Web Chat: Best Practices for Communicating with Customers
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There are many different channels for customers to use to communicate with businesses, but web chat is among the most popular. It’s convenient for both the customer and the agent, and it can be used to resolve a wide variety of customer support issues.
In this blog post, we’ll discuss some best practices for web chat communication so that you can provide the best customer service possible. As long as your agents follow these guidelines, they will be better equipped to handle customer inquiries and resolve any confusion that may arise.
What is web chat?
Web chat is a type of online customer service where agents and customers communicate in real-time via a browser-based chat interface. It’s similar to instant messaging, but it’s specifically designed for customer support inquiries.
Benefits of web chat
There are many benefits of using web chat for customer service. It’s convenient for customers who may be hesitant to pick up the phone but want quicker support than submitting a contact form, and it allows agents to resolve issues faster than they could if they were relying on email or phone support.
What’s more, web chat provides a written record of the conversation that can be used for reference later on. This is especially helpful if an issue needs to be escalated to a higher level of support.
However, while web chat is excellent to connect with your customers and provide them with the information they need, it also comes with its own challenges. Because it is a relatively new customer service channel, there are still some best practices that need to be established in order to do it right.
Furthermore, there are some guidelines that your agents need to follow when using web chat as a contact channel. Customer service reps are a vital part of any business because they are the first point of contact, so they must be able to communicate with clients in a manner that best suits their needs.
So, without further ado, here is our list of best practices and guidelines for setting up chat messaging for your customer support and communicating effectively via this contact channel. Whether you are a growing startup with hopes of eventually selling your online business or an established company, you can always improve.
Web chat best practices
1. Choose the right platform
First and foremost, you need to make sure that you’re using the right web chat platform for your business. There are many different options available, so it’s crucial to do your research and select the one that best meets your needs.
Consider factors like price, set of features, ease of use, and available integrations to make your informed decision. Once you’ve selected the right platform, it’s time to set up your web chat.
If you’re using Smartsupp (as we’ll state below), the process is pretty simple - just create an account and install the web chat code on your website, and you’re ready to start chatting with your customers.
Try Smartsupp as a web chat service
Smartsupp is a customer service platform that allows you to keep in touch with website visitors via chatbot and live chat. Thanks to the latter, it can also be used as a web chat tool.
Check Smartsupp features that make communication a smooth process
Unified multichannel shows all conversations in one dashboard, so there’s no chance to miss a message. Regardless of the communication channel used, all of your website visitors get help and you can maximize your revenue.
A live chat app allows sales representatives to chat with customers at any time, no matter where they are.
A contact form is a great option for collecting leads, even when your agents are offline.
Video recording sessions let you see how a user navigates the site. It gives a better understanding of your customers’ behavior.
Teams of agents make it easier to distribute tasks among team members.
Shortcuts save plenty of time. They work like canned responses that you can modify as necessary.
File sharing enables uploading of PDFs, screenshots, and other files to streamline communication between agents and customers.
Additionally, you can integrate Smartupp with your favorite platforms in just a few clicks. Connect this web chat tool with a CRM system, your ecommerce solution, or an analysis tool for maximum effectiveness. See the lists of integrations.
And some good news here. With Smartsupp, you can start web chatting for free. Signing up is all it takes.
2. Create a simple welcome message
When a customer initiates a web chat, they should be welcomed with a simple greeting. This message should include the agent’s name and photo (if available), as well as a brief introduction.
The welcome message should be friendly and professional, but it doesn’t need to be too long. Keep it short and sweet so that the customer knows they’re speaking to a real person who can add a human touch to the conversation and not a robot.
Your web chat platform should have a default welcome message that you can customize to fit your brand voice. If you want to take things a step further, you can also create a custom greeting message that will be displayed when a customer initiates a web chat. The purpose of this is to add a personal touch to the web chat experience for your customers and make them feel valued.
For example, you could create a greeting that will be displayed during business hours, and another one for after-hours. This way, your customers will know whether they’re speaking to a real person or if a chatbot will be handling queries outside of your agents’ working hours.
If you’re using Smartsupp, you can find the default welcome message in the ‘Automation’ tab. To change it, simply click ‘Edit’, enter your desired text, and ‘Save changes’ once you’re happy with the message. To create a custom welcome message, click on the ‘+Add new’, then ’ Automatic message’, write the text, and after that specify when you want it to be displayed.
3. Respond quickly to customers’ questions and requests
A major advantage of web chat is that it allows you to provide near-instant customer support. Customers expect quick responses when they initiate a web chat, so it’s vital to make sure that your agents are available and responsive.
You can make sure that you are always able to reply quickly by setting up web chat hours (more on those in the next point), as well as an away message that will be displayed when agents are unavailable to provide human interaction. This way, customers will know when they can expect a reply and that they won’t be left waiting for an answer.
Moreover, if you want to transfer customers to a chatbot for dealing with customers’ issues outside of your business hours, you could also display a message explaining this option. This way, you can provide round-the-clock customer support via canned responses, if your chosen web chat tool allows it (hint: Smartsupp does), even when your agents are not available.
In Smartsupp, you can set up web chat hours in the ‘Account settings’ by simply clicking ‘Office hours’, selecting the days and times when you want web chat to be available, and pressing ‘Save changes’. To set up an away message, go to the ‘Automation’ tab and click on the ‘+ Add new’, write your message, then specify when you want it to be displayed.
4. Be flexible with your hours of operation
What’s great about web chat is that it’s available 24/7, which means you can offer support to customers at any time of the day or night. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to have human agents available at all times to answer customer queries.
Instead, you should be flexible with your web chat hours of operation and adjust them to suit your business needs. For example, if you know that most of your customer base is located in a different time zone, you may want to adjust your web chat hours so that they can reach you when it’s convenient for them.
Alternatively, you may want to consider offering web chat support during extended hours on weekdays and weekends, or during peak periods such as holidays. Being flexible with your web chat hours means you can offer the best support when your customers need it most.
5. Talk to customers directly and listen to their issues
When web chat first became popular, some businesses used it as a way to avoid speaking to unhappy customers directly by “hiding” behind a screen rather than speaking via the phone. However, this is not the best way to use web chat, which can be a direct replacement for a phone contact center if implemented correctly.
Your agents should be speaking to customers directly and actively listening to their issues so that they can provide them with the best possible solutions. Doing this in real-time on web chat as they would on the phone will help to build trust and customer loyalty, as well get their issues resolved as quickly as possible (more on that in the next point).
It’s also necessary to remember that web chat is a two-way conversation, so your agents should be prepared to answer any questions that the customer might have. This way, you can ensure that the customer has all the information they need to make a decision and that they’re happy with the outcome of the web chat.
6. Provide helpful information
People initiate web chats because they need help with something, whether it’s a potential customer asking a question about your product or service or an issue that an existing client is facing. As such, it’s critical that your agents are prepared to provide helpful information that will resolve the customer’s issue.
If an agent doesn’t have the answer to a customer’s question, your representative should be prepared to transfer the chat conversation to a colleague who can help or let the client know that they will be in touch (like callback technology) when a solution has been found. This way, the customer can be sure that their issue will be resolved and they won’t have to be kept waiting in the dark for a response.
It’s also crucial to provide helpful information even if the customer’s issue has already been resolved, which could be in the form of a follow-up message with contact info or an FAQ section on your website that the customer can refer to in the future. As a result, you can turn a web chat into a positive experience for the customer that is more likely to lead to a sale or repeat business.
7. Keep conversations short and sweet
While web chat can help you provide bespoke customer support, it’s best to keep conversations as brief as possible so that you don’t end up taking up too much of the customer’s time. This is especially important if you have a lot of customers waiting in the web chat queue.
Your agents should aim to resolve the customer’s issue in as few chat messages as possible so that they can move on to the next query. This doesn’t mean that they should provide a half-baked solution or brush off the customer’s concerns, but rather that they should be concise and to-the-point in their responses.
Of course, there will be times when a web chat goes on for longer than expected, but this should be the exception rather than the rule. With short and sweet web chat conversations, you can provide better customer support and keep the web chat queue moving.
8. Offer discounts or coupons during web chat sessions
When chatting with customers, you can offer discounts or coupons either to encourage them to purchase an item that they have shown interest in or as an apology to make up for the issue they are facing. Through this method, you are able to encourage more users to contact you via web chat and potential customers to make purchases, as well as show your appreciation for their business.
To make sure that your offer is redeemed, you can provide the customer with a unique code that they can use at checkout or create a printable gift certificate to be redeemed in-store (if applicable). You can also include a time limit on the offer so that customers feel like they need to act fast.
Offering discounts or coupons during web chat interactions helps you turn negative experiences into positive ones. This will result in increased sales by pushing customers further down the sales funnel and improving customer retention rates.
9. Use web chat as part of your social media strategy
With the rise of social networks, web chat on these platforms has become an increasingly significant part of many businesses’ customer communication strategy. Most people have at least one social profile nowadays, so it makes sense to be able to provide support and engage customers via social media.
For example, you can use web chat to quickly respond to customer queries or complaints that are posted to your Facebook Page. With the right choice of live chat tool (e.g. Smartsupp_)_, your agents will be able to reply to messages sent here in the same way as to regular web chats – all in one place.
Using web chat as part of your social media strategy allows you to improve customer service and resolve issues more quickly.
10. Track conversational data and collect feedback
If you want to improve your web chat customer service, it’s worth tracking the data from each conversation and using it to identify areas in the customer journey that need improvement. This could include metrics like the average response time, resolution time, first contact resolution rate, and customer satisfaction rating.
You can also leverage web chat to collect customer feedback and learn more about their experiences with your products or services. This information can be invaluable for making improvements to your business and the customer experience, as well as updating your website content based on their feedback.
To get their opinions, simply ask for a customer satisfaction rating (on a scale of one to five, for example) at the end of the web chat conversation. You can also encourage customers to leave feedback by sending them an automated follow-up message after the web chat.
11. Take notes and keep records of chats
In order to provide the best possible web chat customer service, it’s helpful to take notes during each conversation and keep a record of what was discussed. This will help you remember each customer’s individual needs and preferences, as well as track any issues that need to be followed up.
It’s also worth keeping an archive of all web chat transcripts, as these can be useful for training new customer service agents or investigating customer complaints. If you have a live chat solution like Smartsupp, you’ll be able to easily export web chat transcripts (e.g. as PDFs or via email) and keep them safe for future reference.
Furthermore, you can group your web chats into categories such as ‘open’ and ‘resolved’ to organize your communication, as well as tag your messages according to the topic of conversation. This allows you to prepare for FAQs, for example by adding new shortcuts or updating your chatbot to answer queries about e.g. delivery time, and filter your conversations based on priorities.
12. Document policies, procedures, and training
One of the simplest ways to improve upon poor customer service is to provide your chat agents with all of the information they need to perform their duties to the highest level. This will help get everyone from your marketing team, sales team, and support team on the same page and make them aware of what is expected of them.
Your web chat policy should include things like the types of queries that should be handled via web chat, the ideal response time, customer expectations, and how to deal with their complaints. Your procedures should outline the steps that need to be taken in order to resolve a query, while your training should cover things like web chat etiquette and how to use the live chat software.
Web chat can take your customer support to a brand new level, and help you build long lasting relationships with your customers. By following the tips in this article, you can make sure that your web chat customer service is of the highest quality.
If you are not sure which of the web chat solutions available out there would be best for you, why not try Smartsupp for free and see for yourself? With a completely free version or 14-day free trial of the premium plans, you can explore all the features that our live chat software has to offer and see for yourself if it’s the right fit for your business.