Etiquette in Live Customer Support

Being a caring, cheerful and decent person during a live chat session is a no brainer. Nevertheless, contemplating on these “golden rules of support” is not going to hurt anybody. Where are the borders separating genuine helpfulness from being sleazy? How do you differ between trying too hard and being natural? And mainly, what do customers really want?

Everyone has been through some support sessions that were so sweet they nearly gave us diabetes and we felt that what happened was everything but natural.

Is sweetness really what customer expect from the support? If you think the answer is yes, I beg to differ. Canned messages saying something like “I’d be frustrated too!”, “You are in good hands!” or “Oh, no! That’s unfortunate, I can fully understand how you feel!” are only good for raising blood pressure. To put it simply – your customers are not idiots and can differ between genuine will to help and rather distasteful company communication guidelines.

As with many things in life, the right path lies somewhere in between. First, let’s have a look at some raw data. According to this customer experience impact report conducted by Harris Interactive, 73% of consumers expect the customer service agent to be friendly, and 55% expect to receive the information or help they need.

Interesting outcome! When we look at the stats we see that customers value overall friendliness over receiving actual advice. However, it’s obvious that your support will not survive with just being nice. What the study actually shows is the need of balance in terms of what information are your agents going to provide and mostly, how are they going to do it. Underestimating soft skills can kill your customer experience faster than incompetence.

Achieving 98.6% customer satisfaction level was not easy task for us at LiveAgent. To be absolutely honest with you – it took years to get where we are now and we are still not perfect. After all is said and done, we have a friendly reminder – no company is going to achieve perfection. It just serves as something to aspire to, but the very nature of human beings stops every single one of us to deliver 100% satisfaction to all the all the people out there.

We expect a lot from our support agents and hold their interactions with customers to the highest standards, nevertheless we would rather stay authentic, witty or easy going than slide into sweet clichés we all know so well. Best thing is – it works! But how? Well here is your cheat sheet. Feel free to get inspired (or not since our love for the readers of this post is without end, and we fully understand how you feel when someone tells you how to feel! Get the joke?

1. Tone of the conversation

How you start the conversation with your customer is a differentiating factor. You can opt out for a simple and friendly “Hi, how can we help you today?” but going with a witty and funny pop cultural reference is not a bad start either. The magic bullet is to know your industry and the department you work for. Dealing with pre-sale sessions requires different and more relaxed tone compared to tech talk with developer.

Adapt, analyze customer reactions and try to stay on top of things. If you feel like the customer is not in the mood for jokes and jibber jabber, go with him. If he is, good for you! Be authentic and make sure he is going to remember you in a good way. Being average is easy, but showing personality, skill and making him laugh is something to aspire for.

2. Build a bridge

Imagine a world where programmers are UX designers, server administrators are marketers, sales managers are handling HTML5 code and support agents are baristas. Seems like a crazy place, doesn’t it? However absurd it may sound, if you allow your development team to interact with customer project management team, it may very well come to similar situation as described above. This is the moment where you as a proud support group member could & should shine. If you receive a complex inquiry that needs feedback from several teams from inside the company, go the extra mile, keep everything nice and tidy, collect feedback (even from developers), translate it into human language and deliver it to the customer.

In many cases, you’ll be facing a non-technical person on the other side and there is nothing wrong with that. Even this fact can be turned into a joke. Don’t torture your customer with information he clearly is not going to understand. If you need to speak with a tech specialist from the customer’s organization, simply ask for him/her. There is no shame in that.

3. Delivering bad news

In case you have to say some negative news, say it first and finish with the positive. It is actually a scientific fact that one of the most effective ways to create an enjoyable customer experience is to deliver bad news straight away without sugarcoating. Afterwards, the trickiest part begins: Find a way how to solve customer’s problem, look for a workaround and get as close to the resolution as possible. If there is nothing positive and good to say, be cheerful and funny when saying goodbye, even if it means that customer is going to talk to your competition right after your session is done. Have some respect!

4. Competitors? Keep your personal opinions to yourself

There may come a time when you would be pushed to speak about your competitors. This is very slippery territory and you need to make sure you stay professional. Firstly, never lie or mislead your customer. Don’t get emotional, don’t criticize and state only facts. If you feel that your solution is light years better than one from a direct competitor, good for you. You still have to stay on point and while doing comparison work with facts. There is nothing wrong in saying that your product may be cheaper or have a feature or two up top. The key is keeping your personal opinion out of the narrative, even if you heard that competitor’s CEO does not like kittens and will vote for Donald Trump…Take the higher road and don’t spread rumors.

5. You don’t know how to answer? That’s fine, really.

There is no shame in admitting that you are not an expert in every area your customer may be interested in. In some occurrences you would need to ask for help from your senior colleague, a different department or check the internal knowledge base. That’s only natural and customers will understand. What’s essential is that you need to make sure he actually gets something to understand! If seeking answers will presumably take a while, tell your customer and don’t forget the details. Use your soft skills and make sure that even without immediate help, his issue will be taken care of. Describe all steps involved, general workflow and timeline for resolution. It comes without saying that you should not lie or mislead a client…

Andrej Csizmadia

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