In today’s era of fast technological advancements and thriving popularity of text messaging – customer support methods are undergoing a clear change.
Call centers and email support are gradually replaced or complemented with a faster solution – live chat support.
It’s a powerful tool but its effectiveness hugely depends on in whose hands it’s in.
Applying the characteristics of a phone agent to the chat does not work as being a pro in live messaging implies a somewhat different skillset.
So what does it take to be a successful live chat agent?
Live chat software is increasingly popular among business as it gives the chance to live chat agents to help multiple customers at a time. That greatly saves on personnel costs and helps get the work done faster.
This skill is especially important for bigger companies who have high traffic and a lot of customer requests.
An experienced live chat agent can normally deal with 3-5 conversations simultaneously without compromising the quality of support.
Live chat support involves switching not only between customers but between different tools and resources, like the company website, product management system, knowledge base, product manuals, help docs, files, videos, demos, etc.
That’s why the skill to process several tasks and pay attention not to mix them up is very important for managing customer interactions effectively.
On the other hand, agents must find the right balance in handling several chats never sacrificing quality for productivity. Chasing numbers will translate into long waiting times for each visitor, which will be detrimental the overall customer support efficiency.
2. Readiness for ongoing learning
In today’s fast-paced world nothing is stable – products get constantly updated, features are added, design trends are changing. Your product is constantly evolving too.
Of course, a good support agent has to possess full knowledge of your product but to dive deep into its features once and use this knowledge afterward is not enough.
A successful agent is an avid learner: willing and ready to invest his or her time and energy and learn new things about your product or sector.
Regular training sessions are essential but the best situation is when a live chat is capable learn thing autonomously as well.
3. Time management skills
Live support agents have to react fast as customer satisfaction plummets after more than 30 seconds of waiting.
A good live chat software provider normally offers a set of tools that help with organizing and managing work quickly:
- canned responses or prepared scripts
- typing insight
- chat tags
- chat history
It’s also essential to wisely manage wait times between replies because even if you quickly pick up the chat, the longer the customers wait between responses, the more likely they are to be unhappy with the service.
It’s unacceptable if a customer asks you: “Are you still there?”
So whenever you need to step away from the chat to check the information, signal that the customer’s issue is attended to.
For example :
There is a difference between answering a question and resolving the problem. Hire those people who don’t to just nominally reply to queries with a learned text but who try to get to the core of the problem and resolve it.
There may be situations when your agent will not have a ready solution at hand and will have to put additional effort and engagement in getting things resolved. So hire people who like challenges, are able to cope with stress and pressure and are genuinely dedicated to helping customers.
5. Interpersonal skills
Chat agents who lack emotional engagement will make the users feel like they are talking to robots. Good agents, by contrast, don’t treat people like numbers. They are able to convey friendliness, respect, a helping attitude and establish an emotional connection.
When people feel at home with your brand and support and they are more likely purchase from you again.
Conversely, even if a customer likes a product, he/she can still decide to boycott your brand because once he/she was treated rudely.
6. Selling and upselling skills
Customers connect with support not only to report issues. Often, they are simply not 100% sure which products or features suit them. So a good support agent is able to find out their true needs and offer the best-fitted solution. Sometimes, he/she may also suggest another option – different from the one chosen by the client – which will perform a particular task better.
In the course of the customer support, there will be a lot of opportunities to sell, upsell or cross-sell so the ability to spot and realize them is very valuable.
7. De-escalation skills
However good your product may be, no one is insured against dealing with stressful situations and difficult, rude or upset clients. Customers can be driven by emotions, but a professional support agent cannot afford this.
Emotional balance, composure, and empathy are crucial for working in this field.
Whenever faced with an angry customer, it’s better to
- wait patiently until the customer has fully expressed his/her problems
- never take complaints personally
- instead of firing back, try to see the situation from his/her point of view and show understanding.
To calm an angry customer down, it’s good to use empathic statements like these:
- I completely understand you
- I’d be frustrated too
- I would feel the same at your place
- I’m really sorry you’re experiencing this problem. I’ll work on finding a solution right away!
8. Critical reading skills
Customers want quick answers so support agents often get lots of requests written in a hurry, unstructured and unclear because the people simply lack the technical knowledge to explain their issues.
Also, customers often come up with completely new ways to call products, features or services, totally different from what you call them at your company or in your sector. Interestingly, they expect you to use them too.
Critical reading implies means the ability to read through customer’s query and figure out what he/she is actually trying to ask, i.e to focus not on words but on the core of the message. That requires great flexibility of mind and the ability to look at things from a customer’s perspective.
9. Writing skills
Grammar and spelling
That goes without saying – grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes convey a bad image of your business creating an impression that your company is unprofessional, employing cheap uneducated staff incapable of forming normally structured sentences.
Not to mention that grammatically incorrect phrases can lead to a lot of misunderstandings and lost opportunities.
There are multiple tools for correcting mistakes: spell check, autocorrect, and grammar check (Grammarly is highly recommendable). For example, our live chat also offers a pretty handy last message correction feature.
The recent decade has witnessed a clear shift towards more informality in customer interactions. Official tone gives way to a more relaxed, friendly and simple style. That, of course, also depends on what kind of institution you’re servicing with a live chat (state organs, banking institutions will still use more formal language, naturally). A successful live chat agent must be able to tune his/her style to a given context.
Some principles of the effective communication style in live chat:
- Avoid intricate, convoluted phrasings, keep sentences simple and short
- Don’t be too technical and don’t use less known acronyms or abbreviations – customers may not be familiar with them
- Don’t show off with your knowledge of the sector-specific jargon that only a few can understand.
- Use warm language. Also, the use of emojis is regarded as more acceptable and even desirable to establish a friendly connection.
- When chatting with visitors, mirror them by picking words from their questions.
Modern customers have chosen live chat as their favorite service channel ‘cause it’s super-fast. Typing speed to a great extent determines how many customers an agent will be able to handle at the same time and generally helps speed up support and cut resolution times.
There are plenty of ways in which this skill can be trained and improved, as there are numerous online resources that deal with this matter (for example, http://www.keybr.com/).
If you have a small business, your perfect customer service tool is somewhere in the borderland between functionality and pricing. With that in mind, we compared 14 different customer service tools.