Being a chat support agent is a challenging profile. Each day poses a new difficulty and the live chat agents should be well equipped to deal with such challenges. We cannot have a ready reckoner for all possible difficult situations that could emerge during the live chat. The chat agent should use his or her discretion in handling the scenario keeping to the basics of live chat etiquette. In this post, let us try to identify some of the most common occurrences that pose a special challenge to the chat agents. Before we look at this aspect let us brush up our basics on live chat etiquette.
Live Chat Etiquette Basics
- Construct complete sentences when you reply. There may be certain exceptions as in the case of making your live chat sound real so that the live chat visitors feel that they are talking to a real human being. In general or the rule of thumb is that you create complete sentences so that the entire chat session is handled in a very professional way.
- Use correct grammar and punctuation in your live chat.
- Do not use any short forms and acronyms in your chat, as the visitor may not be familiar with the short forms that you are using.
- Always be respectful when you are chatting.
- Do not use any foul language no matter what the visitor says.
- Your main aim is to help the visitor with his or her queries and not cutting short the chat. This goal is achieved only when the visitor gets complete answers to his or her questions.
- Ensure that all chats are started and closed using preset responses.
- If you need to put the customer on hold during the chat to find any information keep them informed of the possible delay.
- Get as much information as possible from the client regarding the issues that they are facing.
- Secure and confirm their contact details before the chat is completed.
- Dealing With Difficult Chat Scenarios
Whether you are having a smooth chat or a difficult chat, you are required to abide by all the basics that we have listed above. At no point of time you should deviate from the above guidelines. Once you have this point drummed into your head, then you are very unlikely to make mistakes while handling your chats no matter how difficult the visitor tries to be.
Three types of chat visitors:
Before you can effectively handle your chat, you need to quickly categorize the chat visitor so that you can guide them correctly. This is not just pertaining to difficult chats, but this applies to all chats.
First Type: Existing customer who has an urgent query or concern, which needs to be addressed without delay or an emergency situation. For example, a web hosting customer whose website is down during peak sales season. Such a customer will not be in a position listen to you patiently when you say we will revert to you in 24 hours. He or she will be looking for immediate resolution to their problems. We can think of hundreds of such situations whereby the customer is in need of instant resolution to his or her problem.
Second Type: A prospective visitor who could be interested in your services or products. Here the visitor is looking for some kind of information regarding your service. It could be how to place the orders, where to sign up, how to apply the discount code, etc.
Third Type: These are casual visitors who have come to your website by chance. These visitors do not intentionally come to your website. They may or may not have immediate requirements of your products or services. They happened to be in chat with you just because you have proactively engaged them and they have accepted or accidentally clicked the chat button and proceeded to chat with you.
All these visitors cannot be handled the same way. Each of these visitors will have their own approach when they come to chat with you. Once you are able to spot from where these visitors are coming you will be able to handle the chats better.
Let us consider a few difficult scenarios that you may have to face as a chat agent.
The visitor is in urgent need, it is the odd hour of the night. Your company provides 24×7 customer support, but the technical support team operates only during certain parts of the day. When this visitor engages in chat, he or she is expecting some technical solutions. You are trying to explain to them that the technical support team is not available, but the visitor insists that you get someone to help him or her immediately. You could almost hear him scream his or her lungs out in frustration. How do you handle such a situation, what do you tell your chat visitor? Here are few things that you could try:
“We do understand your situation Mr. We sincerely regret that our technical support team is currently not available.
They will be available at 9 am and I will right away forward your query /concern to them.
I assure you that they will attend to it the first thing in the morning. Please be assured of our continued support.”
“We wish we are able to resolve your issue right away. Our tech support team is currently not available.
Our team will look into the issues that you have indicated here. I will forward the entire transcript to our technical team so that you do not have to write a long email explaining the issues once again.
Can you please confirm your contact details so that it will be easy for our tech team to get in touch with you?”
These are just a few ways of handling the difficult scenario. Here, our aim is to make the visitor understand that the technical support is currently not available. At the same time, you should understand that such visitors are distressed. They are genuinely looking for help. You are their last resort and they will not be ready to accept the fact that even their last resort is not going to work and that they will have to wait for few more hours before they could get any help. Give all possible indications that their problems will be addressed swiftly and that your team will be eager to assist them. You need to show them that their problem is your priority. It is not enough to send out such signals, but you need to actually close the loop by ensuring that your tech support team is acting on it as the first thing in the morning.
Your customer is unable to follow your instructions even though the task at hand is very simple. Your visitor is getting frustrated just because what you are saying is not working for him even though you are giving him or her correct instructions. The visitor is turning wild and starts using foul language. How do you handle such a situation? What do you tell the customer?
This is certainly not an uncommon scenario in the life of a chat agent. Here, an important factor to remember is that you should not take this personally. If you take things personally when you are handling live chat, you will end up reacting to the visitor rather than responding. Therefore, tell yourself that the visitor is not angry with you personally and that he or she is upset about the situation.
First, let the visitor explain the situation fully. Do not interrupt, try to jump into conclusions or try to defend yourself before the visitor has explained oneself. By giving them time to explain their issue, you are allowing them to vent out their frustrations. Once they have done that. You start by apologizing to them by saying something like,
“We are extremely sorry for the inconvenience…” note here we have used “We” instead of “I.” You are representing your organization so whatever you are saying is said on behalf of the organization. You should not therefore be cautious while responding. You need to be professional at the same time sound friendly so that your visitor is comforted.
After apologizing for the inconvenience caused, tell them that you will be looking into the issue. This could be done by you or it may require someone else. Explain the situation clearly to the visitor by saying,
“I think we have fairly adequate information about the issues that you are facing. I will look into it immediately.”
Or “… I will ask my technical team to get in touch with you.” I
Or “…I will have our technical team look into the problem.”
You should also tell your customers how long you would take to rectify the problem or give some resolution to the problem. Without giving them any specific information in this regard, the visitor is not going to be satisfied. They know very well that you will look into it. What actually matters to them is how soon their problem will be rectified. In your chat you should give clear indications on the response time or resolution time. You need to communicate it clearly by saying,
“Your issue will be resolved in the next 3 hours time.” This way the visitor knows that it is going to take a certain amount of time before things change. This prepares the visitor better to deal with the situation, like to inform the key people, making alternative arrangements and so on. Secondly, when you give the timeline, it gives the visitor some kind of peace of mind. They know that by the end of the 3 hours or 4 hours or the time that you have specified their problems are likely to be resolved. If you do not give this timeline, then your visitors are going to remain restless because they do not know when exactly their problem is likely to disappear.
We can come up with many such instances and example scenarios. The challenge here is that we cannot list all possible scenarios and give solutions. As a chat support agent, you will need to apply your mind in such situations and remain composed so that you can think clearly to respond to the visitor correctly. If you panic, you are likely to aggravate the situation further.
When you are training your agents for handling live chat support, you should make it evident to them that it is certainly not going to be a bed of roses for them. It may not involve sweat and toil, but it could be highly intimidating.
At all points of time, you need to communicate to the visitors that you can empathize with them. Empathy is getting into the shoes of the customers. You should use words like, “I can understand…” “I can see that…” “I could feel that…” “It must be really inconvenient to…” and so on.
Why it is important to let the visitor know that you are empathizing with them is that often they complain saying, “I don’t think you understand my pain…” “I don’t think you understand my problem…”
Giving them the feeling that you have captured their problem and that you understand the issue at hand clearly, will assure a certain amount of comfort to the visitors. Any problem or issue could be addressed only when you fully understand them. So empathizing and empathy indicators show the visitors that 50% of the issue is addressed, which is to make you or your organization understand their concerns.
There are no magic formulas or spells that will give you instant relief from the difficult scenarios. The more difficult scenarios that you come across, the better you get at addressing them. Therefore do not shy away from such situations. They are only going to make you stronger and better.
At no point of time abruptly end the chat without telling the visitor. This could be highly insulting for the visitor. At times, the visitors could use very abusive language. You are not required to subject yourself to such treatment and at the same time, you cannot slam the door on the visitor’s face by abruptly ending the chat. If you come across a foul mouthed visitor with abusive language. Communicate in no uncertain terms that his or her words cannot be tolerated. For example, you can say, “We understand your issues and we will do everything within our limits to address the issues at the earliest possible. However, we do not approve of such language here at YOUR COMPANY NAME. Kindly avoid using such language here.
If the visitor continues to use abusive language, then tell him or her, “I am forced to end this chat now because of your abusive language. Thanks you!”
Make certain that you save the chat transcript for future reference. In case, there should be any problem created with the visitor in the future, you will have your chat transcript as proof to support your stand and why you had to close the chat.
It is important that as a team you analyze all the chat transcripts of such difficult chats. When you review them as a team, all the members in the team will be educated. You can discuss how well such situations could be handled, what kinds of responses could be given. This should be done as part of your ongoing agent training protocol. You can store some of the responses suggested in your canned responses. These are all some of the ways of continually perfecting the quality of your live chat support service. When you have done this exercise, your chat agents will not panic when they come across a difficult customer. They will be in better control of the entire process. This does not mean that there will be no mistakes at all or that the chat agents will never mess up again. The idea behind these exercises is that you will be able to reduce the number of mistakes that happen in your chats, especially when you need to deal with difficult chat visitors. Even though all the chat agents may not come across difficult visitors on a daily basis, when they do come across, they will be in a better position to handle the chats no matter how difficult they are.
It also helps to create a database of difficult chat situations. This will help you understand how frequently a difficult chat scenario crops up. You should also gain insight in terms of why do customers have such issues, is there anything that the organization could do to minimize or is there something that needs to be done at organizational level so that the customers do not face such issues any longer. All these are part of the chat cycle. The live chat facility acts as the feedback loop for the organization in creating a better future for itself.