Effectively Using Online Chat for Customer Service

For most customers, online shopping generally occurs after they’ve arrived home from work, cooked dinner, and can finally kick back. Unfortunately, customer service help lines that follow a Monday-Friday 8am-5pm business schedule are not available. If a customer is shopping at 9pm and has a specific question, what are their options?

In some cases, the customer will send a customer service e-mail and wait (sometimes days) for a response. Other customers will wait until the next morning to call customer service. However, what if it is Friday night and they can’t wait until Monday morning? In most cases, the customer will leave your website and find another supplier or retailer that offers a similar product and has included the specifications that they were curious about.

Aside from the standard business hours of a customer service help line and the rather slow process of e-mail inquiries, businesses could offer the option to chat online with a “live” customer service representative. For a customer service representative handling phone calls, it is only possible to handle one customer at a time. However, a customer service representative can chat with a few customers at a time. They may be able to handle 2 or 3 customers, depending on the complexity of their issues.

pros and cons of online customer chat supportI have included my own quotation marks around “live” due to the fact that some of my personal experiences have led me to believe that the representative was indeed a computer offering standard messages or a customer service representative simply searching the same databases I had.

If you have ever chatted with a “live” customer service representative, chances are you know exactly what I mean. For example, when you initially start the conversation, you will be greeted with a general message such as “Hi, my name is John. I am here to assist you today.” If you have to use chat several different times and each time “John” assists you, chances are you are receiving a computer generated response.

Beyond the initial greeting, you will present your question and (hopefully) receive an answer quickly. Some online chat services will then answer your question by directing you to a similar situation on their faq or commonly asked questions page. The answer may be general and not necessarily answer your exact question. When you attempt to ask the question again, the response may be the same or you may be sent to another page with little information.

The customer may or may not have an answer to their question when the chat representative presents a closing. It usually goes something like this: “Thank you for contacting live chat. Is there anything else I can assist you with?” If the customer’s question has not been answered, most likely they will leave your website.

Although there are many benefits to implementing an online chat option for your customer service, it can quickly become a headache for your customers if used incorrectly. Customers choose to chat online to avoid calls or e-mails. They also depend on a 24/7 chat to get a response in a speedy manner.

If you are considering implementing online customer service chat options, be sure to have a real “live” human behind the answers. Your customers will quickly become frustrated if their questions are not answered or they are receiving general responses. Even if you have the product they are searching for, if you don’t correctly answer their inquiries, chances are they will purchase from your competitor.

You know that customers are looking for the easiest way to find answers to their questions. They do not want to search or exchange numerous e-mails or phone calls. Online customer service chats are a great option to quickly answer your customers questions.

However, be warned. Customers expect a human interaction that will resolve their issues. If you plan on implementing a chat system that uses computer generated answers or simply refers customers to a page they could have found on their own, you will quickly see customers leaving your website without purchasing. While it is a great customer service tool, online chat should offer the same interaction and resolution that a phone call would offer.

About Andrew Jensen

Andrew Jensen, a business growth, efficiency & marketing consultant, provides business advisory services for clients in the Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; York, Hanover, Lancaster & Harrisburg, PA regions. Andrew advises regarding business growth, productivity, efficiency, business startups, customer service, and online/offline marketing. Follow Andrew on Google+


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