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3 Live Chat Mistakes You’re Probably Making

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How badly can customer service teams mess up live chat? As it turns out, pretty badly.

Case in point: In 2013, Amazon’s live chat service connected customer Chris Williams to “Farah.” Williams wanted Amazon to remove an email address from his account that had been added without his permission.

As Business Insider reported, Williams became so frustrated by Farah’s utterly incompetent suggestions (which included deleting his email address and deleting his account) that he posted the entire chat transcript online. It includes weirdly spelled and punctuated nuggets such as, “ah yah sure..I’m not going to change your Password maam..”—Williams is male.

Now, most live chat reps aren’t calling male customers ma’am or offering to delete their accounts. But that doesn’t mean your company isn’t making other mistakes. And since live chat usage is only growing, now is a good time to get your ducks in a row.

The latest Zendesk Benchmark Report, based on 50,000 participating organizations’ customer interactions across 140 countries, found that 58% of U.S. online shoppers have used live chat, which is up from 38% five years ago.

So, here are three live chat mistakes that you’re likely making, and how to fix them.

1. You’re all business

As we’ve discussed before, bots are taking over customer service. Swedbank, for instance, outsources 45,000 customer conversations per month to a bot named “Nina.” Swedbank’s first customer service chatbot successfully answers eight out of ten customer inquiries without human help.

There are a few takeaways from this trend, but the lesson human live chat reps need to understand first is, “Don’t be a robot.”

Your job as a customer service rep is not to merely answer questions. That’s what robots and knowledge bases are for. Your job is first and foremost to show your humanity—to assure them that you’re going to try hard to help them—because you care.

How to avoid this mistake

In Forbes, customer service expert Micah Solomon recommends the acronym WETCO:

W is for Warmth: Simple human kindness.

E is for Empathy: The ability to sense what another person is feeling.

T is for Teamwork: An inclination toward working together, as opposed to doing things alone.

C is for Conscientiousness: Detail orientation, including an ability and willingness to follow through to completion.

O is for Optimism: The ability to bounce back and to not internalize challenges.

Whether it’s on live chat or the phone or using email or social media, whatever the channel, don’t be a bot. Be a human.

2. You’re wasting customers’ time

You know why they opened a live chat instead of writing an email? They want instant answers.

Here are some ways live chat reps often waste customers’ time:

  • Making them wait for responses
  • Making them tell you information you should already have
  • Making them repeat themselves
  • Transferring them and making them repeat themselves to a new rep

How to avoid this mistake

Here are some ways to save you and your customers time, energy, and frustration:

Find out how long is too long

How long is too long to wait for a response in a live chat? Instead of relying on intuition, let the data tell you.

Zendesk found that faster reply times and fewer chats per agent measurably increase live chat satisfaction ratings.

Interestingly, the number of simultaneous chats per agent had a bigger impact on customer satisfaction than first response time for Zendesk users. That’s likely because waiting a long time between messages is continually irritating, whereas a long wait time in the beginning can be forgotten by the time the chat ends.

Here are some benchmarks from Zendesk:

Live chat benchmarks to track, from Zendesk

But what you really need to know is what’s working best for you. Look at your live chat software reporting to find your average response time, and learn how it corresponds to customer satisfaction.

You should also look at how your number of simultaneous active live chats corresponds to your ratings.

To find this out, look at your average rating (whether it’s CSat, CES, NPS, or a custom metric) when you’re running five chats at the same time versus, let’s say, three. Is your average score higher when you take on fewer chats at the same time? It’s probably worth it then to limit the number of chats an agent handles at once.

Know what your customer needs

The key question to ask yourself here is, “Do I have easy access to the information my customer wants me to already know?”

At the very least, for every customer you chat with, you should know their current problem, their purchase history, and their customer support history.

Here’s what live chat reps see when they chat with customers through Olark, integrated with Help Scout:

Olark’s live chat integration with Help Scout’s help desk software

Donohoe Systems is an IT Cloud/Web Solutions company that uses HappyFox Chat. “It allows us to view customers’ purchases in-chat, giving us the power to resolve more sales queries faster, and effectively,” CEO Corey Donohoe told HappyFox Chat.

When you have the information, you can come to the conversation confident and informed. And your customer feels known and cared about. Everyone wins.

3. You’re using people to do what software should do

Automate, automate, automate. Choosing to do something manually when you could automate is the best way to burn through large quantities of time, money, and good employees.

Not everything can be automated, and not everything that can be automated can be automated cost-effectively. But, companies tend to (mistakenly) look at labor as effectively free, while at the same time viewing software as expensive.

Labor is not free. First, it makes no sense to pay someone to do what a machine can do when you could be paying them to do something only a human can do. Second, having humans do what machines can do increases your error rates considerably. Lastly, people generally don’t like doing rote tasks.

How to avoid this mistake

Here are some simple ways to reduce manual effort and eliminate some of your reps’ rote tasks.

Send customers to the right person the first time

Instead of sending any old chat to any old free agent, asking a few questions upfront can get the chat sent to the team’s expert on their issue.

Freshdesk live chat helps you route queries to the right person automatically. You can set up a short form for the customer to fill out before getting started. Their answers determine who gets the chat, as determined by your preset workflow.

Tag your chats to find patterns

If you’re like most companies, you probably get a lot of people asking similar questions. Good help desk software will save your customer chats and let you tag them. Here’s what that looks like in LiveChat:

Adding multiple tags to a chat in LiveChat

Then, it will tally up which tags get used more often.

Write and use canned responses

Do you know what those commonly asked questions are and how to find the answers to them? Instead of having to search for and write out the answer every time, have some saved answers at the ready.

HappyFox Chat offers unlimited canned responses to save your reps time and effort and reduce typos and errors.

Build a knowledge base

Once you know what your common questions are and have decided on the best answers, build a knowledge base your agents can pull information from and direct customers toward.

Centralize as much as possible

The best way to make sure you never miss or lose a customer tweet, email, form fill out, or instant message is to have it all going to the same place.

That’s what OnePageCRM does with Help Scout. Whether the customer is responding to an email from the marketing team or an invoice from finance, it all automatically goes straight into Help Scout.

Conclusions

Live chat is a cost-effective, time-efficient way to provide customers instant access to the help they need. That’s why more and more people are using it. To get the most value out of live chat, avoid making the mistakes we’ve just covered.

Be sure to:

  • Show your humanity
  • Respect your customers’ time
  • Automate as much as is practical

If you need better software to implement any of these suggestions, please check out our help desk software and live chat software directory pages.

Use the help desk directory if you need ticketing software as well. You can narrow down the options to show only products with integrated live chat functionality.

If you have a ticketing system, our live chat software is a good place to look for options that integrate with your ticketing software.

Looking for Help Desk software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Help Desk software solutions.

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About the Author

Cathy Reisenwitz

Cathy Reisenwitz helps B2B software companies with their sales and marketing at Capterra. Her writing has appeared in The Week, Forbes, the Chicago Tribune, The Daily Beast, VICE Motherboard, Reason magazine, Talking Points Memo and other publications. She has been quoted by the New York Times Magazine and has been a columnist at Bitcoin Magazine. Her media appearances include Fox News and Al Jazeera America. If you're a B2B software company looking for more exposure, email Cathy at cathy@capterra.com . To read more of her thoughts, follow her on Twitter.

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