10 Writing Skills Operators Need to Chat With Visitors
I have came across a recent article that resumes in ten simple and concise tips the primordial skills a propagator of Islam via chat must have. I have adapted the ten tips as means to make it fit our specific profile of online propagation of Islam. The author says: “Chat may be popular, but doing it right is not easy. Writing high-quality chat is a lot harder than it looks. (There’s way more to chat than typing fast and pushing links!).” The following are the necessary solid skills an operator must acquire.
1- Mix templates and free text. I strongly believe that chat agents should have access to a library of high-quality prewritten content (templates) and that they should use templates to answer customers’ questions. But visitors do not respond well to canned chats, so operators need to be able to switch from template to free text, as needed.
In the following example the operator does a good job of this. He is chatting with John, who is asking a typical question. The operator’s first statement is clearly a template, but his second is free-texted to answer John’s question directly.
John: What’s Islam?
Operator: Islam is not a new religion, but the same truth that God revealed through all His prophets to every people. For a fifth of the world’s population, Islam is both a religion and a complete way of life. Muslims follow a religion of peace, mercy, and forgiveness
John: OK. So what’s the difference with other religions? They all say the same..
Operator: We should listen to what God says and not to what religionists say, The Quran is the only sacred book saying what religion God is pleased with.
2- Read critically. You might be asking, “How can reading be a writing skill?” But critical reading is the bedrock of all writing skills. Critical reading is the cognitive ability to read what the visitor is saying and discern what the visitor is asking. In chat, critical reading is especially important because chat requires customers to write quickly, without editing, and sometimes their writing is really sloppy and confusing. If operators can read critically, they can take in the visitor’s messy writing and figure out what the customer is really asking
3- Use the brand voice. When they chat, agents represent their company’s brand, in our case we use the message of Islam “submission-peace”. So you need to be able to use that brand voice in your chats. It would be displeasing to write, “It has been a pleasure assisting you in your questions about Islam.” Better to write, “I know you’re going to find peace through complete submission to God.”
4- Signal to the customer when he needs to wait or when you will wait. In many chats, visitors and operators sometimes have to step away to get information. Good chat writing makes it clear to the visitor when he needs to wait or when the agent will wait for him. When chat agents manage wait or away time properly, there’s little need on either side to ask, “Are you still there?”
In this chat, the operator does a good job of signaling to the visitor when he’s stepped away from the chat:
Lisa: What’s the Islamic position regarding the verses (5:9) and (2:191-193)?
Operator: Hello, Lisa. I’m happy to help you with that. Please give me one moment to check the verses.
Lisa: Thank you!
[After some minutes]
Operator: The verses you mention speak about war; however, those verses are not general injunctions or commandments. The Qur’anic meaning says:
Allah does not forbid you from those who do not fight you because of religion and do not expel you from your homes – from being righteous toward them and acting justly toward them. Indeed, Allah loves those who act justly. (Al-Mumtahanah 60:8)
It is one function of Islamic law to protect the privileged status of minorities, and this is why non-Muslim places of worship have flourished all over the Islamic world. History provides many examples of Muslim tolerance towards other faiths: when the caliph Umar entered Jerusalem in the year 634, Islam granted freedom of worship to all religious communities in the city.
5- Ask probing questions. Chat is a great channel for helping visitors clarify what they need or want. Watch how the operator keeps probing to help the customer narrow and clarify her question. In the early part of the chat, almost everything the operator writes is a question. Some are matter-of-fact (God is one) and others are open-ended (“Who is Jesus for you?”) This mix of question types engages the visitor and gives the operator the best shot at knowing the visitor religious background and knowledge of Islam.
Annabelle: I would like to know the difference between Islam and Muslims since some friends are Muslims.
Operator: Okay, so you are asking about the core belief in Islam?
Annabelle: Yes, let’s start with the core belief.
Operator: Okay no problem.
Operator: Do you believe there is one and only God?
Annabelle: Yes, I do.
Operator: Who is Jesus for you?
Annabelle: The son of God.
Operator: Okay. Did you know Muslims believe that God is one and that
Muslims also believe in Jesus?
Annabelle: Really?. I had no idea.
6- Empathize. It would be easy for chat operators to let their dignity slip and respond in kind to angry, rude, or stressed visitors. Instead, you should empathize. Empathy is more dignified than telling customers which bridge they can go jump off of. Seeing things from the visitor’s point of view is essential because it makes visitors easier to manage and that controls chat time. Use empathy statements like these:
• You’re right.
• Me too.
• I can definitely understand.
• I can see your point.
• That sounds terrible.
7- Close with something genuine and specific. End the chat on a high note. Avoid using only the generic closing: “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” or the generic sign-off “Thanks for chatting with us.” While those are polite and necessary prewritten statements, you can go beyond what is expected. Try closing with a specific reference to a topic covered in the chat:
• Thanks for clearing your misconceptions, Mary. Have a great day!
• I’m glad we could help you find a solution to the problem of your conversion.
• I’m sorry about the problem you had with unfair Muslims, and I hope…
8- Admit when you do not know something. Admit you do not have the answer, then go get it – pronto. Chat is the best channel for live problem solving, so customers often chat when they are in the middle of a task. Good writers are prepared to say things like, “Let me check my knowledge base to see whether there is an article that would answer the question you are asking.”
9- Shut down prank chatters. Very often prank chatters enter the chat with silly stunts like giving an insulting username or repeatedly asking the operators unserious questions. Good customer service writers have a strategy (and management’s permission) to shut down this type of chat, so they can move on to real visitors.
10-Use correct spelling and punctuation. While chat is certainly less formal than other types of writing, spelling mistakes and punctuation errors never improve communication. You certainly do not have to write standard, formal sentences in a fast-paced chat, but you should spell words and use apostrophes correctly. Mistakes like these make your organization look bad and your service questionable:
• Incorrect: Whats your religion?
• Correct: What’s your religion?
• Incorrect: There are many muslims in toronto Canada
• Correct: There are many Muslims in Toronto, Canada.
• Incorrect: In Islam you will found the key to happyness
• Correct: In Islam you will find the key to happiness!
Keyboarding errors like these are not as bad, though it’s best to avoid them too:
• I am glad I was able to assist you you today.
• Onnce you’re done, click on the “Continue” button.
• You have a wnoderful day!
Source: An adaptation of Leslie O’Flahavan’s text “10 Writing Skills Agents Need to Chat With Customers” by Ibrahim Herrera.