8 Ways to upgrade your live chat communications

Speed is more important than ever. When a customer needs help, they want it right now. In order to meet this demand, more and more agencies are turning to instant communication technologies such as text and instant messaging via Live Chat.

In fact, recent research reveals that messaging is now the #1 preferred channel for customer service in the United States.

It’s easy to see why. Not only does Live Chat empower agencies to meet the demand for a quick response, it also provides the opportunity to deliver exceptional customer experience that builds trust and drives business.

While there’s no denying the need for speed, it’s critical to keep in mind that customers aren’t just looking for a quick hello—they’re looking for actual help. This is where Live Chat can really deliver because your trained customer service representatives are the heart of your Live Chat communications.

As with any technology, old or new, effective implementation and understanding of the platform are essential to success. So to help you maximize the benefits Live Chat, we’ve put together some tips that will get you started.

8 Ways to Upgrade Your Live Chat Communications

1. Be Inviting

If your website is your virtual storefront, Live Chat is your front desk. We all know the value of first impressions. This holds true in the digital world, every bit as much as in the brick and mortar world.

So be sure to take the time to customize your Live Chat feature with your agency logo and colors. Aim for a look that is both welcoming and consistent with the overall look and feel of your website. If your chat box doesn’t align with your branding, it could be confusing to customers and make them hesitate to click.

Make sure your Live Chat reflects your hours of operation. Just as you wouldn’t leave an open sign on your front door when your agency is closed, you don’t want your chat box to appear open for business if no one is actively monitoring it.

Once you’ve made your chat box pretty, be sure to place it prominently on your website—do not bury it on a ‘Contact’ page. Remember, Live Chat isn’t simply a piece of information like a phone number or an email address. It’s your front desk, your virtual welcome center for new and existing clients. It should be up front where customers can find it effortlessly.

2. Be Present

Have you ever called a business only to have the phone ring and ring, without so much as being routed to a voicemail? It’s frustrating and confusing to reach out and not receive a reply.

A recent analysis of 1,000 websites found that as many as 21% of Live Chat requests are left unanswered. That means one in five chat requests do not receive a reply. In other words, that’s a whole lot of frustration.

Assigning staff to monitor Live Chat may seem like a no brainer but sadly, a lot of businesses let this basic practice fall through the cracks, taking valuable sales opportunities down with it.

While the story of Live Chat is unquestionably about convenience, this only holds true if your agency actively engages the feature—and does it fast.

To meet the expectation for instant communication, you need to respond to all incoming chat requests quickly—just like you would with an incoming phone call. (Good thing you already set up your Live Chat feature to reflect your hours of operation!)

You can take this one step further by making sure each chat request is answered by the right team within your agency. Allowing customers to select which location or department they’d like to chat with will more efficiently connect them with the help they need.

3. Be Human

Many companies are deploying chatbots to try to keep up with the demand for digital communication. And while this trend may be growing among businesses, customers are less enthusiastic about bots. In fact, 86% of consumers say they prefer humans to chatbots. (Want to know more about bots? Check out our recent article.)

If you’re using Live Chat, you have a huge advantage when it comes to providing personalized service and building trust with your customers. But it can be difficult for customers to know for sure whether they’re talking with a human or a bot.

So be sure to establish yourself as a human right away. Introduce yourself with your real first name, the same way you would in a phone conversation.

Keep your tone professional and conversational. Be sure to provide relevant information in response to customer questions. Bots often miss the mark by delivering canned responses that fail to correctly address the customer’s specific needs. But a human customer service rep can stand out by probing deeper into issues, showing empathy and creating a personalized experience that customers will remember.

4. Be Helpful

When a customer initiates a Live Chat, they’re looking for help for some reason. They might be actively shopping for insurance, trying to check the status of a claim or simply looking for your agency’s physical address.

Live Chat can dramatically speed the flow of helpful information from your agency to your customers. You can accelerate this process even more by preparing answers to common questions such as “Where is your Springfield office located?” or “Where do I mail my premium?”

But use pre-scripted responses sparingly. The pressure is on to be quick, but customized messages drive results. Overuse of canned replies not only damages trust, it undermines the core competencies of Live Chat—those very benefits that led you to implement a chat feature in the first place.

Utilize internal chat to get additional help or information from other people in your agency when needed. And be sure to have a plan in place for the escalation of any chat conversation that requires even more specialized attention.

5. Be Transparent

Because customers cannot see or hear you over Live Chat, it’s important to acknowledge what they say every step of the way. A simple response like, “I will check on that for you right now,” will let the customer know that you have read their question and are actively working on a solution.

One of the great benefits of Live Chat is that it gives you the ability to link visual resources such as driving directions, rate tables, or partner websites. But always tell the customer in advance if you’re going to send them a link. Many people are wary of clicking links, so be sure to explain what you’re linking them to and why before hitting send.

Also, let them know in advance anytime you introduce someone new to the conversation. If an issue has to be escalated to a different representative in your agency, be sure to let them know they’re talking to someone new.

Example: “I’d like you to meet Michael. I’ve already updated him on the situation and he’s going to help you out from here.”

6. Be Engaging

Chat, by its very nature, is chatty. In fact, a study by Twilio found that 8 out of 10 consumers want to use messaging for just that reason—because it allows them to engage in a real conversation with your business. Remember that this is an opportunity for a two-way dialogue, not a one-way pitch.

Take the time to develop a general tone that everyone in your agency will use during chat conversations.

  • Pay attention to grammar and spelling, but allow room to be lighthearted and natural.
  • Provide prompt answers, but don’t ‘machine gun’ responses.
  • Be careful with humor. Jokes and sarcasm often don’t translate very well in text conversations.
  • Embrace emojis—or don’t. Decide what approach is right for your agency, then make sure all your customer service reps use them accordingly.
  • Don’t be too technical—whenever possible, avoid industry jargon that your customers might not understand.
  • Be succinct but try not to be overly curt. Short responses like, “Okay,” or “Fine,” can read as unfriendly without the context usually provided by tone of voice.

7. Be Thankful

Before closing a Live Chat session, be sure to ask the customer if they need help with anything else. Then end with a sincere thank you. Expressing gratitude is not only good manners, its good business.

A simple message of thanks helps create connection and build lasting client relationships. But it’s all too easy for this good habit to get lost in the rush of digital communications. (Hey that reminds us—thank you for visiting our blog today!)

8. Be Mindful

Mindfulness is the art of paying purposeful attention. In business, this can mean utilizing past information for strategic planning. Live Chat transcripts are a perfect tool for this.

Recorded transcripts of your agency’s Live Chat communications are an excellent resource for employee training. You can also use them to develop an accurate list of FAQs to place on your website.

Using a Live Chat feature that integrates with your management system means you can track an individual client’s chat history. With this kind of knowledge at your fingertips, developing fruitful conversations that delight customers and lead to lasting relationships is simple.

Not only that, with those transcripts safely stored in your management system, you’ve got the documentation you need for E&O protection.

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