Blog

Best Practices for Training Chat Agents

June 04, 2013 Jesse Rudolph

As every person who has used online chat knows, a great chat experience can convince a person to purchase a product or service immediately, or can cause them to look elsewhere on the Internet for their business. With so many options at a customer’s fingertips when using the web, it is critical that chat agents offer a great presentation the first time they interact with a customer – there are few second chances with live chat.

By now, everyone knows that chat is the fastest and most effective method of interacting with customers online. Having a well-trained staff of live chat agents is critical to making that first impression and creating loyal online-first customers. As live chat has grown, best practices have been developed that have led to increased sales, lead generation, chat quality, and overall customer experience. By following the general outline below, your chat team’s performance and quality is sure to improve.

Encourage Rapport Building

A chat is just like a verbal conversation – agents need to build rapport with a customer before they can properly address a customer’s reason for chatting. Chat can be a challenging medium because agents cannot rely on their tone of voice to show their emotions to customers. While emoticons (things like 🙂 and :\ ) and acronyms (“LOL”) are generally frowned upon in a professional chat, there are other ways to let a customer know you are engaged with them.

Quick responses to customer messages are a must. During a chat, 30 second responses can seem like a lifetime to a customer, so it is important to respond quickly to any customer questions. Most chat platforms offer prewritten messages that agents can customize to allow quick responses.

Directly answering customer messages is also critical. If you have ever used online chat or even exchanged text messages with someone, you can understand how messages can become confusing if one party changes topics mid-conversation. Addressing each customer question before moving on to the next will create a smoother chat flow and a better customer experience.

Understanding the Needs of Your Customer

The reason customers initiate a live chat is to fulfill a need, whether that is to buy a product or service, for customer support, for billing questions, etc. It is your agents’ job to determine what a customer needs and provide that to them while providing the best customer service possible. During rapport building, agents will have the opportunity to ask questions of their own to determine exactly what a customer wants.

Often, the customer won’t know exactly what they want. “What is the fastest internet speed available?” “How can I pay my bill online?” This is your team’s opportunity to acknowledge a customer’s messages and ask discovery questions to find a solution that best suits a customer’s needs.

Provide a Solution

Now that your agents have built rapport with a customer and determined what they need, this is their opportunity to meet their customer’s needs. During this step, the goodwill that the agent has built during the rapport building and understanding needs phases can be used to offer solutions that a customer might not be as receptive to otherwise. For instance, an agent might be able to offer a phone plan that is more expensive than what the customer originally had in mind, but that better suits their needs because it has features not included in the less expensive plan.

Going for the Close

As with most interactions, especially sales interactions, the close can often be the trickiest part of the process. Research has found that many organizations have a gap in their “Rapport Building” through “Provide a Solution” steps, and that many new agents often skip from their introduction at the beginning of the chat to trying to close a sale. This step builds on the previous three steps to be effective, and here is where your leaders will spend much of their time coaching.

Key coaching techniques in this phase are teaching agents to identify key phrases that indicate a customer is ready to buy and hold regular practice sessions with agents, giving them the opportunity to role play their closes in different scenarios.

Review Chat Transcripts

A final obvious but sometimes overlooked step is to have leaders and their agents study chat transcripts. Letting agents look over their own transcripts will allow them to acknowledge and correct any of their areas of opportunity, while sharing the transcripts of top performers will allow best practices to spread throughout your team.

Customers themselves can provide great data for your organization. What products do customers like? What promotions? What would they improve about your live chat experience? These questions can often be answered by taking a look at your previous interactions with customers. If your team doesn’t have the bandwidth to do a deep dive into your transcripts, there are organizations available who specialize in reviewing and analyzing customer interactions and can provide trending and voice of the customer data.

Summary

As you can see, by following some simple best practices, you can have well-trained, live chat agents on your team.   You can provide outstanding sales and service for your online customers leading to increased revenue and reduced costs.