Live chat and customer anxiety


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Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash
Photo by Tim Goedhart on Unsplash

Customers come in all moods and mindsets. Some are confident, some are angry, some are calm, some are anxious. And when it comes to customer service, some contact channels are better suited to different moods than others.

Customer anxiety, in particular, is tricky to manage. Service practices that work for most customers may not create good experiences for anxious ones. One of the best channels for catering to customer anxiety is live chat software.

Here’s why.

Self-service won’t cut it

For most anxious customers, self-service support options aren’t enough. That is, they don’t quell the discontent the customer is experiencing. When people get anxious, it’s human nature to seek empathy and reassurance from others. Self-service options, like FAQs, can’t offer that.

Without active help, anxious customers worry about making the wrong decisions. This means that they often struggle to resolve problems on their own. So, for anxious customers, service needs to come from a human – and an empathetic one at that.

Empathetic service is the ultimate tool to calming anxiety-plagued customers. When you can identify and empathise with a customer’s anxieties, you reassure them that their worry is normal. This validates their feelings and encourages confidence.

The upshot is that anxious customers become less stressed, and more open to discussing their concerns and finding a solution.

Quiet discretion

So, you need a channel that can support empathetic, human service. Like phone calls. Telephone support connects anxious customers to human agents, and agents get useful vocal cues to aid empathy. That is, they can listen for anxiety markers.

The problem here is that some customers may find it hard to use the phone if they’re feeling anxious. Phones aren’t always used in private spaces. For the customer, they might be anywhere, from on the bus to the middle of their office. For agents, they’ll likely be within earshot of all their support colleagues.

This has two key effects. First, it’s resulted in the perception of phone calls as an intrusive form of communication. Second, it means that there’s a lack of privacy or discretion. Both agents and customers will be speaking within earshot of other people. Not to mention the stress that can occur from poor IVR systems or finding yourself talking to the wrong department.

For a socially anxious customer, these points present major hurdles to using telephone support.

The need for real-time

What about email support, then? Emails are both quiet and private channels for customer support. The customer also gets a chance to regulate their replies. Plus, they can calm down while they wait for your response.

Except that’s not how anxiety works.

Alongside the need for human empathy, customer anxiety also demands real-time service. Without it, you risk prolonging anxious feelings and customer concerns. After hitting send, anxious customers can start to worry about whether you’ll see it. How long do they need to wait? What if you don’t reply at all? Was their message clear enough? (And so on.)

The result is the creation of an anxiety echo-chamber. Without reassurance that all is well, the customer only has their concerns in mind. This doesn’t make for a good experience.

Finding familiarity

So, anxious customers benefit from quiet, real-time, empathetic support. This is where live chat software shines.

First, live chat software boasts a high level of privacy for the customer. They don’t have to speak out loud. Instead, they quietly type their problems out. This means that live chat is far more accessible for the socially anxious.

Second, live chat happens in real-time. So, the customer doesn’t have to wait extended periods of time to have their anxiety quelled. Agents can respond quickly and turn customer anxiety into relief that you’re ready to help them. So, they don’t brew an anxious storm in a teacup and have a better experience as a result.

Finally, there’s the familiar nature of live chat. People talk to their friends using chat — it’s friendly and less formal than other channels. It’s not intrusive, people use chat every day. This familiarity and comfort is then applied to the support experience, which can have calming effects.

Offer choice

Different customers value different channels. And different moods and contexts befit different support approaches. So, your service should be able to flex around customer needs.

For anxious customers, live chat software makes for a low-barrier way to get problems solved. Failing to offer a real-time, accessible and comfortable support line means failing those customers.

Ultimately, it’s all about choice. To cater to every customer, it’s best to offer a range of contact options with an omnichannel support offering. That way, the customer can choose the channel that best fits their mood, problem and preferences.


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