Live web chat has emerged as a top communication channel, as it helps brands connect with customers online in real time. It’s been shown to boost customer satisfaction, increase conversions, and lower costs.
But how do businesses unlock those benefits? In this blog, we delved into industry papers, explored top articles, and consulted with our head of customer experience to bring you 19 top live chat best practices.
1. Reply promptly
While response time isn’t the only factor in a positive customer interaction, it is one of the most important – especially for live chat.
According to Zendesk, 72 percent of consumers want to engage in an immediate conversation after submitting an issue or inquiry. Quick responses can help your business stand out from competitors and satisfy more customers.
Let’s look at why quick responses are so critical:
- Other companies are replying quickly. The typical speed of a live chat response ranges from 30 seconds to just under 3 minutes.
- It can boost conversions. A study found that 59 percent of customers are more likely to buy a product if a company replies in less than one minute.
- Customers prefer quick resolutions. A CCW study found that 67 percent of customers would choose ease and speed over a deeply conversational experience.
- Long wait times plague customer service. The reality is that long wait times impact businesses everywhere. In fact, 66 percent of customers said they’ve experienced frustratingly long wait times in the past year while interacting with brands.
Pro tip: To help your live chat agents quickly reply to the first message, consider using filler phrases like: “Hi, I’m happy to check in on this for you. One moment, please!”
2. Be concise yet thorough
Effective communication over live chat is clear, concise, and accurate. While clear and concise responses are helpful, don’t sacrifice accuracy for shortness. According to Jenny Luo, Head of Customer Experience at Textline, it's a balancing act between the two.
“Quick and direct responses allow us to be clear. Long and verbose responses can lead to frustration and confusion,” said Ms. Luo. “Equally important, though, is to be thorough so as not to sacrifice speed for accuracy.”
Ms. Luo said that live chat support aims to answer all customer’s questions accurately and quickly. Being concise yet thorough is the best way to meet this goal.
3. Train agents properly
The importance of agent training can’t be understated. Your agents can make or break your customer support goals. Providing quality training ensures that agents know the expectations, procedures, and how to solve inquiries via live chat.
Well-trained agents will likely solve challenging questions, meet response time metrics, and turn unhappy customers into loyal ones.
Here are some ways to train agents and equip them with tools to thrive on live chat:
- Walk through your business's key products and any new releases
- Demonstrate how to use the live chat software
- Craft mock-chat scenarios
- Have them shadow another stellar live chat agent
- Coach with one-on-one sessions
- Run through common issues and resolutions
- Create a webinar series or online courses
4. Create a comprehensive internal knowledge base
Another best practice is creating a well-rounded internal knowledge base for live chat agents to reference. A knowledge base is essentially an encyclopedia for your business. It is a digital file that employees can access to find important information.
A comprehensive knowledge base can help support live chat goals. It allows agents to access information about procedures and commonly encountered issues easily.
“The goal [of live chat] is to answer all of the customer’s questions accurately in the least amount of time possible,” Ms. Luo said. “Having a readily available knowledge base where support agents can find information and escalate where needed [helps] achieve this goal.”
5. Create canned responses
Canned responses, or pre-written chat templates, are an effective tool for customer service teams. These pre-written chat responses answer common customer inquiries so teams don’t have to type the same message repeatedly. These responses save time and ensure consistency in customer interactions. To create effective canned replies, customer support teams should:
- Identify the most common questions customers ask
- Analyze message transcripts to understand the most common issues
- Write clear, concise, and helpful messages
- Incorporate variables like first name to help personalize the message
6. Balance technology and human interactions
While artificial technology, canned responses, and automatic replies are helpful, ensure you don’t rely only on them. If you do, you’ll risk sounding robotic. Companies must strike the right balance between technology and human responses. The best companies leverage technology to enhance human customer support.
Human responses are empathetic and can help solve more complex issues. On the other hand, technology is good for helping to solve generic inquiries quickly. Use these differences to your advantage.
Ms. Luo explains that providing outstanding customer support comes down to having the right tools and people in place. “Our amazing support team, combined with our live chat tools, make this possible,” Ms. Luo said.
7. Integrate chat with other channels
Integrating web chat with other support channels like SMS, social media, and voice is a great practice. This seamless connection allows customers to switch between channels without losing conversion history. Since conversation history is in one place, it gives agents the context needed to boost productivity, build relationships, and find resolutions quickly.
Integrating across channels creates a cohesive, efficient, and customer-centric approach to communication and support. This, in turn, increases customer satisfaction.
Textline’s support team offers customers and leads a range of channels to contact us. Ms. Luo explains this is an essential strategy because it provides customers with options.
“Having multiple channels for customers increases flexibility and accessibility,” Ms. Luo said. “They can get help seamlessly at any point while using our product. Having multiple options improves customer satisfaction and customer experience.”
Ms. Luo added that specific support requests are better suited for email, while others are easily solved over live chat. This distinction helps the team address a wide range of issues more effectively.
8. Set live chat goals and KPIs
You’ll want to set goals and achievable key performance indicators to track your team’s live chat outreach. Without setting goals and live chat metrics, measuring performance and uncovering areas to improve is hard.
Here are some of the top KPIs that businesses use for live chat:
- First response time
- Total number of chats
- Total resolved chats
- Average resolution time
- Chat to conversion rate
- First contact resolution rate
- Average wait time
- Customer satisfaction score
- Net promoter score
Pro tip: You should track team performance and agent-specific metrics for best results.
9. Consistently analyze performance
In addition to setting goals and KPIs, you’ll want to analyze the performance of your team and specific agents consistently. Analyzing the data can help you refine and optimize your live chat strategy. For best results, analyze the data by creating reports, graphs, and comparisons to uncover trends in your data.
Additionally, you’ll want to analyze and A/B test canned messages to help you understand what messages perform well and which don’t.
10. Set up routing, transfer, and escalation procedures
Before launching live chat, you should have procedures to route, transfer, and escalate conversations appropriately. Documenting these procedures beforehand will set you up for success.
Routing ensures the right agent is assigned to each inbound conversation. Transfer and escalation procedures inform your team about the proper steps to take when they need to move the conversation along.
To set up routing, consider the best way to assign incoming conversations to your team members. There are several ways to route incoming chats, and the best will depend on your live chat use case and business.
For example, you could use a round-robin or next-up method to distribute chats evenly or assign a message to a specific representative based on its content.
For escalation, think about the support experience from a customer’s perspective. How can you make it easy on the customer? Live chat conversations should be escalated when an issue:
- Can’t be resolved by the agent handling the conversation,
- Is wide-reaching
- Will take extra time
The escalation process should be seamless for customers and handled quickly because customers value fast resolution time.
You’ll also want to hand off conversations with transfer procedures properly. For example, consider when to transfer a lead to a sales representative or whether to guide a valued customer to their CSM as opposed to a lower-tiered chat agent.
11. Keep chat widget placement in mind
Live chat is an effective way for website visitors to reach out, but only if it’s easy to find and on relevant pages. As a result, it’s essential to be strategic about where you place the live chat widget on your website.
To determine the best placement for your business, identify the pages where people need the most help. For example, maybe it’s on your pricing page, at checkout, help center, or contact page.
Additionally, you want to make the live chat button stand out by using color contrast, a floating button, or a clear label. Take the following example from Junk King’s website. The button is visible, and it has a clear call to action.
12. Make live chat hours clear
Make your live chat support hours clear to customers. Is a representative available 24/7 or only during business hours?
Ensure customers know when to expect a response. You risk frustrating and losing customers if you don’t clarify these hours. Fifty-seven percent of customers report that just one bad experience would cause them to stop using a brand.
One of the best ways to alleviate frustration is to share a message indicating your hours or make them visible on your website. Consider using a proactive after-hours message when customers open the live chat.
For example, you could have it read:
13. Always end the conversation properly
Just as you wouldn’t abruptly hang up the phone to complete a support or sales inquiry, you shouldn’t abruptly end live chat sessions. Don’t leave your customers hanging. Always end the conversation with a sign-off or clear closing point.
To complete a live chat conversation properly, you should:
- Confirm the customer’s issue is resolved.
- Ask if the customer has any other questions or concerns.
- Add a sign-off like “Have a nice day!” or “If any other issues arise, please reach out.”
14. Set up notifications for customer service agents
Set up notifications to alert your live chat agents to new incoming messages. This helps ensure they don’t miss chats if they step away for a quick coffee refill.
Most live chat software will allow you to set browser, email, or mobile notifications. Make sure your team can stay on top of chats with notifications.
15. Optimize chat for mobile use
Many website visitors browse from their mobile phones. In the first quarter of 2023, 58.3 percent of global website traffic came from a mobile device, according to Statista. As a result, when adding live chat functionality to your website, keep mobile-friendliness in mind.
In the following example from ClickUp, the software company provides a mobile-friendly clickable chat button that makes it easy for customers to get in touch using a mobile device.
16. Personalize chats
Customers expect personalized interactions with brands. In fact, 76 percent of consumers get frustrated when they receive a generic message.
Ensure your live chat sessions are customized to each customer. It can be as simple as using a customer’s first name and understanding their past interactions with your brand.
One of the best ways to personalize chats is by reading the conversation history and linking your live chat to a CRM platform like HubSpot or Pipedrive.
17. Consider proactive chat
Most of the time, live chat is reactive, meaning the website visitor takes the initiative to reach out to your company first.
However, you should deploy a proactive live chat strategy depending on your live chat goals. A proactive chat is defined as reaching out to the customer first. When you deploy a proactive chat strategically, it can help boost sales, welcome returning visitors, and improve overall customer experience.
Here are a few proactive chat script examples:
- Hi there! Any questions about [product on page].
- Hi! Get [X%] off all orders today. Interested?
- Hi! How can we help today?
18. Request feedback from live chat sessions
Ensure your business meets customer expectations and satisfaction by requesting feedback via live chat. You don’t need to end every chat session by asking for a review or a rating. A few requests daily can help your business keep tabs on customer experience and identify areas for improvement.
Feedback can help you improve experiences, prevent customer churn, and boost revenue. Post-chat surveys are a convenient way to collect customer feedback on relevant products or the live chat experience. It’s also a great way to end a live chat conversation.
19. Pick the right software provider
Another best practice is to find the best live chat software for your business. This will differ depending on your business goals, use case, and budget. To find the best provider, consider the features, integrations, and pricing structure your business will need.
Ensure the software provider you choose takes privacy and security seriously. Look for a provider that uses data encryption, secure data storage, and other security measures.
Put these live chat best practices to use
Now that we’ve discussed the top benefits of live chat, it’s time to put them to use!
Textline is set to launch a hybrid solution integrating live web chat and SMS in the upcoming months. This new feature will enable your business to chat with contacts using a website widget and SMS. It allows seamless transitions between SMS and webchat, offering significant advantages for companies experiencing high web chat abandonment rates.
Why not test the Textline platform and be among the first to know about the new feature release? Sign up for a free 14-day trial now.