10 best practice tips for live chat queue management

How many times have you picked up items as you wandered around a shop, only to abandon them when you saw the massive queue at the checkout? Or gone into the store in need of customer service, but given up when it took too long to be served?

We don’t want to wait in line to spend our money or reach out to businesses. This aversion to waiting for customer support is perhaps why live chat has become such a must-have for online customer service.

But if you’re going to offer ‘live’ service, you can’t give customers an awful wait experience.

With that in mind, here are our top ten best practice tips for live chat queue management.

1. Set queue limits

First, and most importantly, set queue limits. This is the maximum number of chat users allowed in your live chat queue at any one time.

When your queue exceeds the set limit, the chat option displayed on your site will then automatically become unavailable. Any new website visitors won’t be able to request a live chat session, and will instead see an offline message. So, you don’t end up in a mess with dozens of frustrated users sat joining — and waiting in — a growing queue.

💡 Bonus tip: To set a sensible limit, look at how many chat operators you have active at any one time, and how many chats those operators can handle concurrently.)

2. Categorise

Good live chat queue management requires categorisation. So, categorise your company’s common customer queries and needs, and create a different queue for each category.

Each categorised query can then be routed to a properly trained agent. This reduces the number of chat transfers and enables quick, efficient chat handling.

💡 Bonus tip: Use pre-chat surveys to ascertain which department customers want to speak to. As well as determining category, pre-chat surveys help you ensure that each waiting customer gets connected to the right agent without any further delay. This, in turn, reduces their frustration.

3. Prioritise key customers

Prioritising is just as important as categorising. You should be able to prioritise higher value customers or more urgent support enquiries rather than leaving them to stew in a queue.

For example, high-value customers could be identified through CRM integration, cart items or website history. Similarly, queries requiring immediate attention could be identified using smart keyword recognition.

Customers hate being stuck in an endless chat queue

4. Find balance

Live chat queue management involves striking a balance between supply and demand, and between support and sales. So, don’t be afraid to move your team members around.

The occasional re-shuffle can help ensure the most demanding areas of your customer service are being met with enough support. It’s okay if a customer service rep handles a sales query during peak volumes, for example.

💡 Bonus tip: Use back-up routing rules to ensure that no customer is left abandoned in the queue. When chat agents in the right team are busy, backup routing should direct the request to another agent. (Based on next available or least busy.)

5. Look for trends

Your queues are most likely to be full during peak hours and periods. So, look for common times that more chats are requested and increase the number of online agents accordingly.

More available agents at peak times means shorter queue wait times, but too many could mean your agents are left twiddling their thumbs. It’s down to you to analyse and act accordingly.

Define work periods and assign fixed rotas to your chat agents to ensure even coverage

6. Set specific goals

Always set guidelines for target wait times and average handling times. This helps ensure your service standards are maintained consistently, as well as being a useful reference point for employees.

With handling time guidelines, your live chat agents know when they’re providing the best possible service. For example, they can manage conversations knowing whether they have extra time with a customer for upselling or relationship-building, or whether they may need to start wrapping up.

💡 Bonus tip: Set chat auto-closure rules. This will end inactive chats, without agents having to manually chase up users. By automatically closing inactive sessions, you free up more spaces in your live chat queue.

7. Use chatbots

Let chatbots tag-team with your agents to handle FAQs and simplistic problems. Chatbots have no limit on the number of customers they can serve at once, meaning that some customers needn’t queue at all. Chatbots also keep the repetitive, easy queries out of your live chat queue entirely.

8. Use canned responses

Similarly, canned responses can be a catalyst for the live chat queue management process. Use canned responses for repetitive parts of the chat such as greetings and sign-offs, to save your agents from typing the same words in each conversation. It will shave off valuable seconds that can help the team whizz through queues quicker.

9. Manage your experienced agents

Have your experienced agents on hand to handle the hardest and most long-winded chats. Less experienced agents should always be able to transfer chats dealing with complex issues beyond their skillset.

The experienced agent will be more efficient and capable of handling the difficult chat, while the less experienced team member can take and solve a new chat and keep the queue short.

💡 Bonus tip: Tell the chat user you’re going to transfer them, and explain why.

10. Inform waiting chatters

Lastly and obviously: keep your waiting chat users in the loop. Give waiting customers key information such as estimated wait times and alternate support options.

This enables them to decide whether they want to wait or not and gives them other ways of reaching you – likely in a better mood than if they were forced to wait a long time with no explanation. Customers will be more forgiving if you manage their expectations.

Chat users are more likely to experience frustration if they’re not kept in the loop

Live chat queue management: a support must-have

Unfortunately, queues and waits are (mostly) inevitable parts of the customer service picture. But with live chat queue management, you can help take the weight out of waiting.

To start your journey towards quick, competent online service, try a free 30-day trial of WhosOn today.

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