The dos and don’ts of canned responses


Canned responses are a staple feature of live chat software. In a nutshell: a canned response is a pre-set reply to a commonly used phrase or question.

It’s a godsend to busy agents looking to shorten their response times, and prevents the frustration of continual retyping.

But a canned answer isn’t always the best answer.

When used incorrectly, those pre-set responses can come across as artificial and awkward.

So, as a canned response best practice guide, here are some key dos and don’ts.

✓ Do: Use canned responses to reply to basic FAQ

There’s no need to manually retype company addresses, opening hours, websites and contact details session after session after session. It wastes your time, and delays the customer.

Canned responses are designed for your FAQ. Rather than typing out the exact same information hundreds of times a day, create an automatic live chat answer for each basic question you’re commonly asked.

✘ Don’t: Automate entire conversations with canned responses

Canned responses shouldn’t replace the human element in a conversation. As a way of saving time and speeding up the FAQ process, they’re brilliant.

As a substitute for a real agent, however, canned responses are a poor imitation.

People want to talk to people. They can tell when they’re being fobbed off with scripted answers, and they’ll quickly get frustrated.

✓ Do: Personalise your canned responses

Canned responses don’t need to sound canned. Wherever you can, adjust the answer to suit the user and their needs.

It could be as simple as adding the customer’s name at the end of the message, rather than sending the stock phrase. Or perhaps you could add an emoji to mirror the tone of the chat session.

It doesn’t have to be anything time-consuming: just a small personalised touch will go a long way. Think of a canned response as a foundation to build on, rather than the finished article.

✘ Don’t: Use bland, robotic language

“Hello %name%. Thank you for getting in touch today. How can I be of assistance?”.

“Please wait a moment while I pull up your account and access your details.”

“I can see that you are frustrated and would like to escalate this issue. I will escalate your chat to the complaints team now. You will be connected in a few moments.”

Yes, those canned responses all work and all serve a purpose. But they sound stilted and insincere, and customers will sniff out the automation a mile off.

✓ Do: Use longer canned responses where relevant

Canned responses don’t have to be for basic FAQ alone. They can also be built around more complex processes and procedures, such as explaining your returns policy or a purchase installation process, for example.

Detailed canned responses can be a lifesaver in longer live chat conversations.  Particularly when it comes to existing customers or prospects on the brink of buying, they’ll alleviate the lengthy explanations that come with your in-depth chats.

✘ Don’t: Use a canned response to cut corners

If you’re only using canned responses to rush through a chat: stop.  

Send the message if it’s 100% relevant and fully matches the user’s request. Don’t send it just to respond quickly, hoping it’s what the customer was looking for.

If in doubt, seek clarification. The customer will appreciate that more than a confusing canned answer that doesn’t fit.  Don’t force square pegs into round holes.

Canned response best practice

We fully recommend using canned responses as part of your live chat solution. They’ll save you time and tedium, and create a more efficient service process.

Just be sure you don’t allow them to become a crutch for ill-trained operators.

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