Why You Should Pattern Web Chat after an In-Store Experience

I had a terrible web chat experience last week that set my thinking in motion (BTW I’m looking for a new home alarm system).

After getting a not-too-intrusive invitation to chat, I accepted and the conversation went like this:

Joe: Can you tell me if you carry 2GIG products?

Agent: In case we get disconnected, can you give me your name and email address?

Joe: Nope, just looking for the answer to my question.

Agent: Have you contacted us previously?

Joe: Seems like you don’t have an interest in answering my simple question. Thanks. Bye.

I guess I could have stuck with it to see how far the agent would carry the chat session without giving me an answer, but instead I disconnected and moved on to the next vendor on my list.

In many cases, web chats are filled with people who just want a quick answer to a simple question. Not a question met with a question. Just an answer. What if I walked into the local Home Depot and asked, “Where would I find the drill bits?” and I was responded to with, “My name is Steve, what is your name? While we’re walking over to the drill bit isle, what is you cell phone number, just in case we get separated? Do you think you’ll be purchasing a drill bit today, within one week, within six months, one year or longer?” I would look at the store employee like he was nuts. I just want to know where the drill bits are!

Yet, in chat sessions we tolerate similar poor service. Best practice would say, very simply — answer the customer’s question first, then see if there is anything else you can help him or her with.

Going back to my Home Depot example (yes, I like Home Depot), the thing that makes their employees good are three things. First, it usually isn’t too difficult to find someone to help you. Second, the employees are pretty knowledgeable both about the products and the store layout. Third, the employees aren’t asking if you need a drill to go with that bit, maybe a couple dozen 2×4’s so you’ll have something to drill holes into. Instead, they get to the point with the answer to the question — drill bits? Aisle 6, half way down on the left side. Then depending on how busy it is in the store that day, they may walk you to the aisle just to be sure you find them.

Interestingly, Home Depot doesn’t offer web chat on their website. Come on Home Depot chief services officer, time to catch up to the latest and greatest service practices.

Well, if you’re a Home Depot fan or not, you get the idea. The in-store service experience I describe above is the exact best practice for web chat. Staff appropriately so there are enough agents to respond to the demand. Be sure they are trained so they have the right answers. Then most importantly, answer the question! This is the approach that will have your web chat customers leaving with the answers they are looking for, and a service experience that will create a positive link to your business.

Joe Staples — chief believer that web chat is a wonderful tool if used correctly