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June, 2010


The Seven Characteristics of Highly Effective Live Chat Agents

Given the fact that the Internet has been around for less than fifteen years in its current browser-based versatile shape and form, it has not only attained maturity quickly like our Generation Y teenagers but also achieved adult hood in record time. Dozens of new applications, enhancements and new and innovative uses of the Internet are announced not every week or month but every day. Our favorite subject, live chat, or live help support software, as Google recently began calling it in recognition of its mission-critical role in customer engagement, is certainly no exception.

Although the menu of desirable and preferred attributes of a successful and winning chat agent can be rather extensive, we have picked out seven characteristics that we believe are the stepping stones to effective customer engagement. We will present seven more characteristics in a future edition of Live Wire Plus. What we have here can be best described as a curtain raiser, an opening act for a service that has become an indispensable adjunct to scientific conversion and customer retention.

Chat Operator Training and Domain Knowledge

Your company’s chat agents happen to be the first point of customer contact in 70% of cases where live chat icons appear on web pages, according to a Forrester study published a few years ago. No online customer will ever click the live chat button on your website just because they are in love with mice. This action is purpose-driven and is invariably inspired by a need to procure information which your chat operators should be able to deliver with near-instant speed and timely accuracy. Therefore, it is an excellent idea to keep your chat operators in the loop with regard to new product launches, product specifications including technical specifications wherever applicable, return and refund policies and total product knowledge. Many forward-looking companies even conduct periodic tests and offer prizes and small treats as incentives for those who ace these domain tests.

Live Support and Language Competency

Before you recruit chat operators for your online company, ensure that their language skills not simply meet but exceed minimal requirements and prevailing industry standards. You can either test them yourself or ask the folks at companies like Brain Bench www.brainbench.com to test them for you. Poor use of the language, grammatical, semantic, syntactic and punctuation errors not only do not make you look good, they tend to distract from the message because when it comes to live customer engagement, the medium is just as important as the message if not more important. The stipulations we have suggested here are not restricted to the English language. No matter what language you choose to use on your website, language competency is and will always remain a prerequisite to an effective chat-centric service delivery model.

Proper and Accurate use of Canned Messages in Live Chat

Canned messages can be best perceived as chat FAQs where standardized answers are served up in response to routinely asked questions. Although this exercise has its own in-built convenience, there are a few pitfalls you should know about. In the first place, your chat operators need to be fully conversant with the content of each and every canned message in your live chat control panel so that they do not transmit the wrong message. Successful Chat operators typically spend their lean time proactively reading canned messages while waiting for chat inquiries. It goes without saying that chat messages should be composed using clear and concise language representing high levels of content accuracy.

Reduced Response Time during Live Support Interactions

Seasoned chat operators never sit around and twiddle their thumbs waiting to come up with a response to a chat inquiry. In the same vein, seasoned chat operators are never found to be busy scratching their heads wondering what to say in their responses. If you notice that your chat operators are busy twiddling their thumbs and scratching their heads, assume safely that there is trouble lying in wait for your online venture.

The Marketing mantra of Live Engagement

Successful customer service even in the good old brick-and-mortar only days always possessed an undertone of silent marketing. Do you remember how a very polite and smooth-talking sales person sold you a matching tie and a pair of socks a few years ago when you visited your favorite department store to buy a dress shirt to wear in your best friend’s wedding? Successful chat operators are blessed with an arsenal of tools and features to help them up-sell and recommend additional purchases. They include proactive live chat, chat invitation popup, co-browsing, Push URLs-- you get the picture. You can not only encourage your chat operators to gently market additional products and services to your online customers but also provide small commissions as incentives. Chat operators need to be reminded at all times, however, that they are customer service representatives first and marketers later.

Hands-on Knowledge of Live Chat Software

Regardless of which live chat solution you ultimately decide to implement—whether it is Live2Support.com or any other live chat solution, successful operators should be well-versed with the platform’s features, functionality and operability. Insist that they study all software documentation, request explanations when features are unclear, and stay ahead of the game by familiarizing themselves with product updates, enhancements and new versions. According to Carol Steinberg, Senior Vice President, E-Commerce, Marketing & Business Development for Shop NBC who recently conducted a panel session at a landmark Internet retailing event, we have merely scratched the surface with respect to the power and potential of live chat.

Delivering a Positive User Experience through Live Chat

Happy customers are not simply loyal customers but also returning customers. Your customers are your first line of engagement when it comes to marketing regiments and promotions. Much has been written in the broader context of the Internet about viral and word-of-mouth marketing most of which rightly suggests that in-person marketing can demonstrate high success rates because it comes with implied endorsements that are reliable. Successful chat operators do not simply answer questions and up-sell but also build bridges with your customers with the hope that they will return like Oliver Twist and ask for more not just once but many times.