I have had my fair share of customer service roles throughout my life, but live chat is something a bit different. The idea of helping someone over the internet was a concept rather alien to me before I started working for The Chat Shop. However, after some rigorous training from my new colleagues, I felt prepared to generate sales and leads, tackle any customer question and do anything else which was required by our clients.

 

My first day working at The Chat Shop was one of vast variety. I had the usual nerves you get when in the early stages of any new job; there was a strange sort of panic when a chat pops up with the 'Bing Bing Bing' tone. But after a few conversations that feeling soon faded.

 

To begin with I was speaking to customers from a small number of clients, thus giving me more time to learn. I was taking baby steps and had some close supervision.

One of the most poignant things for me was the differing ways that customers would speak to me, depending upon the site they had come from. And it's of course important that you match the tone of the customer, otherwise they won't develop much respect or trust in what you are saying. Some customers want to see you as a friend who can help them make a decision (professional but informal), while others want a professional who can deliver the information without any unnecessary chatter. That is the beauty of live chat, one live chat agent can have multiple conversations with varying tones at one time.

 

Live chat is much more about people skills than I expected. With live chat being computer based I thought that it would be hard to pick up on the customer's mood or goals, based on not being able to see their facial expressions or actions, however I was wrong.

Doing live chat properly isn't about being some form of live robot that can get through as many chats as possible - firing responses back of little meaning. You have to develop an understanding of what the customer wants prior to recommending a product, or asking for any form of lead capture. If you cannot create the personal touch of finding the exact information they are looking for and giving it to them quickly and accurately you may as well not bother.

 

One of the biggest issues is consuming enough knowledge to be able to tell the customer everything they will want to know. It is important to get the correct information across the first time, even if that means having to occasionally say 'One moment please' whilst finding the accurate information.

 

But my most important lesson of the day was based around conversation structure. We don't use scripts at The Chat Shop and that's because no 2 conversations are the same.

Despite coming from the same site, one customer may respond as expected, while another may completely throw the anticipated conversation out the window. To that end you have to judge how to get the conversation back on track to solving their problem or recommending a product to buy. For example, for our client Predator Nutrition, the customer told me that they wanted to take certain muscle gaining supplements "in order to turn into a big green monster when they become angry". Wow.

You have to remain level headed and send an adequate recommendation without thinking that the customer is just hear to wind you up (they sometimes are). In this instance I used our Explore Identify Match methodology to get some slightly more useful information from the customer, and then was able to make an appropriate recommendation. I was able to bring the conversation back when it could have been easier to just stop due to the customer not seeming like they were using the service appropriately.

 

The first day was a fairly steep learning curve, but the advice I would give to someone starting out as a live chat agent would be to have a personal touch, and be willing to adapt your conversational structure to fit the customer’s needs. The Chat Shop's Explore Identify Match methodology is also a great resource for figuring out where you want a chat to be heading, and how to get things back on track.