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.
When I go to a site with a chat feature, after reviewing the site thoroughly, I’ll use the chat feature to get my questions answered. Especially for customer service or technical support chats can be invaluable.
A courteous person pops in to politely address any questions and concerns I may have. No telephone menu hell, no 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 asking if they can be of assistance with the issue at hand 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 my own site.
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 actually caused me to remove chat from my consulting site after less than a month.
I was astounded at the curt demands and cryptic questions that came 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…?”
One would think if you land on a consultant’s website, that is the service they offer — for a fee. 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.
Even still, if I had an article that was a “How To” on what they were looking for I would provide the link. Click — end of chat.
It appeared that by offering chat, that was taken as an indication that they didn’t need to bother to read any of the information provided on my site. Regardless, I didn’t mind taking the time to chat and provide the answers and links they were seeking.
I always asked if they had any further questions, or if they wanted to arrange a discovery call to discuss what they needed help with. Click — end of chat.
One thing I work on constantly and consistently is to have clear navigation and readily available information. 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.
I thought, incorrectly, that adding chat would supplement that. Not be in lieu of.
When Service Becomes Inefficient
Now don’t get me wrong, my goal is to be of service (my site is titled At Your Service after all) and to be there for that speedy type of 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 hiring me.
My site has all the information you need, that’s what a website is for. But it wasn’t being read in lieu of jumping to chat.
Then, no thank you for your time, no response back – they received their answer and went on their way. Apparently they were done with me.
I don’t take it personally. But I do take my job very seriously so much so that I know I cannot be everything to everyone. There’s a certain type of business person that 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 keep in mind 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 type of chats were a window into the person contacting me.
Great business partnerships are about having mutually respectful relationships. And never underestimate how doing business online is a complicated process. If you aren’t into reading details and respecting partners time, you won’t succeed.
Are those the type of folks I want to partner with? Every contact leaves a first and lasting impression.
Review then Inquire
I use chats to get additional information I cannot find on my own. I review FAQs, product comparison charts, service offerings. Then, I may use the chat to clarify any details I may need.
Never have I landed at a site and then immediately clicked on the chat icon and start asking questions. I don’t want to waste the agent’s time or mine.
Online support chats are not any different from email when it comes to communicating with courtesy, knowledge and understanding. There is a human being on the other side of your screen there 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 any of my materials 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.
Proper Chat Use
- Review the site carefully for the information you need first.
- Greet the chat agent in a friendly manner.
- Be as detailed as possible about the information you seek.
- Use proper sentence structure, case and grammar.
- Always thank them for their time and assistance.
Keep in mind when you use a website’s support chat that just because that service is offered to you that doesn’t mean you can make demands or communicate in a less professional manner. Well, you can but I guess that would speak volumes as to the kind of person you would be 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.