Authentic Chat: Transform Text-Based Customer Service Delivery


While voice customer service still reigns supreme, over the last decade chat customer service platforms have grown in popularity – surpassing email support.

From a Dec. 2016 blogpost at Playvox:

Microsoft’s 2016 State of Multichannel Customer Service Report found that 64% of people polled use live chat for customer support on a regular basis. An survey found that 62% of respondents were likely to return to a website that offers live chat and a further 38% said they made their purchase due to the chat session itself.

Millennials have driven – and are driving – the widespread adoption of chat customer service. From Software Advice:

  • 63% of millennials prefer to have their basic (my emphasis) customer support questions answered by chat versus traditional channels.  
  • Chat is likely to grow in preference, as millennials are much more likely than baby boomers to prefer live chat. 

In their blog post, Playvox was also careful to note that “Phone-based customer support still rates high among consumers, with 81% using it on a regular basis.” A good portion of the continued reliance on voice support can likely be attributed to the reluctance of customers to share financial or personal information via chat (or email, or other alternative support channels) – rather than voice. 

Fans of chat mention convenience and positive outcomes as its primary selling points. Chat lets customers communicate with agents in real-time while avoiding the need to remain on hold, tied to a telephone.

In the hunt for additional channels through which to engage with customers, chat is a valuable and highly-effective customer service tool.

But chat isn’t a cure-all for floundering customer service. With 75% of customers feeling it takes too long to reach a live agent either via chat or phone, it remains essential to quickly get a live agent on the line.

The Challenge with Chat Customer Service

Chat has another limitation. Namely, ensuring that context and positive emotion are passed along in simple characters. Sometimes it can be very easy to misinterpret the meaning behind the text.

This lesson was brought home (literally) recently in a series of texts with my college student daughter.

Upon texting my daughter a question, her first response to a text from me was the single terse word: no

Her second response to me: what is this discussion about

When I asked her if she was trying to be rude, and what was going on with the monosyllabic one word replies, she denied that I could infer how she sounds or feels by text.

Oh, but my dear – you can.

One word replies set the tone of the text and her ‘what’s this call about’ query set the condition. The point: just as I could tell my daughter was annoyed with me, you can also read the tone of chat agents.

How to Make Chat Customer Service ‘Sound Real’

So how can call center operators avoid coming across like my daughter? How can they make sure – even though the conversation is in writing – that chat agents come across as warm & welcoming?

For centers managing chat customer service, the key is to hold chat agents to the same standards as voice agents.

  • As with voice agents, chat agents are your ambassadors – your experts in communicating the value of your products & services. And just like voice agents, the customer must be the agent’s top priority.
  • Chat agents need to understand what the customer’s likes & needs are and match them up with solutions – meaning they have to get details from the customer.
  • Customers need to “hear” a cheerful tone.
  • They should understand that agents are “listening” and can help – which means avoiding saved, generic answers that don’t directly apply to your customer.
  • Agents should engage in a conversation that is directed towards the customer’s needs and desires.
  • Agents should share features & benefits that are directly applicable to the customer in order to cement your Sales or Save efforts.
  • Customer objections should be addressed with workable solutions.
  • Agents should ensure the customer feels valued & understood in order to make the customer journey a positive experience.
  • As with all customer service engagements, it should be made as effortless as possible for the customer.