Customer service training for live chat agents

Just as you wouldn’t put an agent on the phone without training, you shouldn’t put an agent straight onto your live chat service.

Perhaps an agent has experience in the customer service sector. Perhaps they’ve worked on the telephone lines in a contact centre, or dealing with customers face to face in hospitality, or handling emails in a complaints department, for example.

All these responsibilities offer transferable skills, and provide a solid foundation for a live chat agent. But that foundation isn’t enough on its own. You need to provide dedicated live chat customer service training.

So, what do agents need to know, and how can you get started with their focused live chat training?

How live chat is different

Every customer service agent will have or need customer service training. But when it comes to live chat, there are channel-specific skills that any good agent will need to have and hone.

For instance, consider how live chat differs from email. Live chat is a live, real-time channel. This means that agents can’t spend excess time looking for answers or carefully constructing a reply. They don’t have a long time to fix typos or spelling errors. They need to know what to say, and be able to say it in a succinct, error-free way quickly.

Or, consider how chat differs from telephone support. As written communication, live chat offers no vocal cues to aid with understanding. Additionally, agents need to be always on point because customers may refer back to previous messages more than they would on the phone.

Being a live chat agent, then, can be one of the more challenging customer service roles as it requires so many skills in play in short time frames.

Skills that live chat agents need (and why)

So, what skills should customer service training for live chat agents seek to teach and boost?

•       Writing skills

Poor spelling and noticeably bad grammar in a customer service message present an unprofessional, incompetent look for your company or the agent. This sloppiness will hurt the customer’s opinion of you. Worse, it can even suggest that the agent isn’t putting adequate effort into helping them properly.

Unlike email handlers, live chat agents have no extra time to painstakingly go through a reply to catch mistakes. While there is a chance to read through a message and correct typos and small errors, this time is limited.

•       Typing

Due to the real-time nature of chat — in which customers expect quick responses — agents need to be able to type efficiently. While there are tools to help them craft messages quickly, such as canned responses and auto-text, they must still be able to rely on their typing skills to minimise wait times and typos.

•       Communication and empathy

Every customer service agent, no matter the channel, needs effective communication skills. Live chat agents are no different.

Live chat agents need to be personable and empathetic — and this needs to show through in their written communication. They need to be able to find different ways to explain the same thing. And they need to be comfortable identifying customer emotions and responding appropriately.

•       Multitasking skills

Live chat agents, once they’re competent at using the platform, may find themselves needing to manage multiple chats at once. Each of which may need a different tone of voice, different resources sent, and a different tactic.

N.B. When training agents to handle concurrent chats, it’s best to start by getting the fundamentals right for a single chat, then building up. (We recommend a maximum of about three chats at any given time.)

•       Product/service knowledge

It’s much easier to respond quickly when you know the answers to questions off the cuff. Live chat agents need to be well-versed in the products, services, and policies that they’ll be chatting about. This way, they can comfortably provide accurate information, without making customers repeatedly wait while they research the answer.

•       Technical know-how/software familiarity

To get the most out of the live chat channel — and offer the best customer service possible, live chat agents need to know all the tools at their disposal. They need to be well-versed in how to use the features and resources available to them both quickly and effectively.

For example, if they need to get help, they need to know how to best use the program to ask for it. If they need to share a file, consult a knowledge base, or swap channel, they need to feel confident they can do that using the chat client.

Live chat customer service training

You know the skills that customer service training for live chat agents needs to impart. But the question remains as to how to teach them. The answer lies in three key things you need, and how to use and implement them:

1.       Learning resources

A knowledge base all about your policies, your product, your ethos and so on can prove a valuable tool in customer service training. Provided, that is, that agents are taught to use it effectively.

A handy teaching resource is your past chat transcripts — and analysis to go with them. They offer a chance for new agents to see real interactions with chatting customers. They can see what sort of things to expect, what works well, and discuss what they’d do differently to make a better customer experience.  

It’s important not only to have these resources available for customer service training, but that your teams are taught and able to use them efficiently. There’s no point having a knowledge base available if your agents can’t use it, for instance.

2.       Practice

It’s a common saying that practice makes perfect. The best way to help teams learn is to let them practice using their new skills.

For instance, you could make mock chats a part of your customer service training. These practice chats can span a wide range of your FAQ, let agents experience different customer types, and practice using the various features and tools at their disposal.  

Practice also comes in the form of having your agents-in-training explore the product or try out the service. (Where possible.) By using the products you offer themselves, agents can get a clear idea of what the customer experiences. In short, they’ll get a more detailed insight into the product/service, which can help them offer better support.

3.       Support

Customer service training doesn’t have to be a solo activity for new agents. In fact, it can be beneficial to ensure that agents have ongoing support as they learn how to give the best possible service.

Here, escalation protocols are extremely useful. Make sure your green agents have a way to escalate or get help with tricky chats while they’re still settling in.

Support in customer service training means doing everything to help your agents succeed. Another way to do this is to ensure that your representatives are given walkthroughs of your new products, any service updates, and so on.

Customer service training for live chat agents

Live chat can be a tricky channel for agents to master. But it also offers a popular and important channel of communication for your customers.

Customer service training for live chat agents is about meeting the challenges of real-time support, written communication, and technical know-how.

By building on foundational customer service knowledge, you allow for the best possible use of the chat medium.

Useful links

The Mehrabian myth, non-verbal communication, and live chat software

Types of customers on your chat channel, and how to handle them

The difference between first and second line support