Discover the best practices for using live chat to convert website visitors into leads, reduce support waiting times, resolve more customer issues, and provide an incredible customer experience.
Are you struggling to provide incredible support over live chat? Looking for a set of best practices for live chat to improve the support experience, and meet customer expectations better?
FACT: Of the many support channels available, live chat support is by far the most problematic one.
Now, it’s true – Chat is a relatively new channel. Many companies are only beginning to use live chat to connect with and support their customers.
But it’s also true that customers already expect them to do so. What’s more, they’ve grown accustomed to interacting with brands in real-time, and have high expectations for live chat engagements.
For you, that means one thing only – You must improve your company’s overall chat experience.
Hence this guide. It’ll show you 13 live chat best practices. But I will also warn you about certain common mistakes to avoid.
So, let’s not waste any more time.
Do You Need to Implement Live Chat Software at All?
Although it might seem like one, this isn’t a trick question.
I, for one, hear it regularly from our potential users – “Do we need to implement live chat on our site at all?”
Well, the answer is yes. You even don’t have much choice, to be honest.
You see, it may seem that phone or email is enough to engage with customers. But when you dig deeper, you quickly realize that neither of those channels is exactly what customers want.
According to Techjury, 75% of customers prefer live chat over any other support channel. What’s more, 41% of customers expect to find live chat on a company’s website, according to Forrester Research.
As I said, you don’t really have a choice.
But of course, implementing live chat is easier said than done. With so many customer interactions happening every day, it’s easy to lose track of what to do, and when.
That’s why, below, I compiled a list of 13 live chat best practices that will help you implement and then, improve the live chat user experience.
Live Chat Best Practices
#1. Act human
Using live chat may seem unnatural at first. On the one hand, you interact with someone in real-time. On the other hand, though, you can’t see them, and their body language. You can’t respond to subtle signals they might be sending with gestures, facial expressions, and so on.
As a result, many support agents begin using what I refer to as “robotic” messages – These are very formal responses, ones’ that no one would ever have uttered if they were having a normal conversation.
So, when conversing with a customer over a chat window, write as you normally would. Act human. Show emotions, surprise, and empathy.
TIP: Use emoji to emulate body language. I’ll tell you more about how to do it later in this guide.
#2. Launch the live chat support widget where it will have the biggest impact
It’s a common misconception that you should include the chat widget on every page. It’s not true.
In fact, when you’re only getting started with using live chat support, it’s more beneficial to launch it only where it would have the biggest impact.
This could mean including the widget on the most strategic pages only at first. These could be your top product pages or any other assets that convert the most customers.
Alternatively, you could launch the live chat for VIP customers only, and expand using it for customer service to other customers over time.
The idea is to launch live chat to a select group of customers only at first, test the waters, and gain experience, before allowing everyone to talk to your support team.
#3. Respond quickly and reduce customer waiting times
I’m sure you got frustrated by having to wait for a response in a live chat conversation on many occasions.
And I get it. Staring at a chat window, waiting to hear back is annoying.
So it’s quite a logical live chat best practice to minimize those waiting times as much as possible.
There are simple ways to do it.
- Tell a customer that they might have to wait a little. You might need to consult with someone else to process their query further. By simply notifying the person about a possible waiting time, you’ll reduce its negative impact on the customer experience.
- Direct the inquiry to another person, if they are more suited to handle it. Providing they pick up the chat right away, the customer will not have to wait for long to see their inquiry being processed.
#4. Do not engage with too many live chats at once
This best practice can be a little problematic.
On the one hand, you want to respond to customers quickly, and reduce their wait times. On the other hand, though, you also want to improve the quality of those experiences.
And that may require your agents to run multiple chat sessions simultaneously.
Now, it’s perfectly fine to do so. A well-trained agent can process a couple of live chat sessions at the same time.
Of course, the final number of conversations they can have at once at any given time will depend on various factors:
- The depth of problems they have to deal with,
- How much attention they have to give each specific case, and so on.
Having said that, do not encourage agents to pick up more than a handful of interactions at the same time.
Splitting the attention across multiple chats may greatly reduce the quality and speed of each response.
That in turn, can make customers feel abandoned, and reduce their satisfaction rate.
#5. Train your live chat team continuously
I admit that it’s easy to just hand over live chat software access to someone, and let them have a go at it. The person might be natural and will pick up all the live chat best practices quickly.
But they might also struggle with it. They might fail to follow processes. They could:
- Fail to greet customers properly,
- Continue conducting conversations past the time when they were supposed to transition those customers to a more knowledgeable person,
- Not realize that answers to certain questions have already been provided in the knowledge base, and so on.
Regular training will remind agents of the processes to follow.
But there is another way to train your live chat staff – Organize sessions during which they’d become customers, engaging with other brands via those companies’ live chat. Seeing how others process simple requests might be an eye-opening experience. It could reveal new ways to support customers but also, mistakes to avoid when serving your customers.
#6. Always evaluate the data
Data holds all the truth about your live chat support. Reviewing it will tell you how many chats agents can process at the same time without a drop in quality. Data will also reveal the overall satisfaction levels with your live chat and might indicate many areas for improvement.
Get into the habit of reviewing and evaluating the data regularly. Also, set up specific KPIs for the live chat teams to measure and monitor their performance.
#7. Constantly improve your response time
I have to say that this is a shocking statistic:
1 in 5 customers is willing to stop using a product or service because the company provided slow response times via its online chat.
But it also tells us a lot about where to focus our attention when delivering a live chat experience – the response time.
You see, slow response time leads to customers abandoning the interaction, and leaving potentially more frustrated than before engaging in your live chat.
Luckily, there are some quick ways to combat slow response times:
- Set up your live chat software to accept new conversations automatically.
- Use canned responses and automatic responses to initiate conversations.
#8. Take breaks
It sounds so simple, doesn’t it?
And yet, with so many chats happening simultaneously, it’s easy to forget that you need to step away from the chat interface once in a while.
Even a short break to make coffee will help you stay refreshed, and provide better customer support throughout the day.
#9. Be proactive and take initiative to kickstart live chat conversations
Most website visitors will not engage with your live chat.
Now, many would not need to converse with you, of course.
But some might find themselves browsing the site aimlessly, trying to find information, and feeling frustrated overall.
But unless you take action and engage them first, they might leave, and possibly never come back.
Use live chat triggers to engage website visitors proactively. For example:
- Display an automatic message or question to visitors who stay longer on a specific page. If it’s a pricing page, you could ask them whether they need clarification about your rates. If it’s a product, ask them if they’d like to chat more about delivery times, etc.
- Engage repeat visitors by referencing that they’ve been to your site before.
- Target first-time visitors with links to the most popular products or offers, and so on.
#10. Use emojis and GIFs
I know, emojis do not form part of a typical conversation. A the same time, they’ve become a part of our communications overall. In fact, some say emojis have become a language of their own.
Regardless of how you look at them, emojis and GIFs help you achieve an extraordinary thing in a live chat conversation:
They can make the conversation sound human. How? Because emojis and GIFs will help imitate the body language. With that simple fact, they’ll add another layer of information to the conversation, and create a much better connection between you and the customer.
#11. Run post-chat surveys and ask for feedback
We’ve already discussed how in live chat, data is everything. Having the right data is the only way to improve live chat customer service, actually.
But the live chat software you use will collect only some of the information you need.
The rest must come from your customers.
Post-chat surveys and other feedback will help you uncover what your customers think of those interactions. They’ll tell you whether your response rate is satisfactory or not. Surveys will reveal the true performance of your agents, beyond speed and accuracy.
Implement post-chat surveys, and ask every customer to rate their experience. It doesn’t take much to do so, yet insights from this data will prove invaluable to your business.
#12. Don’t end chats too early
Once you’ve resolved a customer’s issue, it’s only natural that the two of you should part ways.
The customer got the results they’ve hoped for, and you have other live chat conversations to attend to.
But ending the chat too early may result in losing connection with the person. For one, they might have other issues they’d like to discuss. They may want to express some insights to you.
Therefore, it’s always a good practice to end a live chat conversation by asking if there’s anything else you could help the client with.
If they say no, say your goodbyes and move on to helping another client.
But if they state otherwise, continue the conversation until the customer is fully satisfied.
#13. Develop a chat workflow and process
I’ll be honest – It’s easy to implement those and many other live chat best practices when you’re operating the channel on your own.
But add a couple of more agents, and suddenly everyone’s starting conducting conversations in their own way.
Now, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with uniqueness and an individual approach to every customer.
But at the same time, the company must deliver a unified live chat experience, and that’s where having workflows and processes comes into play.
A solid workflow will result in a consistent customer experience over live chat, quick resolution to more serious issues, not to mention, fewer mistakes.