How to provide excellent customer service via live chat

Many companies now provide the option of chatting with their customer service representatives on their websites in real-time, via live chat. Customers have also come to expect chat widgets on every site they visit, seeing this channel as a highly effective mechanism for communication – fast, direct, and convenient. Since most of us these days walk around staring into our smartphones, texting away, live chat has quickly become a pertinent method of contacting customer service. It makes sense. Think of it. While chatting with a friend on Facebook messenger and sending your work colleagues an update on WhatsApp, you can also text a company’s customer service with any questions or concerns. All this from a tiny electronic device.

Be a live chat champion using the tips below! (Photo by on

To a customer, live chat is everything like a phone call minus the bother of having to communicate orally and be heard. To companies, live chat allows agents to handle multiple customers simultaneously, unlike phone calls. Expectably, live chat customer service can range from unbelievably appalling to premium quality. As a customer service representative, you can guess why. Ever had that fear of being left alone in the live chat during busy hours? How many customers do you think you would be able to handle? There is a multitude of improvements that management can pursue to help customer service representatives be as productive as possible in live chat. No upgrades will matter, however, unless you truly know what makes live chat customer service impeccable.

Table of contents

1. Ready for whatever

That should be your stance. Speculate on what your customers may be in touch with you about. Your knowledge base should be easily accessible, and your shortcuts (or templates) readily available. Open any relevant software and database you may need and keep it open, so you can check it as fast as possible to avoid time wastage. Always be ready for the worst possible scenario, for instance, ten customers actively chatting with you – all with unique issues. It helps when you have an organized setup, from your desktop, bookmarks, and screens (if you have more than one) to your collection of links, articles, and screenshots. 

Imagine you are a Kung Fu master, and your customers are your challengers. That is not to say beat them up! Handle them, resolving every single issue thrown your way diligently, swiftly, and professionally. The only way to do this is to be prepared for anything. If you get caught unprepared and outnumbered, you will be face down on the ground in no time. In other words, you will not have a chance to upkeep the quality of your customer service, getting swamped by numerous nervous and agitated complainers. 

Typing speed and quick reactions make the difference (Photo by Chris Peeters on

2. Swift as lightning

The best way to understand why a quick reaction is so important is to put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Pretend you have an issue, send a chat request, and start a timer. Then, pay attention to how you feel as a customer; first, at the 15-second mark, then at 30 seconds, then at 45, 60, and so on until you give up waiting. According to past research conducted, a chat wait time of 60 seconds or more could lead to an over 50% increase in your chat abandonment rate. That means a loss of every second potential customer! Therefore, it is in your interest to respond to live chat requests as quickly as possible and not keep customers hanging. From my experience, you should aim to get the conversation going in no more than 30 seconds – max!

I once recorded a chat wait time of 30 minutes! Usually, you would not see a trace of me after 60 seconds of waiting, but in that specific case, I had an automatic membership renewal that needed canceling and a bit of time on my hands. Wow, though. How incredibly distant a company must be from customer orientation to allow themselves half an hour before they answer a customer’s chat request. I am also talking about a large, big-name company, practically a monopoly in its sector. Not many get this luxury, so stay responsive! 

3. Greetings!

First impressions are crucial, no matter what. Therefore, how you begin chatting with a customer does set the ground for the entire communication. Your greeting should be warm and welcoming. You should introduce yourself by stating your name and thank the customer for contacting you. If you know the customer’s name, always refer to the customer by his name too. This brings your communication to a human level instead of a robotic one. And do not forget to encourage the customer by asking how you can help. You can write out your greeting beforehand and use it as a shortcut. Nothing wrong with that, as long as you edit it when required.

Why say “thank you?” Think of it; your customer is willing to deal with you, giving you a chance to resolve his or her issue with your product or service. In other words, your customer is interested to continue doing business with you – they are not running away! For this, you must be present and thankful during your chat. Besides, you get the unique opportunity to fix any issues for future potential customers just by getting feedback from that one complaining person. 

4. Emanate positivity

How do you stay positive when negativity is beamed at you from multiple sources? It may not sound so easy, but it is possible. The best thing to do is to make a deep inhalation and smile before you accept every chat. Charge yourself with positivity so you can bounce off any opposite energy. Encase yourself in your bubble. Nobody can touch you while you are in it. Oh, and do not forget that positive language is vital when dealing with customers! 

For instance, by saying you are “never stressed” or “always in high spirits,” you are describing the same state of being, but the two descriptions transmit different energies. The first contains only negative words, and the second only positive. You want to transmit only positive energy to your customers, avoiding negative words accordingly. 

5. Grammatically flawless

Imagine contacting customer service over a severe issue and getting a live chat response that looks more like a text from your Saturday night buddy. The way you communicate with your customers builds the reputation of your company. Therefore, remember not to use any slang or shorthand. Always begin your sentences with a capital letter, watch your grammar, and do not miss out on punctuation. Granted, this is not easy to do when you have a dozen customers chatting with you. Not to worry, however, as there are tools, such as Grammarly, that can save your day. 

6. Can you match the etiquette?

Formality always has been a hot topic of debate when it comes to the provision of high-quality customer service. Is it better to be firm and formal or laid back and informal? Frankly, it depends. Proper etiquette can mean different things to every customer. It also depends on the company and its industry. For instance, the expectations for etiquette at McDonald’s are not the same as in a luxurious Michelin-star restaurant. 

Your communication approach needs to vary depending on the customer. You should be able to adapt to each customer uniquely – to reflect on them. Do not be too formal when your customer seems like the casual type. Likewise, it is not a good idea to be breezy if you are chatting with a meticulous intellectual. Let your customer lead you to the discovery of his style during those few first messages you receive in live chat. 

7. Stay human

One of the most annoying drawbacks to a customer service interaction is when you reach out to a company hoping to speak to a responsible human being and get a robot instead. No, not a literal robot, but a representative with no soul, motivation, or job satisfaction. Customer service is perhaps one of the few industries where humans can be hard to replace, even in a foreseeable robotic future. Be the human you are – with your character. Put some personality and life into each chat. If you abuse the usage of shortcuts or templates, it will be perceivable by your customers, and they will not like it. 

It is still pretty shocking to me how a lot of people who apply for customer service positions expect jobs that require them to repeat the same task every day, by the book, with no surprises. Does that not sound like a factory job? Or a job that can be done by robots? Why would someone hire you – a human being with faults – to be a flawless robot for a repetitive robotic job? You are hired for your human skills because customer service is people work, and working with people has its surprises. Be happy; your skills make you more valuable than a robot! 

8. Details! Details to the rescue!

Never assume that your customer knows what you know, even if it seems obvious. To your customers, you are the expert in the product/service your company provides. Yes, you may be explaining the same procedures multiple times per day, yet you are not doing so to the same person (hopefully). Do not fear to adapt your explanations as if you would be speaking to a 5-year-old. Of course, that does not mean being condescending, just informative and detailed. Elderly customers, for instance, may have a tough time understanding any current tech lingo or even simple computer instructions. Help them accordingly. 

How about some nasty customer service examples that I happened to come across in the past?

“Just clear your cache and cookies! Don’t you know how? Everybody knows!”

“Oh, my god. Sir, how do you expect me to help you when you don’t even know what device you are using to access our website?”

“You need to scan that document and send it to us. You know what, I do not get paid enough to explain something so simple to you like how to scan a piece of paper. Not my job. Please ask somebody else.”

People who say something like the above are liabilities for business. Never act like anything remotely similar to the above. 

9. Are you a pro?

The word professionalism tends to give a false impression – no more fun and games. In reality, being professional does not require you to be boring, overly stern, and dull. It simply implies doing what your job requires; helping your customers at the highest possible standard by resolving their issues with your product or service. If your customer wanders off, talking about his cat, the recent football match, or WW2, return to the topic of the issues he previously brought to your attention. Do this politely, for instance:

“I can certainly appreciate your enthusiasm about the vegan philosophy, John. I may even look into this myself, after the interesting points you have made. Now, let me please give you some information to help you resolve the issue you have been having with our product.”

How else can you portray professionalism? If you have bad news for your customer, learn to put it on a golden platter. It helps to empathize and ask yourself how this news would cause minimal frustration if you were the customer. The bad news is digested far less painfully if it is sandwiched between two positives or if it precedes good news. Before announcing bad news, find those positives. Do not be scared to say no at times, especially to overly demanding customers. It is not unprofessional when the customer is trying to abuse the company. Finally, never say that you are dealing with other customers simultaneously – your customer does not need to know this internal detail. Every customer should feel like he is the only important one!  

Make the answers easy to find (Photo by Ivan Babydov on

10. FAQ, knowledge base, or help center

From my personal experience, people do not like doing things. I believe it to be a natural fact of life. Thus, your goal is to resolve the customer’s issue with the least possible amount of customer effort and your own. Many times, your customers will contact you with similar problems. This helps your customer service team maintain an up-to-date knowledge base containing simple and well-written updated articles for the FAQs. Instead of repeating yourself, you can redirect your customer to the answer he is looking for by linking to the knowledge base. The knowledge base is where you can also keep time-saving step-by-step instructions and even one-click action links. A knowledge base will help you get the fastest resolutions. 

11. Keep it short

Brevity is connected to point 10 above too. Nobody likes gigantic texts full of descriptions and other possibly-meaningless information in their live chat window. Time is money. It only makes sense for a customer to try and save their time while you can save yours too. Being witty can help you resolve the customer’s issue with as less back-and-forth text as possible. Plus, remember that humans have a limited attention span. Not being able to keep a customer’s attention could even result in losing the customer. For long explanations, use your knowledge base or help center. Otherwise, keep your conversation lively, flowing, and brief. 

12. Priorities in order

These are particularly vital during multitasking. Picture yourself assisting multiple customers simultaneously, hearing nothing but your fingertips hitting the keyboard in the air. Your customers may be having simple questions or complicated complaints. They may be threatening your company or plain time-wasters. Sure, different requests carry different levels of priority. If you do not set your priorities correctly to allocate your concentration, you may get lost. This will result in subpar customer satisfaction and even a loss of customers. Make sure you always know what needs to happen next. Remember, customers cannot see you and do not know what may be happening on the other end of the chat line.  

13. The genuine you

Authenticity is highly perceivable. No matter how hard you try to help your customer, if you are not acting genuinely, he will know it. Most customers have a radar for that sort of thing, which explains why limitless appreciation, apologies, and promises do not always work. Be real and honest, especially under pressure. Not only will the customer connect with you, but you will also save time and energy by not playing the “two-face game.” Yes, being genuine is related to your confidence in the company you work for and your enjoyment of the daily work process. In reality, though, it all comes from within the source – you – and not external factors. 

14. Escalate much?

Depending on the particular company you work for, you may need to work with several different people to bring the final resolution to the table for your customer. But this is an internal process. Nevertheless, it is in your hands. The customer can probably only speak to you and have their fingers crossed that you can work things out. Every customer service department should have a clearly outlined escalation mechanism. Without it, resolution times will increase, and, guess what, customers will be displeased. 

If necessary, escalate customer problems quickly and energetically. Demand a solution! Be the customer you represent! Do not wait for the next day for Ben from accounting to return from his vacation. Is it fair for the customer? No. Find someone who will help you help the customer, and in return, potentially retain them. Always, always, always, if you have a complicated case or complaint that needs time to resolve, leave your communication open-ended. If this requires asking clarification questions or promising to get back to the customer, so be it. Just be proactive. 

15. Sell mode activated!

Sales is a subcategory of customer service. Granted, some companies separate the two into different departments or teams. A good customer service representative knows how to sell, just like a good salesperson knows how to provide outstanding customer service. Thus, when your customer pops up in your live chat window, remember that this is your opportunity to engage your sales skills. Do not waste it! Your company probably provides many different products or services. So upsell and cross-sell to ensure the business can maximize profits! 

For instance, upsell by offering your customer a more expensive, but a better version of the same product/service. If you sell smartphones, you can upsell by promoting the smartphone with more storage memory for a heftier price tag. There is more value to it, is there not? Or cross-sell by explaining that the product or service the customer is interested to purchase is even more valuable and useful with additional gadgets or features. For example, when a customer purchases a holiday tour, you could cross-sell company excursions to the destination of choice.

16. Know thy limits

Even if you have extensive customer service skills, you have limits. This is just a natural part of life. Your limits should not, however, affect the overall customer satisfaction levels. Therefore, a mutual goal between you and your team leader or department supervisor should be to understand your limits. For instance, if you can handle no more than ten customers in live chat simultaneously while maintaining a high quality of service, then that is your maximum. Under no circumstances should you be assisting more than that number of people. You are not Superman/Superwoman. Not only will crossing your limits hurt the customers, but also you as you will become agitated and stressed, resulting in an overall drop in performance and even potential losses. 

My record is 15 customers in a live chat at the same time. What would I consider my limit back then? Hmm, probably no more than 7. Was the company I worked for able to retain a high quality of service under such circumstances? No, and it is hard not to imagine why. Picture this slightly differently. Imagine those 15 customers standing right before me, yet just like in live chat, each can only see me and not the other. Since each expects my undivided attention, they start complaining, all at the same time. That would seem loud and confusing, would it not?

17. Transcripts coming your way

Do not forget this step; offer to send your customers a transcript of the chat you have just completed with them. If the customer forgets an important detail, he can refer to the chat transcript in their e-mail. This means you will not need to chat with the same customer again about the same matter. You are also avoiding the risk of the customer chatting with a different agent, who may find it hard to explain the same things a second time. Finally, if you provided a blissful customer experience filled with positivity and hope, the customer will have a wonderful reminder of it in their records. 

18. Seal the deal with reassurance

Soothe your customers’ concerns by ending your chat on a reassuring note. Promise a solution so the customer does not return due to a lack of trust. You and your colleagues will not have it easy if you take turns chatting with a troubled customer eight times per day. Your precious time will not be saved either. Get the customer to trust you and let them leave the matter in your hands. Inform him about the upcoming steps your will take. Provide a date and time when the customer should expect to hear from you next. And, of course, follow through. 

19. Time to say goodbye

Both you and your customer should always be on the same page. By saying goodbye, you get additional confirmation that the customer consents to finish the chat with you. If you do not do this and end the chat with your customer, he may pop right back up to continue the chat, yet now with one of your colleagues. Sure, this risk is always there, but it can be minimized. Ensure a human goodbye. Do not rush your goodbye either, even if you are desperate to leave the office because your shift finished 10 minutes ago. The customer will feel it and realize your agitation due to the haste. Stay professional, always. 

Goodbye! (Photo by Yan Krukau on

Here is an example of how to properly end a live chat:

CS representative: “Alright, Steve. I will now go ahead and escalate this matter with our IT department as we have discussed. For the time being, I wish you a pleasant day before we end this chat.”

Customer: “Thank you.”

CS representative: “No problem. Goodbye now!”

Customer: “Goodbye!”

20. Remember to follow up!

This may not be part of your live chat, yet the lack of a follow-up makes the entire process worthless. By formerly chatting with your customer, you have built a case for him. If it is a complex case, it may only be resolved once you carry out whatever internal processes are necessary before you can provide a final resolution. Then, the resolution needs to be delivered to the customer. Up until this point, your chat would have been nothing but a step in ensuring customer satisfaction. 

Even if you do not have a final resolution yet, do not make the customer wait for a week until they hear from you! Update them every once in a while. Keep them in the loop on the progress of their case. They will appreciate it and understand that you are a responsible professional. Your customer will know you are undoubtedly working on the case even if you do not deliver the result by the time you promised. Depending on the severity of the case, I would suggest an update every 1 to 3 days to be optimal. I have met people, however, who would not update customers for over two weeks. Would you be patient if it was you waiting for the update? Hmm, I do not think so. 

There are several points to consider when providing live chat support. Just like everything else in life, premium service can become a habit. As a customer, imagine how convenient it would be to contact any company of interest with just a couple of swipes on your smartphone and get quick, high-quality customer service. This is already becoming a possibility with many companies employing customer service via messengers like Twitter, Facebook, and WhatsApp. The practice is becoming a standard. Do not get left behind with technological advancements! 

Maybe you are interested to improve your customer service via email? Or are you thinking of introducing live chat or messenger support for your business? Need recommendations or perhaps an evaluation of your customer service? Feel free to reach out today!


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