Some people think live chat is the perfect customer service channel. If staffed properly, it’s instantaneous. A chat can be as short or long as the customer needs it to be. Customers can chat while they multitask at work or home. Agents can ask probing questions to discover the best way to help. The chat transcript provides a written record, so the customer doesn’t have to take notes during the chat.
But to truly solve customers’ problems in live chat, agents need chat-specific writing skills. Chat is different enough from email (which isn’t a live, synchronous channel) that great email writing skills don’t always translate to chat. Here are seven chat writing skills your agents need to diagnose and solve customers’ problems effectively.
1. Mix Canned Live Chat Responses with Free-Text
Chat agents should have access to a collection of high-quality prewritten content responses (templates), and they should use canned live chat responses to answer customers’ questions. But customers don’t respond well to all-canned chats. Agents need to be able to switch from canned responses for live chat to free-text as needed.
Matt, a chat agent for a VoIP phone service company, does a good job of this. He’s chatting with John, a customer who’s switching his business from landline to VoIP service. Matt’s first statement is clearly a canned response, but his second is free-texted to answer John’s question directly.
John: What’s the cost of your best plan for small business customers?
Matt: Our Premium Unlimited Plan, available for small businesses, provides unlimited local and long distance calling anywhere in the US, Canada and Puerto Rico for business customers. Also, this plan includes FREE calls to 5 select European countries for only $31.99 a month plus taxes/fees! You also get a free dedicated efax line with 20+ FREE advanced phone features.
John: OK that’s good. I am glad to learn about the efax line. But can i keep my existing fax number? Can the VoIPline work with my existing efax system?
Matt: Yes, it will be able to work with your efax system. What you’ll do is place the order with me. Then you’ll contact your efax company to transfer your efax line number over to us. I can join you on that call, if you’d like…
2. Read Analytically to Understand What the Customer is Asking
You might be asking, “How can reading be a writing skill?” But analytical reading is the bedrock of all writing skills. Analytical reading is the ability to read what the customer is saying and discern what the customer is asking. In chat, analytical reading is essential, because chatting customers write quickly, without editing, often on their mobile devices. Sometimes their writing is sloppy and confusing. When agents can read analytically, they can take in the customer’s messy writing and figure out what the customer is really asking.
3. Ask Probing Questions
Chat is a great channel for helping customers clarify what they need or want. Here is an example of how Annabelle, an expert chat agent for an online clothing retailer, keeps probing to help the customer narrow and clarify her shoe question. In the early part of the chat, almost everything Annabelle writes is a question. Some are matter-of-fact (shoe size) and others are open-ended (“What key things are you looking for?”) This mix of question types engages the customer and gives Annabelle the best shot at finding the shoe the customer wants.
Customer: I am looking for shoes that will allow me to walk comfortably. I have nerve damage in my foot.
Annabelle: Okay, so you are looking for walking shoes?
Customer: Yes, let’s start with walking shoes. I will need to replace my dress shoes too.
Annabelle: Okay, I’m glad to help. One moment please…
Annabelle: What size do you wear?
Customer: I wear a size 7 or 7.5
Annabelle: What width are your feet?
Customer: Average width
Annabelle: Okay. What key things are you looking for in a shoe?
Customer: Comfort, really. I have a lot of pain in the ball of my right foot. I can barely walk on it…
4. Use the Company’s Brand Voice when Writing Live Chat Responses
You might be wondering, “How does chatting in the brand voice help solve customers’ problems?” Well, using the brand voice in all channels and in all interactions with the customer builds trust. It creates a consistent experience from marketing to service. When they chat, it’s the live chat agents’ responsibility to represent their company’s brand, so they should sound like the brand. If, for example, you chat for a skateboard retailer, and your company’s marketing message is “We keep the world carving and grinding,” you need to be able to use that brand voice in your chats.
It would be jarring to write, “It has been my great pleasure assisting you as we replace the faulty axel you purchased from us.” If customers don’t feel like they’re interacting with the same company before and after they buy, they don’t trust (and won’t follow) the customer service advice they receive.
5. Signal to Customers when They Need to Wait or when You’ll Wait
In many chats, customers and agents have to step away to retrieve information. Good chat writing makes it clear to customers when they need to wait or when the agent will wait for them. When chat agents manage wait or away time properly, there’s little need on either side to ask, “Are you still there?”
In this chat, agent Vanessa does a good job of signaling to the customer when she’s stepped away from the chat.
Customer: What’s the status of my return for replacement on order number 12345678?
Vanessa: Hello, Lisa. I’m happy to help you with that. Please give me one moment to check the status.
Customer: Thank you!
Vanessa: The return package for order #12345678 has arrived in our warehouse, and we’ve begun processing your request for replacement.
Customer: Excellent! Are both items still in stock?
Vanessa: Yes, both wheels are still available.
Customer: Great! I appreciate your assistance! Will I get an email with tracking information when they ship?
Vanessa: Yes, you will get an email. Please hold one moment, and I will see if I can get the shipping date for you…
Related Article: 8 Benchmarks To Improve Your Live Chat Metrics
6. Empathize with the Customer’s Need and Perspective
It would be easy for chat agents to let their dignity slip and respond in kind to angry, rude, or stressed customers. Instead, they should empathize. Seeing things from the customer’s point of view is essential because it makes customers easier to manage, which controls chat time. Consider using empathy statements like these:
- You’re right.
- Me too.
- I can definitely understand
- I can see your point
- That sounds difficult
Combined with the other chat writing skills mentioned already, expressions of empathy help customers accept the solutions agents offer.
Related Article: 31 Empathy Statements to Improve Your Customer Service Today
7. Close with a Sign-Off That’s Genuine and Specific
End the chat on a high note. Avoid using only the generic closing: “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” or the generic sign-off “Thanks for chatting with us.” While those are polite and necessary prewritten statements, you can go beyond what’s expected. Try closing with a specific reference to a topic covered in the chat:
- Thanks for upgrading your account, Mary. Have a great day!
- I’m glad we could help you troubleshoot the problems with your webcam…
- I’m sorry about the problem you had with our website today, and I hope…
All customer service channels should enable agents to solve customers’ problems, but live chat offers the best of phone service (a live, mutual conversation) and the best of email and other written channels (a record of the conversation that the customer can use after they’ve received help).
Use the tips in this article, and you’ll provide live chat responses that get the job done.