A no-win scenario
Imagine you are the customer service representative working the live chat support on the day of the company holiday party. It's pretty quiet in the office, but you get an incoming chat that says HAPPY HOLIDAYS! You think, "wow...so kind", but then you notice no reply, and eventually, it ends. Immediately afterward, you get another, and then another. Again, some chats say Happy Holidays, while others are silent. When you finally notice 100+ chats in the queue, your team realizes something must be up.
Receiving 100 chat support requests at once is overwhelming, but the fact is that companies all over the world are dealing with an influx of chat support requests. A 7 survey of over 1,000 consumers aged 18-34 found that more than 37% of participants selected chat as their preferred method to contact companies. Moreover, chat has overtaken phone and email as the top customer service channel, so it's not going away.
Tools for customer service success
As the customer service representative, what survival tactics do you use in the situation above?
Treat every chat as if it is a brand-new customer
Treating every chat as a new customer may sound easy. Yet, when you have that many chats in a queue, it can be tempting to assume they are spam and end each one. The problem is that you only know who is on the other end of that chat once you talk with them. So no matter how stressful the moment may be, the most crucial goal is to provide the best experience to every potential customer. This strategy is one of the critical elements in the star model of customer service excellence, which is covered in depth in our Customer Service Essentials Course. You may have already answered 50 chats, but this may be the customer's first time writing in, so you want to make it an efficient and positive experience.
One way to handle an influx of customer service chats is to create templates. This will help you to treat every chat as a new customer. For example, our team started a word document of frequently asked questions and replies. The most used of these are the greeting and closing. For example, our introduction is "Hello, this is Nicole from Customer Service. How may I assist you today?" Imagine having to type that out 100 times in a row. Having a document to copy and paste these phrases saves time and stress by limiting potential spelling and grammatical mistakes. This will also help with keeping answers consistent between customer service representatives.
Not only do templates help you to assist the customer, but it helps the customer to have a positive experience. For example, you can spend more time on the chat finding the correct answers to questions rather than replying. The template will provide an excellent starting point, although you may need to tailor your answer to the client's needs.
Let's be honest about limiting mistakes; handling multiple chats can get confusing. Some may call me old-fashioned. However, I prefer to keep a notepad at my desk. Good note-taking can be beneficial when your call/chat volume is high. In the scenario above, if you get a customer on the line, you need to handle their requests promptly and proficiently. Mistakes can easily be made if you are handling multiple chats at once. Writing down the name, contact info, and chat summary will be helpful if you need to refer back to double-check something.
That sounds like a no-brainer, right? It might be easy to lose your patience, knowing you have a never-ending flow of chat after chat waiting for you. Take a breath. Some people have stress balls; on our team, we have glitter jars; whatever your outlet may be, use them. This will not only help with creating a positive work environment but also help with creating a positive customer experience. Remember to smile when you move on to the next customer. That may sound corny, but that smile does carry through to your communication- the customer will sense it even though they cannot see it.
Back to the scenario when the chat queue was overloaded...
You have applied all these practices to your chats and completed the chat queue. You managed to sift through the actual customers and what seemed weird spam.
Your coworker, who happens to be at the holiday party, messages you privately, "HAPPY HOLIDAYS!" The COO thought it would be a hoot to ask everyone to google the company website, go to the customer service chat, and send a "Happy Holidays" message to see what would happen.
Luckily, nothing bad happened because the team was prepared. It was a Christmas miracle and became known as the day "the COO asked everyone to blow up the customer service chat support."
This piece was originally posted March 8, 2018 and has been refreshed with updated links and formatting.