Live chat is one of the preferred methods of contact for most customers, which is why many companies have adopted its use on their websites. By nature, it also helps speed up communications and improve the overall customer support experience.

But like all things, there is a right and a wrong way to do it. Gloss over or forget crucial elements, and suddenly you’re looking at a platform that hinders — rather than helps — the experience.

Here are some ways to improve your site’s live chat function, quickly, so it provides the best possible experience for your customers.

1. Around-the-Clock Support

The entire point of a live chat system is to make support channels more convenient for your customers. Whether they’re sitting at home on the couch, on a lunch break or awake late at night while the rest of their family is asleep, they know support is always available to them. It doesn’t make sense, then, to have the live chat function running for a small window of time.

Live chat should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. Some tools can make this possible even for a small business. And if you don’t have the manpower or resources to hire a team, you can always fall back on AI or automated tools.

Nordstrom, for instance, offers live chat support 24/7 in both the U.S. and Canada. Even better, you can see from the screenshot that when you open a chat window, you can specify what topic you need help with — making for a quick and easy communication session with reps on the other end.

2. Keep Information Collection to a Minimum

As a customer, live chats are excellent for receiving help or troubleshooting because you can provide more detailed information about what you’re experiencing or what problems you’re having. Keep this in mind when structuring your chat tool. There’s no need to collect loads of information from your customer before the chat even begins, overwhelming them in the process.

It’s best to collect their name, possibly their account information and a few details about what they need or what problem they’re having. The representative can gather everything else during the live chat, allowing them to respond in kind. Some details may even be extraneous, depending on what the customer needs.

3. Greet Customers as You Would an Old Friend

Live chat also tends to be more personable, especially when it involves a one-on-one conversation between two people. That’s another reason customers flock to the channel: They love interacting with another human — or, at least, feeling like they are.

Whether you have a live human rep on the other side or an AI assistant, make sure you’re talking in conversational terms with your customers. Treat them as you would a beloved friend or family member.

Following this advice also means finding representatives or using an AI that can exude the appropriate personality. Writing formal and short replies makes for a bland, uninteresting experience.

Ubisoft’s Sam is an excellent AI assistant that communicates with customers via chat sessions in the Ubisoft Club app. It’s an outstanding example of what is possible with this tech.

Sam sends a personalized greeting to players of Assassin’s Creed Odyssey every day they log in to play the game. During each conversation, the assistant provides gameplay stats, details on current progress and a variety of tips. The AI builds a relationship with players through a collection of user data and game progress, and it works swimmingly.

4. Intuitive Design Techniques

What does the chat window look and feel like to the customer? Is it ugly? Attractive? Before the chat window is open, can the customer easily discern how to pull it up? Do they know who is speaking to them and what field they can use to respond?

Some of these questions may seem silly, especially the one about the text or typing fields, but they are incredibly important nonetheless. Consider the design of both your chat function and windows. Customers should be able to access them in just a single click. They should also be able to figure out how to respond and how to interact with whoever’s on the other side — remember, not all your customers are tech-savvy.

Notice how on the Energex site, the contact button in the bottom right stays focused, even when you scroll down the page. At any given time, customers know exactly where to go and what to select to reach out to the company’s support team. That, friends, is intuitive design at its finest.

5. Reduce Wait Times as Much as Possible

In essence, people flock to live chat because it helps them solve their problem quickly. Comparatively, phone-based support hotlines can take forever to connect with a rep and explain what’s wrong or connect with a rep. It breeds frustration and anger, and destroys satisfaction.

Don’t make the same mistakes with your chat system. You want your customers to be able to connect to someone quickly, with as little delay as possible. Cutting down on the initial information collected can help, as can choosing an optimal chat tool or function.

6. Don’t Forget About Your International Customers

For some businesses, this tip may not apply. However, if your reach is worldwide — and when you’re online, it almost always is — you’ll need to factor in support for customers outside your primary language. In other words, you’ll need to have a proper translation system or multilingual workers on hand.

This attention to detail allows you to not only provide support to customers in other areas of the world, but also to garner more robust communications and insights on how diverse audiences see and interact with your brand.

7. Get Rid of Passive Language

Imagine this: You reach out to chat with someone, and after giving you their name, they tell you your “claim” or “complaint” is “being investigated.” It sounds a bit sterile and stilted, as if the person on the other side of the conversation has no investment in what’s happening.

But what if you changed the wording to, “I am looking into your complaint”? It implies a more aggressive and active tone. It feeds the idea that the person on the other side truly cares and is doing everything they can to assist the customer.

Get rid of passive language and passive tones. They are no good for one-on-one conversations, especially when you need to present yourself in a more personable manner.

8. Make Use of Your Data

Customer John Doe is trying to make a payment on your storefront using his credit card. Unfortunately, he made a mistake and typed the wrong CVV in. To him, everything else looks in order, including his name, address, credit card number and expiration dates. He can’t figure out what’s wrong, so he turns to your live chat to ask for help.

It’s a simple fix, and one that calls for a brief answer. But things can get unnecessarily complicated if you don’t use the data and information at your disposal. You could end up asking John multiple times what’s wrong — once initially and several times again when connected to the rep. The process becomes long and drawn-out, when really, that same rep could look at what page John was viewing before he asked for help, and what error codes or messages he encountered.

Of course, this requires a connected toolset that merges all the disparate data and information, but chances are you already have something like this in place. It’s a straightforward matter of taking the data at your disposal and putting it to proper use. Rely on it to help enrich the conversations and interactions you’re having with customers.

9. Do the Research

Neither you nor your reps know and can plan for every contingency or question, but that’s OK. Sometimes a customer query will call for a little research. If you need to look something up and will take longer to respond, that’s no problem — as long as you make sure the customer knows.

It’s better from a customer-service perspective to be honest that you’re looking for a proper answer or solution, rather than telling them flat-out that you can’t do anything or don’t know. So, don’t be afraid to put them on hold for a minute or two while you sort things out.

10. Document Everything

This tip goes hand-in-hand with the previous advice about doing added research. When you encounter new problems, make sure you document the entire process. Your notes will help you improve speed and reliability next time the same problem appears. More importantly, it might help provide added context for future issues — some you may not even know are on the horizon.

Make sure to detail what the problem or concern was, how your rep handled the situation and what the outcome came to be. Then, compile and share that information with your entire support team.

Live Chat Is Invaluable When Done Right

Always-on, friendly support is a boon for any business. Customers are going to need assistance, sometimes at odd hours or when others wouldn’t normally be around. That’s precisely where a live chat service is at its most useful.

Not to mention, people tend to migrate toward live chat options over any other support channel because they know they’re interacting directly with another human. If you follow the tips discussed here, you should be able to hone your live chat, effectively turning it into one of the greats.