In my new job at PandaDoc, I've been fielding (along with Eion Donnelly) people who ask questions through our website's Live Chat feature. In the past month, I've learned some lessons about what is effective in communicating in Live Chat. Here are a few:
1. Signal Your Humanity
Don’t you hate having to deal with a phone tree bot when you call in to a company? I really do! It’s no different with Live Chat. If people think you’re a bot that is giving them pre-written, canned answers and is incapable of really helping them, they will leave the chat and probably be a little turned off to your company.
At PandaDoc, we have auto pop-up messages to let visitors know the chat is available, but after that, it’s all human. There are a few things I do to make sure our customers know I’m a real person. After all, it doesn’t matter that you’re human if they can’t tell that you’re human.
1. Send info in short, fast messages instead of typing out a long response. Long responses that are sent faster than it takes to type them are a red flag that you are either a bot or you’re using macros and aren’t particularly engaged in the chat. I send short pieces of info in succession the same way you would when texting your friends. This keeps the customer from having to wait patiently by their computer for your response. It gives them a steady stream of engagement from you and keeps them in the chat instead of losing interest and leaving.
2. Purposefully craft the macros you do use. I use macros sometimes, but only when I know they are 100% relevant to the question, and I’ve also designed my macros to be short, friendly, and personable. Another thing I do is insert my macro, then make some changes to personalize it before hitting send. I’ve also noticed that a lot of pre-programmed macros use hyperlinks within text to link to web pages. I don't do this because this signals that I’m sending a pre-programmed answer. Instead, I include the entire URL. I always say something like “You can view that info here: http://www.pandadoc.com" This shows that I actually went to grab the link for them, which signals more attention and investment on my part. A lot of the time I actually do go grab the link for them, but I also have it built my macros that way to give that effect even if I am using a pre-built answer.
3. Be expressive. It’s hard enough to get expression across in text with someone you know, let alone with a stranger. I use exclamation marks liberally, emoji smileys when appropriate, and casual language often to get across a friendly and helpful tone. Some of my most common replies are: “Hi there!” “Gotcha.” “Cool.” “Awesome!” “Great!” and “Okay.” One of those words is almost always the first word in any response I make on Live Chat. They are always followed by some information, a clarification or a question. Which brings me to my next point…
2. Give and Take
Live Chat conversations should be a free-flowing exchange on information on both sides. Don’t just simply answer questions and don’t just ask questions either. The outline of any response on Live Chat should roughly look like this:
Always give a little info and get a little info. It can be an art to decide when is the right time to ask for certain information, say contact info or a request for a meeting, but a good rule of thumb is that your question should flow logically from the info you just gave. You should develop some natural segues to get to information you need. I’ve started to develop a skill for this and it’s been very helpful and effective.
3. Always be Upfront
I’m always upfront with my customer about what I'm doing so I'm not leaving them in the dark. Attention span on Live Chat is not very long, so you don’t want to leave someone sitting for even 2-3 minutes if they have no idea what you’re doing.
I usually say things like “I need to ask one of my colleagues who knows more about that than I do. I'll be right back.” And, if I know it will take me a while, I say “Do you want to leave your email address so I can back to you when I get that info for you? That way you don’t have to sit and wait by the chat.” It buys you time and, BONUS, you just captured some contact info. Sometimes, just from a single email address (if it’s a work email), I can find the person’s name, LinkedIn profile, company name, size, and industry, and the person’s phone number, which helps me determine if they are a qualified lead for my sales reps.
Even for something I know won’t take me that long, I’ll say something like. “I have a video that can show you how that would work. Let me grab it real quick…” This lets them know what I'm doing and buys me a little time to find the video without losing them. I definitely recommend being upfront and letting the customer know what you’re up to as much as possible.
All of these techniques involve understanding the limitations of text communication and finding ways to work around them to create beneficial interactions. Do you have other techniques you use in Live Chat or email communication? Leave it in the comments below. I’d love to hear more ideas.