What do you think is the key for offering successful live chat service? Good communication skills of your chat agents is a prerequisite for making your live chat support successful. You need to understand the importance of putting together the best team for your website’s live chat support service.
Are you aware that for almost 90% of the customers your website will be the first point of contact? Your live chat support should make the best out of every visitor from every visitor that comes to your website. In order to achieve this, your live chat support team should be a top-notch team with exceptional communication skills.
1. Understanding your customers’ queries or requirements is the first step in the communication cycle. Your chat agents will be able to understand the queries or doubts of the customers only when they have good product knowledge. It is not a problem if your customers have limited product knowledge, but your chat agents are expected to have complete understanding of the product or the service that they are supporting otherwise, you are going to be in great trouble with series of customers complaining about the quality of your live chat service.
2. The visitors may not clearly explain their problems. They could even give the information in an incoherent way. In order to help the customers express their problems correctly the chat agents should be able to ask directed or pointed questions. Here are sample starter questions:
What is the nature of the issues you are facing?
Are you able to…?
Is it possible for you to…?
How long have you been facing this problem?
When did you come across this problem first?
Do you want to…?
The nature and the extent of the directed questions will vary from one industry to the other. Therefore, it is not possible for us to list all of them here. When you have a complete understanding of the products or the services you are offering, you will be able to ask the right questions. Asking the right questions is an art and with experience, this skill will increase. It is like going to an experienced physician who asks you a few questions and based on the answers you give they understand the nature of your ailment. Not all customers readily share correct information regarding the issues that they are facing. It is your responsibility to extract the required information by asking appropriate questions to your customers.
3. When you are trying to extract the information from the customers, you cannot be rude to them in any way, no matter how stupid or how ignorant they may sound. You will need to be patient and deal with them with the utmost professionalism. Here are a few questions that are to be considered a taboo. Do not use the following tone with your customers even by mistake:
How is that you don’t know this?
How could you miss this point?
How could you be so ignorant?
Did it ever occur to you that…?
Did you ever go through the instruction manual?
4. Once you think you have enough information from your customer, you need to reiterate that to ensure that you have understood it correctly. You can do this by repeating what you have understood by saying something like:
I think this is what you are saying…
If I understand your issue correctly…
Is this what you are saying….
Just to make sure I have understood what you are saying correctly
This will help you prevent misunderstanding. Why is this step very important while offering support to your customer? If you fail to understand your customers’ queries fully, you will be guiding them in the wrong direction. This will not only waste your customers’ time, but it will also result in tremendous dissatisfaction among your customers because they are not getting the solutions they actually need. If you would like to give satisfactory customer support to your customers, understanding their queries or issues is a primary requirement. Do not think that restating the question or the query of your customer is a waste of time. You will be wasting your time and the visitors’ time only when you start offering them the solutions before you understand their problem fully.
5. Dealing with queries for which you don’t have immediate response or solution is an art in itself in offering live chat customer support. In the earlier posts, we have indicated clearly that your live chat agents should be well trained on the products and the services that they are supporting. Despite giving the best possible training to the live chat agents, there are possibilities that certain problems or queries of the customers are totally new to the chat agents. Support agents are trained based on the anticipated issues and problems, but it does not mean that the training would have exhausted all possible problem areas 100%. How should the live chat support agents then handle questions for which they don’t have an immediate answer.
There are different ways of handling this challenge. You can escalate the chat to someone who has more information on the topic. It could be your team leader, manager or technical support agent. If you are transferring the chat or escalating it to a different operator, supervisor or department, you need to first tell your visitors or customers who are in chat with you something like:
I am afraid that I do not have the information you are looking for. Let me transfer the chat to someone who can assist you better.
I think our technical support will be able to better assist you in this regard. Please hold on for a second, let me transfer the chat to…
Alternatively, you can find out the data for your customers from the relevant department or person yourself. In such situations you should use ‘on hold’ messages so that the visitor knows that he or she has to wait for a few seconds before they could get a response. The presumption here is that you have your ‘on hold’ messages stored in the canned response. If you do not have such messages in the canned response, immediately include them. How should a perfect ‘on hold’ message read? Here are a few examples:
Please hold on for a minute while I retrieved the information for you.
If you do not mind, can you wait for a minute so that I can get the information you are looking for?
Would you wait for a few seconds while I check for the information that you are looking for from the relevant department?
On hold messages, play a very important role in minimizing the frustration level of the visitors when their responses are delayed for some reason.
Regardless of whether you are going to transfer the chat to a different desk or you are going to fetch the information for your customer yourself, handle it very professionally so that your customers or your visitors are happy with the overall chat dynamics.
6. At times all the above may not work because the issue could not be resolved immediately or on the spot. In such situations you will need to tell the visitor that it is going to take some time before their issue is resolved. You will have to tell the visitors that you will get back to them. This could be done in a number of ways:
I think I have got all the required details from you. We will look into the issue and do the needful.
We will revert to you once the issue is resolved.
Someone from our technical team will get in touch with you. We have your contact details and just to confirm, are the following details correct?
When you are going to tell the visitors that you or your team will get back to them, ensure that it happens. If you promise them that you will get back to them, but if there is no follow up from the department that is supposed to get back to them, then it will breach their trust and they will not return to you. Therefore, an effective chat does not end with the chat interface, but it is completed only when the customer gets the solution he or she is expecting. You need therefore to ensure that the communication cycle is fully closed.
7. One of the biggest challenges while handling live chat is when you need to tell the customers that something is not possible. How to communicate such information without making the customers or the visitors upset? It is best and it is important that you tell your visitors the truth rather than make misleading promises. How to tell your chat visitors that something is not possible? Here are a few suggestions:
Unfortunately, we are unable to entertain your request for discount at the moment. When we do have special offers we will get in touch with you.
Though we would love to do that, our policy does not allow us to entertain such requests.
We will certainly try to help you in the best way possible. We have explored all possibilities, but at the moment we are unable to assist you further on this as it is beyond the scope of our service.
Having discussed all these, if you want to be an effective communicator, if you want to make every chat a success, then you need to understand how the communication cycle works and what are the different components in the communication cycle. It is essential that all the chat agents have detailed session on the following section so that they get the big picture, which will help them deliver better during their live chat sessions.
Three components of the communication cycle
The three components of the communication cycle are sender, receiver and the communication medium. Effective communication in the chat takes place when the receiver gets exactly what the sender is trying to say. In any normal communication cycle this does not happen the way we expect it to happen. There are a number of factors that distort or disturb the 100% reception of the information sent out by the sender. As a result, miscommunication or ineffective communication takes place, which in turn leads to various customer support issues and customer satisfaction issues.
If you are thinking or asking why 100% reception is not possible, then you need to understand the distortion factors. For example, the receiver may not understand the terminologies used by the sender. Here the sender or the receiver could be both customer and the visitor. This keeps changing in the communication cycle.
It is also possible that the visitor or the receiver is not familiar with the topic. This could lead to limited understanding of the information shared, as the receiver is unable to make correct associations due to their limitations pertaining to the subject matter.
As a chat support representative, you are required to be aware of such dynamics so that when a particular visitor is unable to understand you or what you are sharing then you should not get angry with the customer. It is your responsibility to identify the gap that is prevailing in the communication cycle and try to rectify it so that the visitor is happy with your responses. Very often chat support agents are not given any training on this communication cycle. They just have information regarding the products and services. Such knowledge alone will not be sufficient to handle the chats effectively. At times, as a live chat agent, you may not understand what the customer is saying and you should be able to get into the shoes of your customers to understand fully their problem.
If you are a live chat agent or if you want to train a team on offering live chat support in your website, make sure that training covers the above aspects so that your chat representatives know how to communicate effectively with their customers.
8. One important section that we kept it for the last is dealing with customers that are upset or unhappy with your services. You cannot possibly deal with angry customers unless and until you have fully understood the dynamics of the communication cycle.
As far as the angry visitors are concerned, you need to first remember that they are not ready to listen to you. They are simply not in the mood to listen to any reasons that you give. According to them, whatever you are stating as a reason is nothing but an excuse. There is a vast difference between an excuse and a reason. So if your visitors have already decided that you are just giving them excuses, then whatever you are sharing will only be futile.
How to handle such situations? The first important rule of thumb is, do not react. The visitor or the customer does not have anything personal against you. For some reason or the other, they are not happy with your company’s products or services or the nature of the support that they have received. You should understand this before you go ahead and tell them anything. You are called to respond here and not react to what the customer is saying.
You will be able to resolve many of the problems of the customers if you can approach them with the above disposition. As a next step, give them time to share everything that they want to share. Do not interrupt them or try to give your side of the story until your visitors have fully finished. Giving the space required for the customers to share their problems in the first place acts as a psychological outlet. They ventilate their anger. This helps them cool down a bit after which they will be in a better mindset to listen to you too.
Once they have shared their issues completely, regardless of who is at fault, tell them you are sorry that they are inconvenienced. Your idea here is not to find out who is at fault. The customer is unhappy at the moment and is facing some issues. As a chat support agent, you are required to resolve their issues and investigating who is at fault is totally uncalled for here, as it does not lead to any productive end in most situations.
Tell them that you empathize with them and that you are able to get into their shoes. Assure them that you are there to help them resolve their issues in the best way possible.
If you happen to handle such dissatisfied customers, it is your responsibility to resolve their issues even if it means going out of your way to help the customer so that you win back their trust in you and the brand that you represent.
Even if they should use foul language, you should not retaliate. Your focus should be on how to help the customer. Once you are clear with this, then you will not take things personally or get upset with the customers.
Good communication skills is the mantra for offering effective live chat support.