The results from the 2011 HDI Support Center Practices & Salary Survey reveal that about forty percent of organizations use online chat, and about twenty percent are planning to add it. In addition, about nineteen percent of support centers allow customers to submit tickets through an online chat tool.1  With this increasing use of chat, the agents’ communication skills are critical to conveying the brand and agent credibility, as well as ensuring a positive customer experience.

Grammar Matters
Chat communications adhere to most grammatical rules, including capitalization and punctuation.  Poor adherence to these rules detracts from the agent’s credibility. The agent should put the most important content at the beginning of responses. Formal responses should be in complete sentences, while less formal responses can be sentence fragments.  Using slang and colloquialisms is typically not a good idea – though there might be exceptions depending on customer base.  For example, a chat agent supporting calls for electronic gaming systems will have a very different audience than one supporting a credit card or bank customer looking for help on missing funds.  The agent with the electronic gaming customer would typically have a more relaxed and friendly conversation and gaming terminology might be used for humor.  Unlike a phone conversation where the words are gone once they are spoken, a chat customer has the ability to read and re-read the words and notices the mistakes or lack of professionalism.

Scripting Dos and Don’ts
Pre-scripted messages, also known as “canned messages” are often used in Chat support for both consistencies in messaging and to save the agent time.  These can be as simple as “Thanks for contacting technical support.  My name is XX.  In order to provide you with excellent support, can I please have your customer ID and phone number in case we lose connection and I have to contact you by phone?”  Because these are generic scripts used by anyone, the agent must be cognizant to replace the XX with his/her name, or any other fill in the blank type information.  The canned messages should be created and controlled by one individual or small group, but are available to any appropriate group or individuals.

However, the agent should first take the time to really read what the customer has said before responding.  It would be frustrating for the customer to open with “Hi. My name is Sara and I’m having trouble making my external drive show up on my computer," only to have the agent send a canned response of “Thank for contacting technical support. Can I have your name and a brief description of your issue?” If the agent had taken the time to read the customer’s message before sending the canned response, it would have saved both time and the impression that the agent cares about the customer’s needs.

Don’t “Talk” Over Them
When supporting a customer’s device remotely, such as a computer or tablet, with a remote support solution that has chat built in, such as Bomgar, there are some unique circumstances to consider as the rep may work for long periods of time independently of the client. . For instance, during such a support session, it may be appropriate for the representative to use a nudge feature – an audible and visual alert that appears in the client’s chat window when interaction is needed. A nudge causes the customer client to jiggle and make an audible sound, reminding the customer that they are engaged in an active remote support session. There is a five-second delay between nudge attempts.  This is helpful when a customer is not responding, rather than sending repeated messages to get their attention.  Below is an example of an agent who tried to bring the session to a close while the customer was in the middle of typing their next question, instead of nudging.

9:06:31 AM  Margaret: I hope this information has been of assistance to you.

9:06:56 AM  Margaret: Do you have any other questions?

9:08:46 AM  Margaret: Do you have any other questions that I can help you with?

9:10:46 AM  Margaret: Is there anything else I can assist you with today?

9:13:12 AM  Margaret: Do you have any other questions that I can help you with? I want to make sure that I have completely addressed your concern today and are satisfied with my service.

9:14:47 AM  Margaret: Since you don't need any further assistance, would it be okay if I close this chat?

Stay Focused
Agent multi-tasking is one of the great advantages of Chat support.  Unlike the 1:1 support required of a phone agent, a chat agent is able to manage several concurrent sessions simultaneously.  The actual number of concurrent sessions depends on both the agent’s skill level and the complexity of the issues.  When switching back and forth between sessions, the agent must be cognizant to focus specifically on the current session.  It would be simple to type the wrong message into a window or refer to the customer by the wrong name if the agent is not focused properly.

It’s important that your support representatives are well-versed in appropriate chat etiquette. If you are about to start implementing Live Chat into your support architecture or if you have just begun using this powerful channel, be sure to check out “How Do I Successfully Implement a Chat Support Program” from my Bomgar colleague, Greg Cowart. 

Have any specific chat etiquette questions? Leave them below and I’ll be sure to give an answer!