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Live chat etiquette: The dos and don’ts for exceptional experiences

Alia Paavola
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Every time customers interact with your business, it shapes their decision to return or consider alternatives. Live chat agents are crucial in crafting these experiences, aiming to provide exceptional service that builds lasting connections.

So how do you know if you're doing live chat right? Maintaining live chat etiquette helps you stay the course and keep customers happy. Let's explore eight essential live chat etiquette rules that make customer interactions exceptionally satisfying.

What is live chat etiquette?

Etiquette is more than just rules. Etiquette is a set of principles that guide accepted behavior in particular social settings. Live chat etiquette rules guide expected interactions over live web chat.

Good live chat etiquette helps support teams create a satisfying customer experience. Poor chat etiquette can lead to frustrated customers, a negative brand reputation, and lost sales.

8 live chat etiquette tips to follow

Here are eight live chat etiquette tips to follow. Remember, these are different from best practices, as they help guide the expected behavior of live chat agents. 

1. Respond quickly

Minimizing response time is essential when using live chat to communicate with customers. That’s because customers expect quick replies over live chat –  the average response time to a web chat is under one minute. Ensure agents reply fast to help create a better live chat experience for customers.

If a customer issue takes longer to resolve, offer to follow up via text message, phone, or email. Pro tip: Manage customer response expectations properly. If you cannot reply immediately, share the expected reply time with customers. 

For example, you should set automatic out-of-office messages if customers contact you after live chat hours. In this message, you should say how they can contact you quicker or when you’ll be back to respond.

2. Maintain a professional tone

No matter what, keep messages professional over live chat. Keep the following in mind: 

  • Focus on proper spelling and grammar. Spelling and grammar mistakes appear unprofessional. Be sure to proofread your chat responses.

  • Use acronyms and abbreviations carefully. Some text abbreviations, like LOL or BRB, are better for casual settings. However, acronyms like ASAP or TBD are more appropriate in business communication.

  • Avoid jargon and slag. Make sure to avoid using jargon or slang. Using unknown words can confuse your customers.

  • Be polite and respectful. You don’t want to come across as rude in your messages. Make sure you’re being mindful of the message tone. You want to keep it polite, respectful, and positive.

  • Don’t type in all caps. Avoid writing out messages in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS. This can make it seem as though you’re shouting.

  • Stay calm. You may encounter angry customers who call you names. Don’t let them provoke you – stay focused on resolving the issue.

3. Be human and exude empathy

A significant benefit of live web chat is that a human representative responds to and helps customers. As a result, your responses should sound human. Some of the best ways to ensure this over live chat include:

  • Reading customer messages carefully. Make sure you thoroughly read and understand a customer’s message so they don’t get replies that seem off-topic. This includes asking for clarification if necessary.

  • Using canned responses strategically. Too many scripted replies can cause the live chat to seem robotic and not personalized.

  • Being empathetic. Empathy goes a long way in defusing angry customers, rebuilding trust, and creating long-term relationships.

4. Keep the discussion on point

Live chat support isn’t the best time to learn your customer’s backstory.l While being friendly is essential, focus on resolving the problem or answering the question. In other words, don’t steer the conversation off topic. This will help your live chat agents maintain efficiency and resolve more customer issues.

If your customer brings the chat conversation off track, gently steer it back to resolving the problem. You can always go back to their unrelated questions after that.

Textline’s Head of Customer Experience, Jenny Luo, explains that the goal of live chat is to “answer all of the customer’s questions accurately in the least amount of time possible.” Keeping the discussion on point is crucial in meeting this goal.  

5. Be clear and concise

Most customers are not experts on your software or products. Keep this in mind when typing out your messages. Every response should be clear and concise to avoid misunderstandings. “Long or verbose responses can lead to frustration and confusion,” explains Ms. Luo. 

Additionally, live chat is built for rapid back-and-forth communication. This is not easy when chats are lengthy or complex. Therefore, it’s expected that live chat agents keep messages simple. This means:

  • Breaking up long sentences
  • Not sharing unnecessary details 
  • Avoiding complex industry jargon
  • Using visual aids when necessary

6. Be honest and transparent

Don’t lie or skirt around the truth. Transparency and honesty should be a top pillar for your live chat agents. A Statista poll found that 60 percent of customers consider trustworthiness and transparency the most important brand traits.

Be honest when communicating with customers and leads about product offerings, pricing, company policies, and support hours.  Dishonesty and a lack of transparency will lead to unhappy customers and a negative brand reputation.

This includes admitting when the company made a mistake and apologizing when necessary. 

7. Keep chats personal

It’s a good rule of thumb for live chat agents to personalize conversations. You want to listen to each customer to be helpful and make them feel valued. There are several ways to add a personal touch to live chat:

  • Read a customer’s message in full
  • Review any past live chat conversations for helpful context
  • Pause before responding
  • Ensure a chat template makes sense to use in a particular scenario
  • Add a profile picture for each live chat agent
  • Address the customer by name if you have their contact information

8. Follow through with promises

This live chat etiquette rule is critical: Always do what you say you will do. If you offer to follow up with a customer over email, do just that. If you say you will transfer a conversation to the right party, ensure it happens.

Like in personal relationships, sticking to your promises is the best way to build trust. 

Common live chat mistakes to avoid

Let’s look at the most common live chat mistakes agents make and why.

  • Ignoring customers. One of the worst live chat mistakes is ignoring customers when they reach out. Businesses that routinely ignore customers on their website or other digital channels will see a drop in customer satisfaction, engagement, sales, and retention. Make sure you reply to all inbound chat inquiries.

  • Lengthy response delays. Another major mistake is waiting a long time to respond on the communication channel. Customers expect prompt replies over live chat. Keeping customers waiting can lead to frustration, especially over a channel known for its real-time support.

  • Sharing inaccurate information. Sending accurate information to customers is vital. Don’t sacrifice accuracy for speed. Instead, make sure you balance both. One of the best ways to ensure agents always share accurate information is to continuously update your internal knowledge base.

  • Not asking for clarification. If you don’t understand a customer’s issue or question, ask them to explain further or send a photo. Asking for clarification will help you collect the necessary information to respond appropriately. This will improve efficiency and customer satisfaction.

  • Using too many scripted replies. Relying too heavily on scripted responses can frustrate customers as the chat may seem robotic and not personalized. Instead, mix canned and manual responses to deliver a better experience. Canned responses are great for speeding up replies but shouldn’t be used in every scenario.

  • Using inappropriate or negative language. Live chat agents must pay attention to the language they use. Tone can be easily misinterpreted over messaging, which makes language selection critical. Aim to use a helpful and positive tone. Take the following two examples. In the first, the message may come off as unhelpful. In the second, it gently explains the issue and offers an alternative.

    You can’t access this feature on the Standard Pricing Plan.

    It looks like you’re on the Standard Pricing Plan, which doesn’t include our group messaging feature! Would you like to see options to upgrade your plan?
  • Failing to follow up or follow through. Don’t forget to follow up with customers about an issue or follow through on your promises. This is a mistake that can lead to customer mistrust.

Help your agents thrive with Textline

Apply these core live chat etiquette rules to help your agents thrive and improve the customer experience.

If you’re looking for a live chat solution, Textline is set to release a live web chat and SMS hybrid tool soon. This scalable solution will enable businesses to engage with their contacts via a website widget or SMS, helping agents transition between web chat and SMS support without losing conversation history.

Textline customers will be the first to access the feature release. Sign up today to become a Textline user and try our platform for free.

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