The etiquette around visitor typing previews

Imagine knowing what your customer was going to say before they said it. With visitor typing previews in live chat software, you get a glimpse of exactly that.

Used correctly, this insight into what the visitor is typing gives you a helpful leg up. Use the sneak peek option wrong, though, and you come across as creepy.

Here, we explore the etiquette around visitor typing previews.


What are visitor typing previews?

Visitor typing previews are exactly as they sound — a preview into what your chatting visitor is typing, as they type it. It’s a stream into their live keystrokes, before they’ve even clicked to submit.

So, you’re privy to the customer’s typed thoughts as they compose each message — including the things they type and delete. This gives you the opportunity and extra time to fine-tune your service to the customer’s mood and need.

Typing previews mean that you can see what relevant information you need to collect before you’re asked for it. So, you can start gathering it sooner, making for a speedy response. It gives you extra time to think about the solution to tricky problems or the best way to word your response. And, because you can see what the visitor deletes, you get a peek at how the customer truly feels.


What not to do

Visitor typing previews are a great tool, but there’s a major pitfall to avoid when using them. Namely, the danger of appearing creepy and overbearing if you don’t use them discreetly.

In other words, there’s an etiquette to follow and a few things you should avoid doing.

For a start, don’t start typing your reply before the chat user hits send. Similarly, you shouldn’t reply to a message before they send theirs. Even if it’s an easy question with a canned answer, pre-emptive question answering comes across as startling and intrusive. Wait for the user to send their message. Then you can reply.

You also need to be careful that you don’t reply to the message they typed, rather than the one they sent. Doing this not only tells the user you were watching them type and comes off as invasive, but also doesn’t answer the question they asked.


How to use chat previews

With what not to do out of the way, what should you do when using visitor typing previews?

  • • Retrieve relevant information right away, so it’s at hand when you reply

You know what the customer is about to ask for, so gather the information you need for them while they finish typing. That way, you can check and send the resources they need quickly. This builds trust and confidence in your ability to help them.

  • • Think about the best response

Some customer service chats are trickier than others. So, use visitor typing previews to gain an extra moment to find the solutions to tricky problems.

  • • Identify the real customer mood

The mood of the customer is a significant factor in determining the overall customer experience. Identifying customer mood lets agents respond empathetically and create genuine human connections. Alongside tools like sentiment analysis, typing previews give agents insight into the mood behind the messages.


Previewing abuse

There’s one other situation where the etiquette around visitor typing previews needs discussing. That is, what should you do if the customer types an abusive message? You don’t have to put up with abuse at work. If a customer sends an abusive message, follow your guidelines or the three-strike rule to shut the abuse down.

But with visitor typing previews, you can see what the customer types. So, what if a customer types an abusive message, but doesn’t send it, instead deleting it to send a more reasoned approach? You can’t ask the customer to stop — they haven’t actively sent you the abusive message. But it’s still unpleasant to deal with.

For a start, remember that the customer is trying to stay calm and reasonable. Their unsent message (however unpleasant) is an insight into how upset or angry they’re feeling. Try to respond as empathetically to their sent response as possible. You know they are upset, so respond to that emotion with appropriate empathy statements.

Show that you’re trying your best to help them. Let your supervisor know the situation with internal chat. This way, they can ‘listen in’ on your chat. From there, they can offer supportive whisper messages, or take over the chat with supervisor intervention.

Visitor typing previews allow you to address problem customers before they become abusive.


Visitor typing previews

Being able to see the future would help us better prepare for what it holds. With visitor typing previews, you can get a sneak peek at the future — at the next thing your customer will say to you. But it’s only useful if you can avoid the pitfalls that come with it.

So, be sure to follow the golden rule for visitor typing previews:

Only reply to the messages your customers actually send — and only after they’ve sent it.


Useful links

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

When chatters attack: dealing with abusive customers

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