Every interaction with a consumer is an opportunity to give them the kind of empathetic, personalized treatment that creates real relationships, not just one-time purchases. Memorable interactions are why customers will tell their friends about your brand, and not your competitors. People often don’t remember exactly what was said, but they remember how they felt.
Here are some best practices we have identified to strengthen the impact of your chat team:
1. Customer Empathy + Product Knowledge = Brand Confidence
Live chat is meant to provide real-time engagement and competent answers. Listen to customers and understand their problem. People want their needs met. When they already know what they want, sure, speediness means excellence. In many live chat cases, people are looking to you to help them figure out what they want. According to a report by Harris Interactive/RightNow, “almost 9 out of 10 U.S. consumers say they would pay more to ensure a superior customer experience.”1
Live chat is an opportunity for you to directly meet their needs, be it understanding product performance, how the product specs translate to what they are trying to do, or what the difference is between items. In other words, provide helpful answers to crucial questions stopping them from heading to checkout. Emotional engagement and customer relationships are built on and driven by courtesy, willingness to help, sincerity, and ability to explain. It’s like any other relationship—strong bonds are built when people listen, care, and value one another.
2. Shoppers are more interested in a product’s fit for them than detailed product specs. Make sure chat support agents can accurately identify a shopper’s needs and goals.
People often buy because they are looking to solve a specific problem. If they make the wrong product choice, they will be frustrated, possibly return the item, and lose trust in your brand.
Make them confident in buying with you. Customers have access to the same product specs you do. But they still have questions. A report from Bazaarvoice states “91% of shopper questions are not answered in existing product collateral.”2 Copying and pasting product specs to answer questions like, “How durable is this item?” or “What’s the main difference between these models?” is the fastest way to let customers know you aren’t listening and you don’t care about helping them solve their problem. They aren’t interested in the specs; they want to know if that product is a good fit for them.
Successful chat agents will identify the motivation behind a shopper’s question in order to successfully answer how a product will perform for them and meet their specific needs. From a Harris Interactive report, consumers stated “customer service agents failed to answer their questions 50% of the time.”3 Correctly identifying what the shopper is asking, and why, is foundational to letting them know you are sincerely listening to them and understanding their needs. (Also, this is often a timely opportunity for chat agents to upsell the shopper). Again, knowing who they are and caring about why they want something is part of the story of your relationship.
3. It’s a Conversation — Be Human
Live chat agents need to remember that people are expecting to talk to a real person, not a robot. Remember that your company has a voice and a tone. Train agents to chat in a way that reinforces the human element. Communicating with simple, friendly manners is something a lot of people forget, but it’s the little things that let people know you care. The whole point is you have a timely chance to provide warm, personalized help to guide the customer through their experience.
According to a Consumer Reports Survey, “67% of customers have hung up the phone out of frustration they could not talk to a real person.”4 Shoppers want human interaction. In our chat analysis, we noted many shoppers asking chat agents what they would buy for themselves, asking things like, “What would you buy for your daughter or son?” Shoppers trust recommendations personalized for them by a product expert and appreciate when chat agents consider their needs and support recommendations with evidence. But moreover, shoppers appreciate honesty. Few things are as persuasive as hearing about a personal experience with a product, especially coming from someone with more expertise.
Superior Experiences Create Loyal Ambassadors
Meaningful relationships like these are what make people purchase today, but also come back tomorrow and recommend you to others. A White House Office of Consumer Affairs report stated “It is 6-7 times more expensive to acquire a new customer than it is to keep a current one.”5 Unfortunately, sharing experiences with your company works both ways. According to a Genesys report, “In the U.S., 71% of consumers have ended their relationship with a company due to poor customer service.”6 According to the same White House Office of Consumer Affairs report mentioned above, satisfied customers will share their experience with 4-6 people. However, dissatisfied customers will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. That is double the amount of people who will hear about negative experiences. Moreover, around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people.
Listen and respond to their needs, create an experience that will resonate with them on a personal level. According to a McKinsey report, “70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated.”7 Outpace your competitors by providing better human service. You can’t buy reputation. You build it. Word of mouth is one of the most powerful tools of persuasion that exists. Let your service do the marketing for you.
- 1 Customer Experience Impact Report by Harris Interactive/RightNow, 2010
- 2 Bazaarvoice 2009
- 3 Harris Interactive
- 4 Consumer Reports Survey, 2011
- 5 White House Office of Consumer Affairs
- 6 Genesys 2009
- 7 McKinsey
Article by Alizah Herman & Belle Huang
Cover image by Di