We’ve become accustomed to using chats for business and customer service communications. In some cases, I think we forget that there are human beings — on both sides.
After reviewing the site thoroughly, I’ll use the chat feature to get my questions answered when I go to a site with a chat feature. Especially for customer service or technical support, chats can be invaluable.
Once you engage in a chat, a courteous person politely addresses any questions and concerns you may have. No telephone menu hell, in most cases, less wait time. We both just tip-tap on the keyboard, hoping to do business together.
Etiquette and Chats
The same guidelines for email etiquette apply when you engage in support chats. Start with a “Hello,” including their first name if their name is visible. Then, ask if they can assist with the issue, adding a “TIA” for Thanks in Advance.
They respond, and we go back and forth until the issue is resolved. When the conversation wraps up, I make a point of thanking them for their time and to have a nice day.
To me, communicating with clarity and courtesy is a natural thing. But little did I know what these chat representatives experience until I added chat to one of my websites.
Is Chat Courtesy a Rarity?
I quickly discovered how unusual the type of courtesy that I offer when using a chat may be for those support agents until I became one myself. The lack of courtesy and clarity caused me to remove chat from my consulting site after less than a month.
I was astounded at the curt demands and cryptic questions through my chat feature. Many just wanted free consulting. “How do I do this or that?” “I know this is simple, so can you give me a step-by-step on…?”
If you land on a consultant’s website, you will recognize that it is their service — consulting. Chat is not there to request free consulting. Chat is a tool to inquire about how you can do business with the site offering the chat.
I was happy to provide a link if I had an article “How To” on what they were looking for. But upon doing so, no thank you — they would just end the chat.
Be the Customer Businesses Want
It appeared that offering chat was taken as an indication that they didn’t need to read any of the information provided on my site. For a consultant, I have a ton of “free” articles on my website if one would take the time to look for them with that nifty little search bar.
Regardless, I didn’t mind chatting and providing the answers and links they sought. I would then ask if they had any further questions or wanted to arrange a discovery call to discuss their need for help.
Again, there would be no response. They would just end the chat.
One thing I work on constantly and consistently is to have straightforward navigation and readily available information. If you take the time to look, it’s pretty easy to find what you are looking for on any of the websites I manage.
Over the years, I’ve beefed up the details provided about what I do and how—more than most in my industry. All to help visitors decide if we can work together. And to not waste either of our time.
I thought that adding chat would supplement that effort. I was wrong.
When Service Becomes Inefficient
Don’t get me wrong; I aim to be of service and there for that speedy, on-demand response. I am all about customer service and am known for my prompt replies.
But after using this feature for several weeks, I had only experienced a rare few incoming courteous legit inquiries. I began to feel as though my time was expected rather than respected in the guise of catering to anyone who possibly, maybe, might consider working with me.
My site has all the information you need; that’s what a website is for. But it wasn’t being read. Instead, the majority would jump to chat.
Then, no thank you for your time, no response – they received their answer and went on their way. They were done with me.
I don’t take it personally. But I take my job very seriously, so much so that I know I cannot be everything to everyone. A certain type of business person sees the value in partnering with me. That’s who I cater to. In my experience, those folks weren’t on chat.
First Contacts are First Impressions
That’s why I’m sharing this with you. It’s best to remember that when making first contact, you will leave an impression based on that interaction. For me, being a one-woman show and knowing I can only help so many people at a time, these types of chats were a window into the person contacting me.
Great business partnerships are about having mutually respectful relationships. The fact is that doing business online is a complicated process. If you aren’t into reading the details provided on a website and respecting your partner’s time, you will likely not have a successful online business.
Every first contact you make leaves a lasting impression. Make sure that the impression you make will let the other side know what a pleasure you will be to do business with.
Review Then Inquire
I use chats to get additional information I cannot find on my own. I review FAQs, documentation, product comparison charts, and service offerings. Then, I may use the chat to clarify any necessary details.
I have never landed at a site and immediately looked for and clicked on the chat icon, then started asking questions. I don’t want to waste the agent’s time; more importantly, if I can get the answers independently, that’s quicker, too.
Online support chats are not any different from email when it comes to communicating with courtesy, knowledge, and understanding. A human being is on the other side of your screen to serve you and respond to your inquiries.
Is it too difficult to say hello and thank them for their time? Or are you one of those who hide in your anonymity to just get the answers you want? Yes, the agents are there to serve you, but that doesn’t mean you treat them as though they are a bot.
Anyone who has read my articles knows I am big on courtesy. Courtesy NEVER goes out of style, and there is never a situation where it cannot be used to foster better relationships and communications. Regardless of what side of the business screen you are on.
Support Chat Manners
Remember when you use a website’s support chat that just because that service is offered doesn’t mean you can make demands or communicate less professionally. Well, you can, but that would speak volumes about the kind of person you would like to do business or partner with.
Instead, rise above the rest and let the folks on the other side know you appreciate them being there and offering that service for you. Speaking for myself, those are the folks I go above and beyond for.