Responding to Customers

It’s important that conversations with customers feel personal and meaningful. You can accomplish this by using an informal tone and following some best practices.

Screenshot of a conversation between a customer and a business. The business uses a tone that is friendly and respectful.

Live Agents

Make an introduction. Always introduce live agents when a conversation begins and after transferring a customer to a new agent.

Limit conversations to a single agent at a time. Individual senders aren’t visibly identified in the conversation. If another agent is needed, ask for permission to transfer the customer.

Make sure transfers between agents are smooth. The customer should never be forced to start again or re-explain an issue. After transferring the customer to another agent, the new agent should resume the existing conversation where the previous agent stopped.

Automated Agents

Clearly identify automated agents. When the customer starts chatting with an automated system, provide a message like “This is an automated agent.” or “I'm an automated agent.”

Allow switching from an automated to a live agent. A live agent must be reachable anytime the customer texts the word help. If a customer sends help outside of normal customer service hours when live agents aren’t available, an automated response should let them know when a live agent is able to respond. Additionally, if an automated agent doesn’t understand a request, the agent must seamlessly transition to a live agent after displaying a message like “I'm routing your message to a live agent to better assist you.”

Creating Great Responses

Use familiar, understandable words and phrases. Avoid acronyms or other jargon that might cause confusion.

Use imagery often. An image often provides immediate clarity for something that’s complex or otherwise requires extensive discussion. When asking a customer to choose a product, for example, you can make the choice easier by showing product photos. When a customer reports physical damage to an item, ask for a photo so they don’t have to spend time describing the damage.

Provide assurance that you can help. For example, when a customer asks about a product, you might respond with “I see that you’re asking about [Product Name]. How may I help you with it?”

Don't ask for previously provided information. Agents can access the entire conversation history, including previous responses and recent transactions, so there should be no need to ask a customer to repeat information.

Respond quickly and appropriately to actionable requests. Certain keywords provide enough information for you to take action without asking for more input.

Keywords Action
agent, support, help Transfer to a live agent.
menu, list View a menu or list of available items.
unsubscribe, spam, stop, end Disable push notifications.
settings, preferences Display messaging options or preferences.

Set expectations when you can’t respond immediately. If an immediate response isn’t possible, thank the customer for the message and give an estimated wait time. Customers waiting for a live agent should never wait more than five minutes for an update on their position in the queue. If a customer sends a message after hours when live agents aren’t available, an automated response should let them know when a live agent is able to respond.

Respond only to active conversations. When a customer ends a conversation, they shouldn’t receive additional messages unless they initiate a new conversation.

Offer further assistance before ending a conversation. After addressing a customer’s issue, ask if you can help with anything else.

Notifications

Ask for permission before enrolling a customer in push notifications. Don’t assume people always want notifications. When a customer opts into notifications, explain how to opt out in the future. For example, you could send a response that says “You’re now signed up for order status notifications. Text ‘unsubscribe’ at anytime to turn off notifications.” Make sure your opt out process is straightforward and easy to remember.

Support standard subscribe and unsubscribe actions. When the customer texts subscribe or unsubscribe, you should enable or disable notifications accordingly, or present a way to change subscription options.

Use a list picker to enable changes to settings. If you offer messaging options or preferences, present them in a list picker at the customer’s request; for example, when the customer texts the word settings, preferences, subscribe, or unsubscribe.