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by Alice Alessandri

Hyperconnectivity, increasingly experienced users, specific needs and accurate requests have led to companies optimizing their customer interfaces, in order to open up and become more easily accessible. Live chats represent one of the cheapest and most powerful instruments to make direct contact with customers, and for this reason companies whose main focus is on customer service have introduced them among their channels. But are we sufficiently prepared to deal with this kind of tool?

Each medium has its own peculiarities in terms of effectiveness, cost, readiness and ability to convey the message. The challenging part is to identify which communication channel is best for our company and to adapt our style to it.

Therefore let’s try and understand when and how to use live chats to communicate with our customers!

Live Chat Customer Service

To chat or not to chat, that is the question

The final aim of every communication channel should be to connect people, but unfortunately we often forget about this. Any new medium should be used to strengthen – not replace – existing connections.


This means you should introduce a live chat within your business only if you think it could bring extra quality and better service to your customers.    


Here are three questions you should ask yourself to make sure you actually need a chat:

  • Is your target customer an expert webnaut who is used to this kind of medium?
  • With reference to what you sell, do you think it will be possible to deliver clear and effective messages, offering an appropriate service level?
  • Will you be able to dedicate time and resources to this new tool, and guarantee a communication style which is consistent with the values of your business and its positioning in the market?

If the answer is “YES” then go ahead with your “online chats”, but make sure you follow some basic intructions.

Direct and sincere: in one word genuine!

Writing in a chat is not like writing a letter or an e-mail, or posting on social networks.


First of all bear in mind that chat users have two main requirements: obtaining answers to their questions within a limited timespan.


Therefore you should use a direct and polite style, make reasonable promises and declare what kind of answers you will be able to provide through this medium. To do so you should manage communication flows by taking into consideration the various departments involved, according to the requests you receive. I suggest you try using the live chats of businesses you are already clients of (Sky, Ikea, Enel, Samsung – for example –  provide online customer support).

response times

As already mentioned response times should be fast, although not so fast as to give the impression that you are managing your customer too quickly or – even worse – convey the idea of a humanoid algorithm (such as Siri). Also avoid sending messages using one line for each word, as in the example below:

> I…

> checked..

> what..

> I have told you..

Broken conversations are difficult to read, causing a sort of “performance anxiety” due to the fact that the other person can’t keep up with your pace. It is estimated that reading from a screen is about 25% slower than reading from print material. A proper pace will help you build up trust, but you will also need something else…

– – –
Want to know more about the way e-mail communication is changing?
A whole section of our blog is dedicated to this topic.
Click on “Best of effective emails”.

– – –

Netiquette: online good manners

Remember: the Web is a real place, where real people live. Therefore you should behave in a correct and polite way: say hello, introduce yourself and address other people by their names. Posting a photo of yourself on your personal profile is a good habit which allows your customers to see who they are talking to.

You can address your customer in a more formal or informal way, according to your business style and your kind of target. Writing in a chatroom is very similar to speaking, therefore avoid using set phrases – like the ones used in brochures – terms which are too technical or complex to be easily understood and abbreviations. If you are being consistent with your business style you can also use emoticons and colours to clarify your concepts, although remember you are not chatting with a friend so don’t overdo it as it could be annoying for someone. Use capital letters only when necessary, therefore at the beginning of sentences or for proper names. When you write everything in capital letters, most recipients will assume you are raising your voice. Pay attention to how you start and end a conversation: you can begin for example by saying “Goodmorning, this is Alice, how can I help you?” and finish with “Thank you for using our chatroom, please contact us for any further request”.

If you haven’t been able to satisfy your recipient’s requests online, you might ask your customer to use a different medium, and for example speak on the phone. In this case formulate a friendly and explicit request which conveys the idea of an advantage for the customer: “In order to better understand your needs I suggest that we talk on the phone. Could you send me your phone number and tell me a suitable time between 8.30am and 5.30pm?”.

customer service

If you have to set up another appointment, make clear and precise arrangements and avoid general indications which could cause misunderstandings. If your customer writes “It’s urgent!”, ask “When do you need it?”; instead of saying “We will send it to you as soon as possible” specify “We will send it to you on such and such a day”.

– – –
Talking on the phone is a skill you can develop. How?
Read the section we have dedicated to this means of communication.
Click on “Best of Telemarketing”.

– – –

The virtue of simplicity 

Let’s face it: writing simply is a difficult task! Poor writing skills determine two main effects: concepts which are contorted and confused, inserted in excessively long textsThe most effective method to write on the web is that of the inverted pyramid, i.e. the exact opposite of the composition techniques we were taught at school.

In our school compositions we were told to write an introduction, followed by a series of considerations, with final conclusions drawn at the end. What we suggest instead is to communicate the main concept at the beginning of the text.

Online readers have very little time and even less patience. The inverted pyramid allows them to find the conclusions at the beginning of the text. Any further comment or detail is then provided in descending order of importance, leaving the least essential material for the very end.

Very often punctuation is omitted in live chats, causing users to have to think twice about the meaning of what is being said. Punctuation marks convey the precise tone and give sense to our texts. You should therefore use them in a correct and careful way, always observing the grammar rules. Avoid overusing exclamation or question marks, as they might convey an aggressive tone or sound too confidential. I don’t really like the use of the ellipsis either, as it leaves room for different interpretations and can cause misunderstandings. Before hitting the ‘send’ button, remember to proofread your message in order to correct any mistakes. Insert links if you think they might provide useful information to your recipient.

chat

Nowadays live chats are one of the most direct and immediate tools to build positive relationships with buyers and create shared value. When you use them, always remember to be consistent with the style and the values of your business – though allowing your personality to shine through. What people on the other side of the screen really expect is an original and empathic real human being. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers to your customers’ questions or if you can’t solve their problems immediately! The people who get in contact with you through live chats are perfectly aware of the limits of this tool. Most of the time what they need is simply someone who can guide them and listen to their issues, providing help to move towards a solution.

| partem claram semper aspice |

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Alice Alessandri

Consultant and professional trainer, I define myself as an "odd computer scientist": I graduated in Computer Science and immediately opted for the sector of interpersonal communication. In over a decade of experience as an entrepreneur, I laid the foundations for what would become my most important project, Passodue: a consulting and training company that combines profit and ethics, professional success and happiness. Together with Alberto, I help companies to take their second step towards a success based on ethics and sound relationships.

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