17 Customer Support Chat Tips Distilled From 7.7 Million Chats

At the end of the 90’s we all started chatting. We quickly got hooked on the “no-rules-policy.” We casually talked in emoji and admitted when a message was tl;dr. It’s all a little different when we're using live chat in customer service, though.

“How different?” , is a common question service teams ask us when they get started with Userlike. Over the years, we’ve been working closely together with many great support teams , including those of Trivago, Statista, Daimler, and Bernie Sander’s 2016 presidential campaign.

As much as we’ve been teaching our customers about the best practices in live chat, their experienced teams have also always been a great source of learning for us. We recently tracked that over our entire 6-year existence, Userlikers have conducted over 7.7 million customer chats.

From general language style to specific wording, these are the best live chat support tips distilled from them.

Adjust your style to the customer

The big difference between a chatbot and a human agent is empathy. And that’s what your customer wants to feel in a chat encounter, too.

The writing style of our target group is mostly casual and informal, and that's how we respond. If a customer approaches us with an easy-going attitude, we adapt to that.

Erwin Anmut, Customer Service at Titus

Social mimicking is one fundamental aspect of human interaction. While it’s fine to take off with a neutral greeting, it's best to adjust to the language style of the customer over the course of the chat. Chatting is very much like a face-to-face conversation; you would intuitively adjust your language style to a digital native or a 70-year-old.

Break up long stories

Chatting is fun because it’s quick and easy consumable. The same should go for your customer support via live chat. Instead of writing a lengthy paragraph including all solution steps, it’s better to press enter after one or two sentences:

“OK, I'll explain”
“To upgrade you first have to go to your dashboard.”

This way you are engaging your customer in a conversation rather than overloading her with too much information.

Another bonus of breaking up your thoughts in small bites: The customer can intervene when she notices that you're talking about apples, while she meant pears. The conversation can be redirected by a quick “That’s actually not what I meant.”

Use direct language

Some companies fear for their professional image when first using live chat. They tend to communicate overly formal and indirect – holding onto the established communication etiquettes. This leads to a bestranged chat experience and disregards the easy-going nature of live chat. Better keep it clear and simple:

Indirect Direct
With respect to on
A certain number of Some
The majority of most
Pursuant to Under
In the framework of under
Accordingly, consequently so
For the purpose of, in order to to

Show that you're following

If you talk to someone in person, there are always hints that the other side is –or isn't– listening. That may be eye contact, nodding or facial expressions.

By sprinkling an "I see" here, or an "okay" there, into the chat conversation, you confirm that you're still on the same page with the customer. Listening indicators are one of the most easily overlooked support chat tips.

But don’t take it too far by writing out ambiguous sounds like “Hmhm” or “Uh-huh.” Those are too ambiguous in text, and reserved for an oral communication setting only.

Make use of emoji

Many live chat operators feel insecure about using emoji in their conversations. For no good reason! Emoji are a powerful tool in live chat communication. They are the perfect replacement for body language and tone of voice, thus creating a human vibe. They blend naturally into a professional environment, as long they are used in a reasonable amount.

How I use emojis highly depends on the language style of the customer. It's best to use emojis sparsely when your chat partner doesn't use them. Feel free to place them in without hesitation when they do.

Beate, Userlike Customer Success Team

Emoji can prevent misunderstandings when a statement is ambiguous. When the customer asks for instance “Are you there?,” a plain “Yes, I’m here” is easily misinterpreted as annoyance. This is due to the negativity bias we always have to consider in written communication. So rather make it a happy “Yes, I’m here :)”

It will set a positive tone right from the beginning.

Laugh with your customer

For your customers, live chat is a fun and safe medium to converse. This doesn’t change when they are chatting with a company. It’s possible that cheerful customers will come up with a well-meant joke or pun. And the natural response is laughing, of course.

A happy :D or “Haha” strengthens the bond with your customers and ensures they walk away with a positive vibe around your brand. While your live chat agents are not advised to turn into laughter-seeking clowns, there is space for rolling along with the customer’s jokes .

Be reasonable with abbreviations

While emoji and laughs set a positive tone, colloquial shortcuts like BRB (Be Right Back), LOL (Laughing Out Loud) or np (No Problem) have no place in a professional live chat.

It’s useful to share insider language with friends, but a potential customer might get the impression he is not taken seriously, or that he is not worth your time.

This also applies to acronyms. Don't use something like GTM if you're not certain your chat partner knows it stands for Google Tag Manager. Avoid jargon altogether.

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We recommend using a text expander like Typinator . The app automatically turns abbreviations like FYI into “for your information.” Of course there is no problem speeding up a conversation by using standard abbreviations like “e.g.” or “etc.”

Don’t worry too much about typos

Due to its speediness, typos are a common phenomenon in chat. Try as you might, but they’re difficult to avoid.. Rereading the message multiple times before sending it only slows down your response time.

Besides, typos add a nice human touch to the interaction and show that you are not giving a pre-set answer. You can correct the misspelled word easily with an asterisk: *word.

Be aware that typos and grammar mistakes are not the same. A constant error in linguistics shadows your customer service and thus the image of your brand.

Anton, Customer Success Manager at Userlike

Don’t respond too quickly

One powerful feature in Userlike's Chat Panel is that you can see what the user is typing in real-time before the message is even sent. This allows the service rep to prepare an answer and speed up the process.

We love the preview feature. Thanks to that, we can see what the customer is typing before he sends a message. This gives us time to search for the related order or article.

Robert Hahmann, Customer Happiness at Cyberport

But if you answer too quickly, the natural flow of the chat is disturbed. The customer will think that you are just spitting out canned responses if you reply within a millisecond. Or worse: He might even doubt that you are a human operator after all.

Get the full picture before creating a ticket

If they can’t solve a techy problem, service reps commonly react by creating a ticket for technical support. The better approach is to keep asking questions to get the full scope of the issue.

If you don't understand the technical side of a problem, it's important to ask for a description of the use case. Otherwise you take the risk of playing ‘ping pong’ with the ticket, because crucial info is missing. That’s not efficient for any of the people involved.

Patrick, Userlike Customer Success Team

At Userlike we have defined a standard process for all common scenarios, like complex questions, feature requests or bug reports. This is our workflow in case a customer has a technical problem with our software, for instance:

  1. Exact description of the bug
  2. Collect customer name
  3. Collect contact info
  4. Collect website URL
  5. Collect Browser
  6. Collect Operating system
  7. Set chat topic ‘Tech-x’
  8. Create ticket

Open the window your customer is on

If you want to help your customer navigate your website or software, it's important to know which feature her question relates to, or more generally, what she is stumbling over.

If the customer asks about a setting, for example, and you look at the situation in your dashboard, be sure to switch your dashboard language to the language your customer uses. That way you can give precise indications with the right language terms.

Customer profile in Userlike's Chat Panel.
The customer profile section inside Userlike's Chat Panel, including the URL of the current page.

If you have a hard time following your customer’s written descriptions, you have two options to co-browse and see the page your customer is currently looking at: You can take a screenshot of the user's browser, or you can click on the URL link provided in the chat panel.

Apply the right labels

Make sure that you are using the right terms and expressions for features and categories of your product or service. Inside Userlike, for instance, we make sure that if a customer is looking for the Widget Router we don’t tell her to go to the “route setup.”

To make sure you always have the right expressions at hand, open the pages your customer is referring to in another window. This chat tip is even more important if you offer support in two or more languages, because the labels may be different.

While you can’t expect the same consistency from your clients, always stick to your own lingo. When someone asks us, "Where can I find the Widget Configurator?" we respond with, "Ah yes, you mean the Widget Editor. You can find that in your Dashboard under..."

It’s the same principle that Starbucks radically follows. If you order a “ large latte,” the cashier will let you know that he is ringing up a “grande latte.” Gently educating the customers this way prevents misunderstandings in the future.

Educate then provide instant help

If a customer asks you how to do something, you want your explanation to achieve two things: 1) educate the customer and 2) help the customer.

So a rule we stick to when doing chat support is to:

  1. Explain how to solve the problem, following an ELI5-approach: “Click on 'Settings'>Widgets. This will get you to your Widgets Overview.”
  2. Make it easy for the customer by providing a direct link to the Widget Overview: https://www.userlike.com/dashboard/config/chat_widget/overview

The customer can follow the link directly, without thinking. But you do want to teach them how to get there on their own. For frequently used links, it's worthwhile to set up canned messages that combine explaining with showing.

Share what you are doing

Always keep in mind that the customer doesn’t know what you are doing or if you are doing something at all; unless you clearly communicate it.

In line with our transparency principle for customer service, let the customer know when you create a ticket or forward the chat to another team member. In particular, “intrusive” actions, like co-browsing or taking a screenshot of the user’s browser, should be announced and explained briefly.

Communicate positively

Seems like a no-brainer, but many people underestimate the power of the so-called negativity bias that we mentioned earlier: Whatever is said, the customer tends to interpret it in the least favorable way, in worst case feeling disrespected or unwanted.

For some problems there is just no perfect solution, like if a limited product is out of stock. We always try to combine a negative message with something positive, like trying to give a hint on how he could still reach his aim. Perhaps the item is in one of our physical stores.

Erwin Anmut, Customer Service at Titus

According to a Forrester Survey of 45,000 consumers, emotion is the main factor for customer satisfaction. So make sure that your service reps have a repertoire of feel good wording. Cheat sheets like the following can help them:

Negative Positive
Hi. Hi there! How can I help you?
OK. Alright, I see
No. I'm afraid that's not possible, but instead you could...
You can find that in the tutorial. Yes, let me send you the link to our tutorial!
That's not possible. It won't work like that, but you could...
Anything else? Is there anything else I could help you with?
I don't know I don't know the answer to that now, but I'll gladly check this and get back to you.

Take on a “Go out of your way” attitude

All aforementioned live chat best practices will not fully bloom if the focus of your service staff is on closing the ticket as soon as possible. This is the "get out of the chat" attitude. Better is a "go out of your way" attitude: You're not just working to answer the current question, but you take ownership of the customer's success.

It's always better to tailor your suggested solution to the customer's specific idea instead of offering a generalized feature description.

Bea, Userlike Customer Success Team

For example, when the customer asks about whether the feature can be used in a certain way, the "get out of the chat" answer would be a simple yes or no. A “go out of your way” attitude would also include asking the customer questions about what she is trying to accomplish. This allows the service rep to offer even better options.

Don’t assume

It’s easy to answer a question and wish your customer a farewell right after. In this case, you are assuming that your customer only has one question. But it’s likely that once you have cleared the path, there will be another one waiting around the corner.

Encourage your customer to think about her proceeding customer journey and potential challenges by simply asking: “Is there anything else I can help you with?” This will not only improve customer satisfaction, but avoid the same customer knocking on your door ever so soon again.

Final thoughts on customer support chat tips

If you offer live chat on your website or a Messenger Channel like WhatsApp, an informal communication channel marries a formal customer request. To guarantee a happy coupling, we need to find a language that does justice to both. And learn the little tricks that live chat has to offer.

Make sure that your service reps practice your defined chat etiquette on a daily basis. This will not only allow them to confidently chat with your customers, but skyrocket your customer satisfaction.

Haven’t made the jump to live chat yet? Try any of our plans 14 days for free . Happy Chatting!