Customer Experience News & Trends

Ways to make online chat as good as a real conversation

Customers want to chat online almost as much as they want to do it on the phone. Can you make the digital experience as good as the personal one? Yes, you can. 

Despite their differences, online chat can feel as personal as a real conversation with a friend. That’s important because customers are ready for more chat.

“Online chat adoption among US online adults seeking customer service has significantly risen in the past several years,” says Kate Leggett, a VP and principal analyst at Forrester. “Chat offers many benefits to the customer: companies can quickly connect customers to an agent with the right skills to answer the question without them having to navigate an arduous interactive voice response. They can succinctly resolve questions in near-real time.”

Considering online chat already has a 73% satisfaction rating, it makes sense to improve the experience so more customers use — and love — the channel.

Here are five ways to improve your online chat with customers — or start to build a program, if you don’t have one yet:

1. Be personal

Equip front-line customer service pros with the tools to greet customers by name and post a photo of themselves in the chat window. (Note: Some reps might prefer a caricature instead of real picture. That’s OK, too.)

Either way, make sure the photo gives customers a sense of the employee’s personality, plus your company’s professionalism.

2. Be real

Customers will “talk” naturally when they chat online. Employees want to do the same, and they want to avoid sounding scripted or stilted with formal language and corporate jargon. Text talk — with all of its abbreviations — isn’t professional, and isn’t appropriate.

Use scripted answers sparingly. Just make sure they’re written in a casual, easy-to-understand format.

3. Stay on task

Online chat can sometimes get as off track as a regular conversation. Service professionals want to remain customers’ ambassadors in solving problems and answering questions.

While it’s OK to make a little “small talk” if it’s initiated by the customer, it’s important to make a great impression by staying focused on the goal with concise language and answers.

“Customers will remember effortless service much more than the one where they needed to strive to get it,” says Maria Lebed, a customer support advocate at Provide Support.

4. Give more

Customers often turn to live chat with their most straightforward questions and small issues (they still prefer phone calls for complex things). So most exchanges are short, and leave opportunities for service pros to do a little more on behalf of customers.

Make chat even more convenient for customers. For instance, offer to walk them through steps you’ve showed them to follow. Or ask if they’d like you to change the settings they asked about or email a document they wanted help finding.

5. Be useful

You can leave chat at questions answered or problems solved, or you can use the interaction as an opportunity to build the relationship. Building just takes some degree of anticipation.

Think about one more thing you can offer that will make customers recognize you and your company as the go-to expert on a subject or in the industry.

Show them a good place to look first for answers if they don’t want to call or chat the next time. Direct them to cutting-edge information that might help them use products and access services better, or make their personal and professionals lives easier.

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