a new way of communicating, mixing spoken language with tiny, grimacing yellow faces, cryptic abbreviations and lower case letters.
So how do you strike the right balance, coming across as neither overly formal nor completely bananas?
We’ve listed 10 things to keep in mind, that will help you improve your live chat.
#1 Place your live chat widget to the right
First of all, you want to make sure that your visitors find your live chat. Place it where it’s clearly visible and choose a bright colour for it.
The most common placement for the live chat window is in the lower right corner. That’s where your visitors will be looking for it – don’t make it harder for them by getting too creative.
Place your live chat widget where people are used to finding it.
#2 Keep response times low and show estimated wait
When someone enters a message into your chat window, they expect an answer. Preferably immediately. Studies show that you only have around 5 minutes after someone expressed an interest in your offer online before they bounce back to Google and keep browsing elsewhere.
But not all companies are able to maintain a live chat presence 24/7. And even during opening hours, there will always be waits from time to time. Which is perfectly fine! What’s important, is to clearly inform your visitors of your opening hours and of the estimated wait. Clear information reduces stress and frustration.
#3 Take it easy - don’t stress your visitors
You know that feeling when a salesperson crosses the line from being helpful to being awkwardly pushy? Don’t be like that on your website!
Expanding your chat window and actively posing a question to your visitor, can be a great way to start a conversation. But let your visitor have a look around first, so they know what you’re about before you approach them.
#4 Show empathy
Sometimes you'll be chatting with people who’ve experienced a problem of some sort. Possibly even related to your offer. Then you want to make sure you actually listen to them – before you start trying to fix the problem.
What would you say, and how would you say it, if the customer was right in front of you?
You would probably apologise for the inconvenience, and express your sympathy for them. But for some reason, it’s easy to forget the human side of things when chatting, and instead, we tend to focus on problem-solving. Don’t do that! It will make you come across as cold and insensitive.
Always make sure your customers feel seen and understood, before you start working on solving the problem.
The goal should not only be to solve problems, but also to make your customers feel heard, seen and understood.
#5 Write (almost) like you talk
How do you talk to your customers over the phone? That’s the tone you want to use when you’re chatting, to give a warm and friendly impression. Consider the chat a conversation, rather than an email exchange.
If you use a tone of voice that is too formal, you will come across as cold and distant. This is also important to keep in mind if you’re preparing canned responses, to make sure they blend naturally with the rest of the convo.
When you need to write longer messages, try to divide them into smaller chunks of text and pressing “send” in between. That way the information will be easier to consume and the chat will feel more like a conversation.
#6 Use positive language
By using a positive language, you move the focus from problems and obstacles to possibilities and solutions. A positive language has a calming and reassuring effect, conveying a sense of professionalism.
Never just answer “no” or “that’s not possible”. Instead, frame your sentences in a way that highlights what can be done.
”I’m afraid the product you are looking for is out of stock, and will not be available in the near future.”
”We’re about to place a new order for this item. Would you like me to reserve one for you? That way you get notified once it’s back in stock!”
The goal is always a customer who leaves the chat happy and content with the solution you’ve offered.
#7 Use active language
Don’t speak like a politician! What does that mean? It means you want to avoid passive language like:
“It’s unfortunate that mistakes were made.” ❌
Instead, you want to express clear ownership of the situation and take responsibility for it by using active language like:
“I’m terribly sorry that we’ve made a mistake!” ✅
Not sure whether you are using passive or active language? It’s easy – just do the “By robots” test!
If you can put “by robots” at the end of a sentence, it means the sentence is passive. If not, it’s active.
Here’s an example:
“All complaints are being seriously investigated… by robots!”
That sentence works, which means this is a passive sentence and a big no-no. ❌
“We take all complaints very seriously… by robots?”
See? It doesn’t work! That means the sentence is active and you can safely hit “send”. ✅
While passive language comes across as avoiding and untrustworthy, active sentences send the message that you take full responsibility for your actions and can be trusted.
#8 Mirror your customer’s language
Live messaging has brought us a new way of writing, sprinkled with emoticons and abbreviations. But can you really write like that when chatting with customers?
The best answer is - it depends. It depends on the context. In some situations, it’s simply not appropriate. But it also depends on the person you’re chatting with.
Mirror your customers language! If your customer is sending smileys, so can you.
A good rule of thumb is to mirror the language your customer uses. Is your customer using smileys? Then so can you! It’s really the same intuitive rule that guides all communication: by mirroring the other person’s tone and language you build rapport.
#9 Create canned responses for common questions
Do you keep answering the same questions, over and over again? Then it’s time to create canned responses that can be reused to save you time.
Just make sure to adjust the answers, to avoid a too generic feel in your conversation. Don’t sound like chatbot!
Also, keep track of the most common questions so you can share them with the rest of the company. Maybe the info or the UX on your website needs to be improved?
A well-developed FAQ section can often save customer service a lot of time by answering basic, recurring questions.
#10 Don’t sell too much (what!?)
Yes, really. Live chat can be a truly amazing sales tool, but don’t overdo it.
The live chat on your website is often your customer’s first real conversation with someone from your company. The chat is a bit like a first date. This is not where you propose and suggest you move in together.
Instead, focus on making a great first impression. That’s how you build trust. And trust, as we all know, is the foundation in all good and lasting relationships.