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Life as a Live Chat Operator

Posted on 1.01.2014

Customer service, when it takes the digital form, adds an additional layer of complexity. Not only is it necessary to deal with the demands and wildly different temperaments of prospects (many of whom are already highly valued customers) but it has to be done with a virtual smile on your face – and as you might imagine, that’s not always easy to do.

Shirley Gharib, a virtual assistant for PolitePersistence, a productivity app for Gmail that enables user to manage follow-up emails, had an interesting perspective on why she believes live chat improves shopping and, more specifically, the information exchange experience in general.

“Live chatting with customers creates a sense of trust between our company and the individual,” said Gharib. “I think that the ability to chat to me in real time alleviates some fears that we may not put our customers first.” Chatting directly on the site also makes customers happier in the long run since they don't need to wait for a reply email and likely won’t be making a poor buying decision.

Kristie Schmuck, the Social Media Community Specialist of In The Chat Communications, said that when it comes to live chat, she believes that “Customers are less likely to make impulse decisions. This leads to an informed purchase and less remorse on the back end. It also allows the customer the luxury of researching their purchase decision and taking their time without feeling like they are taking time away or holding up other customers/shoppers.” Creating trust and alleviating fear is what draws many enterprises to leverage live chat solutions.

PolitePersistence’s Gharib shared an interesting story about an individual who was asking questions about how the company was founded and the motivation for starting the business. “It seemed like this person just wanted to have a conversation as opposed to asking anything specific about the functionality. I couldn't answer some of these questions so I called John (PolitePersistence CEO John Genovese) and he signed on to our chat provider and kept the conversation going. That individual has become a subscriber and is looking forward to our launch.”

Customer service is not always going to take place on the website – where the brand is in control. Increasingly, social media is taking center stage in the support channel believes Kristie Schmuck, the Social Media Community Specialist of In The Chat Communications.

“I had a customer who announced in social media that he was ready to purchase DirecTV. We responded, but he questioned the credibility of our sales team. He was simply untrusting of the initial pitch and offer to close. Several previous customers were able to see this and step in to "vouch" for the process and put the skeptic's mind at ease. This not only resulted in a successful transaction but the customer was so satisfied he offered his own real time positive reviews to customers that came afterwards.”

So what is it that customers are looking for when they fire up the live chat? “Customers appreciate honesty. They love when you take ownership and admit when you're wrong or have messed up,” says Schmuck. “They also appreciate when you personalize the message to what their specific pain is rather than coming off like a robotic canned response. It shows that you've paid attention and makes the interaction a lot more pleasurable for the customer as well as the operator. Customers appreciate an experience that is tailored to their specific needs.”

Bryce Maddock, CEO of TaskUs, also provided some insight into the life of live chat operations.

"Live chat operators have a very difficult job. A lot of training goes into developing an efficient and effective team, and to be successful in this role you have to be quick-thinking, very intuitive, a great communicator, patient, empathetic and more than anything, helpful," said Maddock.

"When someone engages with a company’s customer service, it’s rarely to tell them how happy they are. 99 percent of the time, they’re dissatisfied, confused or in the process of purchasing something and need your help. In all of these situations, it’s incredibly important all of your live chat operators are trained and know exactly how to handle these situations, but also have incredible subjective decision-making skills to dictate how they handle each step."

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