Web Chat has taken hold as the number one customer service improvement for the Enterprise in 2017, but let’s be clear: Web Chat is NOT just for the Enterprise! In fact, 81% of companies surveyed in 2016’s DimensionData Report plan to support web chat features within one year, if they don’t already. I mean, the benefits of offering a nearly instantaneous connection between a potential or existing customer and a team member are self-explanatory. But it can sometimes be difficult to know which features are truly helpful for smaller businesses, or how to manage them well.

Enterprise Omnichannel Contact Centre solutions have some pretty advanced features built right in. Take, for example, the ability to predict staffing needs by traffic trends, or automatically reroute traffic by priority. These features can be great, but for the small to midsized business, it could feel like overkill. The good news is that there’s always a way to select a feature set that fits your scale of business, so let’s take a look at 5 Best Practices that can help you make the most of the Web Chat regardless of the scale of your business!

1. Dissect your personas

Understand your own business and what your particular customers are like when they chat online. If your demographic is primarily Millennials, or mostly Baby Boomers, treat them like they expect to communicate with appropriate language. I know for a fact my Grandma won’t understand “drop your digits in and we’ll treat you right.”A collaborative effort between your Marketing and sales people should be able to produce fairly accurate demographics of your customers, so give them an experience that is tailored towards them and their expectations

2. Give it Context

If a customer is on a specific product page on your website, recognize that they may want help with that particular product. Be friendly (of course), but don’t waste their time. Ask them directly about the product they’re researching. If they’re not on a product specific page, it helps to ask about their particular needs quickly, rather than extending a vague back-and-forth. A quick answer will give your agent context and something to work with and leave your customer feeling respected and helped by your attentive team.

The same goes for other areas of your business. If the customer is on the Support page of your website, your first question after a greeting should be “do you have an account with us? If so, do you know your account number?”. Prioritizing which questions to lead with when a customer in a web chat can bring clarity and save valuable time and frustration for both agent and customer, which can make all the difference in maintaining a high-quality customer experience.

3. Create Healthy Expectations

Depending on the industry you are in and the type of service you offer this could be a point of contention. If a customer is asking for a software fix for a certain type of product, but it takes ten minutes on a web chat to figure that out, pushing them to your support department only frustrates the customer. Don’t be afraid to be clear early: “We don’t troubleshoot technical support questions through this web chat…” Don’t leave it there! With the right message this can easily be turned into a positive experience: “…but I’d be happy to help you diagnose your problem and point you in the right direction”. It’s a win for everyone involved. Let the customer know what they can expect from the chat session and that there may be more steps.

4. The Right Interface

Much like tailoring your language to your customer demographics, consider this data when designing your interface. A user should never have to ask: “what are all these buttons for?”. While Video Chat which is coming along from a technology perspective, it may be out of reach for your customers and potential customers due to their technical proficiency with the software. Keep it simple, uncluttered and easy to use.

5. CRM / Reporting 

While many web chatting technologies have built-in API’s that let you integrate Web Chat with your CRM for account management and reporting purposes, they don’t all play together well. If your company has opted for a Web Chat service that doesn’t support your CRM, don’t let this hinder you. In some way shape or form, this data is essential, even if you have to copy and paste the chat log yourself! No matter what you need to do to get it in the CRM, get it in there. Over time this will be a source of critical information on your customer, their expectations, and your team.

While there are many ways your business can leverage the growing feature set available on web chat – and these features are growing all the time – putting these five best practices will make a difference for your bottom line regardless of which service you use! Happy chatting!