Les Melnichenko
Jul 31, 2020 | 8 min read

One might think that talking to a client online is a piece of cake and doesn’t require special behavior. Like it’s OK to answer with a simple ‘No’ even if a question doesn’t imply a more detailed answer, or showing your irritation is not a big deal (a customer can’t see you anyway). Well, what if I say that it’s NOT OK to do such things when you communicate with a total stranger? Let me explain.  

Just as in real life, there are some rules you have to follow when you speak to someone online. These are called chat rules (the term chatiquette I like better). When you work in customer service, they get even stricter. 

No wonder, you have to deal with dozens of clients of different tempers and backgrounds daily. If you do or say something wrong, it may affect the whole business as customers won’t turn a blind eye to any mistake. It’s high time we went over chat etiquette and its dos and don’ts you may find fruitful. 

What is chat etiquette?

Chat etiquette is a set of rules that can help make interactions with customers more pleasant, productive, and smooth. Why do people usually fall in love with a brand? Mostly because of the friendliness of customer service reps. 77% of happy clients will spread the word of a company if they receive consistent and satisfying help. 

Live chat is the most powerful tool for delivering A-rated and personalized support. That’s why it’s vital to put live chat etiquette for support agents into the picture and benefit from it later.

Top 10 Chat Etiquette Rules You Shouldn’t Break

If all you do is guesswork about how to behave online, read the following chat etiquette rules to show respect in your conversations.

#1 Start with courtesy

It takes 7 seconds for a person to realize who you are and the tenth of a second to see your trustworthiness at the beginning of the interaction. To make a great first impression, start chatting by introducing yourself to a client. In such a way, you build a strong emotional bond and let a customer know that you aren’t a total stranger. 

There are no second chances for a first impression. Strike up a conversation with a nice greeting: nothing delivers customer satisfaction like a delightful discussion:

  • Stay professional and courteous. Try not to go off on customers only because they have a bad temper 
  • Adjust the tone of the greeting depending on the situation
  • Address the customers by their names. If it’s a new visitor on your website and you don’t know their personal info yet, send a generic greeting like ‘Hey there!’ (just like we greet our website visitors at HelpCrunch)

#2 Take advantage of canned responses

Do you often have busy hours and handle several chats at a time? There’s a solution that can make your life much easier: canned responses. These are quick replies to common customer questions that you can create in advance and save for later. Speaking of which, HelpCrunch comes packed with this feature so you can take it easy when your inbox is flooded with clients’ messages.

How can I add a credit card? I’ve subscribed by mistake, what should I do to get a refund? How long does the shipping take? Let’s face it, these questions don’t require a lot of personalization. So you can just write canned replies, add minor improvements, and send them whenever you need them. This way, you save much time and effort to provide quick support. Everybody wins. 

#3 Keep the tone positive

Positive is neutral and neutral is positive. These words are a perfect chat etiquette rule of thumb. Imagine that you chat with a customer. Compare these two phrases:

  • ‘We don’t have this feature available and I don’t know when it will be released.’
  • ‘This feature will be rolled out within the next 2 weeks. I’ll let you know so that you can test it right away.’

Which one seems positive? Which one would you go with? You’re right if you choose the second option. As you can see, one of the key components of chat etiquette is the right tone of voice (in our case, it goes for the text-based conversations). Choosing it for your customer service agents isn’t a one-off task. It should constantly evolve to meet the needs of demanding clients.  

The foremost thing you should do here is to train staff to be empathetic. If a person is already annoyed about something and just wants the problem to be solved, saying how ‘annoying it might be’ isn’t the best idea. Anyway, check out some negative phrases you should ignore when chatting with customers to be on the safe side.

#4 Show your proactivity

As a seasoned live chat agent, you should anticipate clients’ needs and lend a helping hand at the right time first. Proactive chat might be an option for you at this point. Such a feature can help you take the initiative, show the level of your concern, and the readiness to solve customers’ problems as soon as possible. These aspects are crucial if you want to go with the right chatting etiquette. 

Proactive live chat offers some absolute perks along the way:

  • Real-time communication
  • Target the right customer at the right moment 
  • Easy custom data collection
  • Reduced churn rate 
  • Minimized customer support costs

Besides, a customer service agent can always check the chat history and be aware of possible tricky cases a client has dealt with before. This way, customers won’t be bounced from one support rep to another looking for an appropriate solution. 

#5 Mind your grammar and spelling

Can you imagine chat etiquette rules without perfect grammar, spelling, and punctuation? I can not. They act as trust signals and demonstrate your high level of expertise. Conversely, bad grammar can cost you almost everything. It usually scares customers away and makes them think twice about dealing with your business.

Take these useful tips and tricks into account not to sink in your clients’ eyes:

  • Always re-read what you write. It’s a great way to spot spelling mistakes
  • Have a co-worker who can proofread the message for you
  • Read everything out loud so that you can hear all the possible errors
  • Ensure that your staff is trained to have flawless grammar and spelling skills

Pro Tip! You can always check your writing via a language assistant. I’m a fan of such an AI-powered language tool as Grammarly. It helps make my writing clear, effective, and get rid of typos. Another great app for the purposes alike is Hemingway Editor. Just copy and paste what you’ve written and such valuable hints and improvements as readability grade, format correction, and word count pop up.

#6 Write as you speak

The formal writing style is against the way we read online. To a client getting a highly formal message, it may seem a little robotic. However, you can change the situation for the better. Write as you speak to convey the message in a conversational tone that customers find more common. Here are a few things to do: 

  • Keep sentences short as they sound more natural 
  • Add interjections like ‘Duh’ or ‘Phew’ but be mindful about them: depending on the client’s situation (and the client’s temper), they might not be always to the point 
  • Feel free to use contractions like ‘you’re’, ‘we’re’, etc if need be

If you follow these tips, there’s a chance that clients will feel a more offbeat atmosphere. At the end of the day, it’s your goal to help them in a laid-back and friendly manner. 

#7 Chat with humor

Adding a dash of humor to your chat etiquette manifesto won’t hurt. You have to use it cautiously though. Jokes or puns can be misinterpreted, but if you’ve known the customer for a long time and you know that they don’t mind a harmless joke, go ahead. 

Humor makes for good customer experience. It helps you build bridges with customers, iron out misunderstandings, and it makes you memorable. And the stats prove it: 49% of users will rather share a funny post than an important one. 

On the flip side, if you communicate with a client who is already frustrated with your product or service, it’s better to keep those puns down and start with problem-solving right away. Or you can behave with a little fantasy (but be careful). A classic example here is the chat between Amazon’s customer service rep and its client whose book didn’t arrive on time. The first introduces himself as Thor and the client supported this game. The issue was successfully resolved.

#8 Filter your emoji

Emoji are now literally in every chat thread. They have the power to ease the conflict, make the conversation more personalized, and shape its atmosphere. These tiny smileys have a greater influence on the whole interaction than words. 

Take a simple ‘OK’. It’s neutral but can be interpreted in so many ways. Write ‘OK :)’ and the whole meaning changes. However, it doesn’t mean you can put emojis everywhere in your conversations. Use them only when you feel like clarifying your message. 

According to the chatting etiquette, it’s also unnecessary to double emoji and exclamation marks. And keep in mind that not everyone understands emoji the same way. 

#9 Say no to complicated vocabulary and caps lock

Customers don’t need to know your business glossary. They want their issues to be resolved ASAP. Don’t throw technical terms at them: they won’t understand the meaning anyway. Otherwise, you risk losing clients. What should you do to prevent customers from waving you goodbye? Just these easy things:

  • Use simple and non-technical vocabulary 
  • Omit jargon
  • Explain complicated tech terminology in brackets

Another vital point to remember in chat etiquette is the usage of caps lock. Picture the situation. You or your colleague is communicating with a customer trying to resolve the issue faster. However, as the conversation proceeds, there’s a feeling to put an emphasis on an answer with caps lock so that a client gets a better understanding. This is where you should hit the brakes.

Everything that’s written in all-caps can give an impression that you shout at a person. And who wants to be shouted at? So, it’s better to avoid caps lock and utilize abbreviations or anything else instead.

#10 End chats properly

Being customer service oriented is only half the battle. Ending a chat and having a satisfied customer is more important. So, don’t leave a client without solving the issue completely. And don’t do that right after you’ve finished with your work. The chances are a client may have questions left. The chat etiquette says that in order to leave a person feeling good about the whole conversation, there are a few best practices for you to follow:

  • Thank the visitor for the time 
  • Make sure the question was answered properly and if any other assistance is needed
  • Wish a good day

Final Thoughts

Mastering the art of chat etiquette may be daunting. But if you’re armed with these nice tips and tricks and a little practice, you can become a pro in no time. Always bear in mind that your end goal is to wow customers with your impeccable professional skills, flawless grammar and spelling, and positive language. The powerful software may help succeed in your effort. Create an account with HelpCrunch to see how our chatting rules work in practice.

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