The problem with chat
Chat is not for everyone. Interacting through short bits of text might be perfectly all right for young people and millenials, but it’s certainly NOT the first media that most people over 35 would choose to use. The problem with chat however isn’t just age or habit.
Chat was NOT created for business, it was NOT created for customer service and it was NOT created for marketing purposes: it was made for quick informal communications. And this is its strongest point, and also its biggest problem: chat is quick and easy, but it can also be awkward, confusing and totally off putting… especially when you have to use it for business purposes.
Every media has its own language
One of the key points of multi-channel support is to approach every channel in a distinctive way, while keeping the same corporate personality. To effectively do so you have to know the perks and features of every channel you are using… and that includes chat, which is now an almost unavoidable touch point with your customers.
Created as a very informal tool, chat requires a very direct and informal language. Drop the technical jargon, drop the marketing fluff and get straight to the point: no one wants to wait forever while you type an elaborate answer, and no one want to spend half an hour requiring clarification on it.
It’s also essential to put customers at ease: if you sound personal and informal, they’ll also respond in a more natural way and it will probably reduce the stress that most “older” customers might experience while using this media.
The power of freedom
Personality isn’t something you can teach, or impose on others. To create truly personal connections with customers, you must allow each agent to develop his own style, without tying him down to a specific set of questions and answers.
Avoid template answers: keep them in your email. Also avoid imposing close minded company philosophies like “Never say this and always ask that”: it can even create comical results. It’s important to understand that there’s not a single specific way to get in touch: interaction between human beings is personal and therefore completely unpredictable… and it should stay this way.
Empowering your agents with true freedom requires, of course, a great deal of training to give them all the tools to provide excellent service without messing it up: because being free is great, but it’s also extremely dangerous.
And of course, handing over a pre-made script is so much easier!
Real time, for real
Another issue with chat is multitasking. The common use of this tool is to juggle between 4 or 5 different conversations, all revolving around different topics and issues. This of course allows agents to take care of a much larger number of customers… but at what price?
Contrary to common practice, multitasking conversations with clients is NOT “excellent service”.
From multitasking comes lag, which is the number one reason why chat sucks so bad. There’s nothing that exasperate customers like having to wait 10 minutes for the operator to answer them via chat… and if the answer is a cold, pre-made, jargon filled response that has been obviously copied and pasted without even bothering with a little personalization, the customer could quite reasonably explode.
Chat is real time: and real time must be for real. Agents must respond quickly and while a little lag is unavoidable on both sides, it should be kept to the minimum required to look for the solution and quickly send it out. Multitasking is all right if (and only if) it doesn’t hurt the customer experience.
How not to be a bot
Why is chat so informal? Because writing a text on a computer ,while somebody in a far off place in the world reads it, is probably the coldest, most technical way to get in touch that you can think of.
Chat is for computers, not for human beings! To make it human we must make it personal. This is the only way chat can become an effective tool for customer care.