The Three Types of Live Chats and How to Prepare for Them

August 7, 2014 Leave a Comment

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There’s a science to customer conversations. It may not be rocket science, but knowing what the customer is hoping to accomplish by talking to you has an impact on the person and information you bring to the conversation. This is especially true for web-based live chat.

Fortunately, there are 3 common types of live chat that can be planned for and staffed. This makes it a lot easier to build your live chat team to meet your specific needs and objectives.

Live Chat Best Practice: While the personnel requirements for each type of chat may vary, a well-formed live chat team still maintains a baseline requirement for qualities like courteousness and the ability to properly represent the brand and its voice.

Use this quick guide to the 3 primary types of live chat conversations to plan your team and live chat strategy.

Live Chat Type #1: Informational

The first, and most basic, live chat type is as simple as providing information and answering the questions of your site visitors. This type of live chat is oriented towards providing objective, factual information that your site visitors can use to make a decision (“What is the length of the warranty on these plasma televisions?”) or to take an action (“How do I provide a different shipping and billing address for my order?”).

This type of live chat, similarly, has the most basic of personnel requirements. Typically, the chat personnel have the resources and standard responses to handle the most common questions. More complex or uncommon questions can be redirected to a more specialized agent as needed. This type of chat is also well-suited for administrative assistants and other staff whose primary responsibility leaves them the freedom to handle basic live chats.

Informational Live Chat Agents…

  • Should be provided a list of common questions and answers
  • Should be well-versed in website functionality and company policy
  • Should have access to product specifications

Live Chat Type #2: Sales

There is a point in many live chats where information gathering changes to requesting recommendations. That’s when the discussion becomes a sales live chat. If this happens frequently on your site, you need to have live chat agents that are focused and trained on sales chats.

A sales chat agent will have all the information that an informational chat agent does, but will also have an innate talent or the training to learn the needs of a prospect and help them choose the best product for their situation.

Live Chat Best Practice: Many companies that require sales live chat agents will have their regular sales team handle live chats when they’re otherwise unoccupied.

Ideally, sales chat agents will also have ready access or knowledge of product comparison information. This kind of data is critical to helping customers choose the right product, and ensure their ongoing satisfaction afterwards.

Sales live chat agents should also have knowledge of current and upcoming promotions so that they can best help guide a customer to a paramount buying experience. Helping your customer find a great product with a promotional price is a fantastic way to create happy customers and increase sales conversion ratios.

Sales Live Chat Agents…

  • Should have access to the same information as informational chat agents
  • Should have access to product comparison information
  • Should have access to current and upcoming promotions
  • Should have the ability to understand and develop rapport with customers

Live Chat Type #3: Customer Service

The final type of live chat focuses on previous and current customers. Customer service live chats emphasize on helping those customers – usually to solve a problem they’ve had with their purchase. Handling these conversations, which can frequently be difficult and occasionally even heated, requires a specialty live chat agent.

A customer service live chat agent will typically have access to the most possible information – everything an informational and sales live chat agent has, plus additional information like customer and order records. On top of that, customer service live chat agents should be empowered to award (or at least request) refunds and authorize returns.

More important than having the right information available, a customer service agent needs to have the right temperament to help a frustrated customer through a vexing situation and bring the matter to a satisfying close. Because each request could take a long time to resolve, it’s best if your customer service chat agents are focused on customer service only so that their attention does not need to be divided.

Customer Service Live Chat Agents…

  • Should have access to the same information as informational  and sales chat agents
  • Should have access to customer and order records
  • Should have the ability to authorize/request refunds and returns
  • Should have the ability to manage difficult situations and customers

Build Your Live Chat Team to Suit Your Needs

While there are 3 types of live chat, that doesn’t mean you have to staff 3 different types of agent. It’s important to start by identifying the types of live chats you are most likely to handle and build your team to meet those needs.

If a sales or customer service live chat is going to be a rare exception to the normal informational chat, then it’s probably not necessary to have a dedicated sales/customer service live chat agent.  Just make sure that your informational chat agents can escalate or bring in someone to help with those more complex issues.

Building the right live chat team is just a matter of understanding what kinds of chats you’ll have and then arranging for the right people to handle each type.

Written by Jeff Mason | Jeff Mason is vice president of marketing at Velaro, where he oversees the company's entire marketing function. Previously, he served as vice president of marketing at Social Solutions and co-founded Artifact Software. He was also vice president of corporate communications and marketing at Sequoia Software.

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