Eight Etiquette Tips for Live Chat Agents

Client interactions speak volumes about a business

Working live chat support, things can get deathly dull or incredibly hectic depending on the number of people who need help at any given moment. In these stop and go situations, it can be tempting to get a little casual, to make jokes across your desk to coworkers, and perhaps even become a little careless with customers (especially when the queue is packed).

However, whether you’re feeling overstressed or particularly playful, it’s important to remember the basic etiquette rules of chat support. While some of the rules stem from etiquette established by the early instant messenger crowd, what’s most important to remember is how to stay professional.

1) Respond Promptly

We know that chat agents often work more than one chat conversation at once, which can be hectic and very distracting until you get the hang of it. However, no matter how engaged you are with another client, do your best to never leave another chat client hanging. If one of your clients has made a comment or asked a question, do your best to give at least a preliminary answer promptly. This helps the customer not feel as though they’ve been forgotten or abandoned during any long pauses on your part. The quick response is especially important for your first chat message in order to prevent clients from feeling ignored. Instead, answer promptly and welcome them to the chat conversation, then get back to your other client interaction.

2) Introduce Yourself

To the customer, you’re not just an avatar in their chatbox. You’re a real human who will be able to assist them in real-time and that matters a lot, especially if the client is frustrated or confused. Make sure to introduce yourself in a friendly and personable manner. If you have a preferred nickname (i.e. “Will” instead of “William”), inviting the customer to call you by it can create the feeling of a more personal connection and make it easier for the customer to open up about their problems. State your name clearly and make it clear that you’ll be taking care of all the customer’s needs today. Make sure to ask the customer’s name if it is not already apparent, then address them by their name throughout the conversation to build a stronger rapport.

3) Avoid Hard “No”s

Sometimes a customer will need something that you can’t provide either because you don’t have the authority, you would need a different department, or sometimes because the request simply is not possible. Even if it’s the latter reason, do your best to find solutions and alternatives instead of always giving a hard “no”. Gently let the client know that you might not be able to help them with that particular task but would be happy to help them find another solution. Offer a few alternatives or to transfer them to someone who is more knowledgeable about their situation. This way, the customer is never let down by your support because you are continuing to try your best to help them.

On the flip side, don’t drag out a situation with a client if you and your team are certain that their specific request cannot be accommodated. In these situations, it’s best to communicate clearly to set proper expectations so that clients fully understand what is and is not possible.

4) Check In During Long Pauses
A long pause in chat can mean a lot of things. Worst-case scenario, the customer has been pulled away and the chat may disconnect while the best case scenario is that the customer is compiling many details about their troubles from which you can glean useful troubleshooting information. Either way, if you don’t have a visitor typing indicator UI element (such as the SnapEngage Sneak Peek feature), checking in to make sure everything is OK during a long pause is a great way to show that you’re keeping track of the customer and care about the outcome of your support conversation.

5) Don’t Use ‘Chatspeak’
This can be a big challenge for almost any chat agent used to informal language, especially those born after 1990. For some, chatspeak is effectively their native tongue and they’ve been speaking it since texting required thumbs on a real number keyboard. Have no doubt, some of your clients will absolutely ask for technical or customer support in chatspeak, but it’s best not to answer in kind. It may be tempting, fun, and convenient to chatspeak with your clients but it isn’t professional. Instead, carefully watch your spelling, grammar, and punctuation to maintain the professional appearance of your company.

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6) Stay Friendly, Even When the Customer Isn’t

Unfortunately, sometimes it’s tempting to match the client phrase for phrase in an entirely different way. Every now and then you will encounter a truly angry or mean customer who’s ready to fight anything and everything. This sour mood is often a result of technical issues, the reason they contacted you in the first place, yet it has overtaken their good sense to the point of name calling a humble chat agent. Try your best not to respond in kind no matter how rude a client becomes.

“Try not to respond in kind no matter how rude a customer becomes. The best way to either diffuse or endure […] difficult encounters is to stay perfectly polite and cheerful.”

The best way to either diffuse or endure these difficult encounters is to stay perfectly polite and cheerful. If it helps, take their bad mood as a dare that you can’t keep your composure, then win it. If the chat was really tough, reward yourself later on for keeping your cool. Don’t forget that your teammates are great allies in situations like this. Whether you need a colleague to step in and continue a difficult conversation or just need to vent about the woes of the day, it’s ok to lean on your team for support.

7) Know When to Call for Backup

It’s great to be able to handle absolutely every call, chat, and email ticket on your own, but in reality, you will find this dream to be unrealistic. Every now and then someone will need something you simply can’t provide. Whether they need help from a different department or their problem is beyond your ability to solve, there will come a time when you’ll need help from a manager, a technician, or even just a more experienced chat agent. When this happens, the best way to complete your interaction successfully is to stay positive and work closely with your colleagues to quickly find a resolution for the client. After all, that’s what the company support infrastructure is there for. Take notes about how your colleague assists the client and use these situations as learning opportunities for the next time around.

8) Thank the Customer

Always end conversations on a positive note. If they don’t log out immediately after you find a solution (clients often do this, they are a busy bunch!), remember to thank them for contacting you through live chat support and let the customer know that they’re welcome back if they ever need anything else. This is a warm way to close the encounter and will leave your customers feeling appreciated and welcomed.