Live chat is a powerful tool that a number of large companies are now leveraging to make their websites better.  Aside from improving online customer service, live chats  boost sales and keep users engaged with the site.  Here are a few live chat etiquette tips we’ve put together from both a user and a represenatives perspective to make your next live chat experience a bit more pleasant.

Exchange Names

The first and most basic tip for both parties is to exchange names.  This is especially crucial for the chat representative.  Some users may not believe that a real person is on the other end of the chat log.  By opening with “Hey there my name is John, how may I help you”, you add the personal touch required to initiate a productive live chat session for both parties.

Friendliness Still Counts

Positive is neutral – neutral is negative.  When you’re chatting online, whether you are the consumer or the representative, keep in mind that communicating a sense of positivity is not easily accomplished.  In fact, studies show that people tend to react negatively to messages in which the sender had no ill will.  In the case of live chat, it’s especially crucial to convey positivity!

That’s why this catchy little phrase- “positive is neutral and neutral is negative”- is an excellent live chat etiquette rule of thumb. Something as simple as “Hey, thanks for answering my question it was a big help!” seems natural.  Whereas, “ok”, seems just plain rude.

Miscommunication Can Happen
  • Avoid Sarcasm at All Costs: Joking around in a business setting can be an effective way to lighten up the mood.  However, in a live chat setting sarcasm is nearly impossible to interpret.

  • Put Yourself in Their Shoes:  In a live chat scenario both parties have an agenda.  The customer needs questions answered and wants more information.  The live chat representative wants to help the user find what they are looking for and make their user experience as pleasant as possible.  Bearing in mind what the other party is looking to get out of an interaction is a dependable way to avoid miscommunication.

  • Jokes Get Lost In Translation:  Similarly to avoiding sarcasm, avoiding jokes is a live chat etiquette best practice as well.  Often times the receiver may not perceive the joke as its meant to be.  In some cases they may misinterpret what is meant to be a joke as an insult. To avoid inadvertently insulting an innocent soul, avoid jokes in a live chat setting.

Focus on the Answer First Detail Later

Responding in depth is often viewed as good customer service and a display of effort.  When you’re engaged in a live chat it’s generally a better practice to respond with as few words as possible.  You want to be concise, while still conveying the message you need to.  If you absolutely have to add more detail, make sure you answer the question in the first few words, then elaborate.  Below are two live chat examples, which would you prefer?

Version 1

User: “Where can I find the contact us page?”

Rep:” The top right hand of your screen on the navigation bar”

Version 2

User: “Where can I find the contact us page?”

Rep: “It’s funny you ask that, the contact us page can actually be seen by clicking a number of links on our website.  If you scroll to the footer of the site you will see a link to the contact page, there is also another link to the contact page located on the sidebar, finally you can get to the contact page from the navigation bar, all the way to the right”

I think you get my point.  In version 2 the chat representative is still trying to be helpful and supportive, but by being so wordy, the user isn’t getting the answer they want and they will most likely leave the site.  Although detail can be a good thing; in a web chat setting concise is always better live chat etiquette.

How to Handle Questions About Competition

You know that old saying “if you don’t have anything nice to say don’t say anything at all”, it was the cornerstone of your etiquette lessons growing up.  Well consider “If you don’t have anything nice to type, don’t type anything at all” the cornerstone of your live chat etiquette.

Often customers will ask you about pricing and features of other companies.  These are fair questions and legitimate concerns for potential buyers.  Don’t take this as an opportunity to slam the competition.  Instead speak candidly about the competition and focus on the benefits of your product as opposed to the shortcomings of your competitors products.

If you are a customer, just know that your live chat representative is there to help you in any way they can, but you must realize they are working for a company who would not appreciate them sending business to their competitors.


When you walk into a store and you have to return a good or ask a question, it is generally considered rude to shout at someone. We also know that shouting is an excellent way to not get what you want out of an interaction. From a customer representatives standpoint shouting at a customer is a surefire way to get fired…really fast. The same ideas apply to live chat etiquette.  There is just something UNSETTLING ABOUT BEING SHOUTED AT.

Customers: It’s completely understandable that you are frustrated and need help.

Representatives: If a customer shouts at you it’s generally acceptable to ask “excuse me sir, did you accidentally hit your caps lock button”.

Grammar and Spelling Are Crucial

As we’ve said a number of times before, a live chat setting is a business engagement. It’s not like you’re text messaging your friends on the weekends.  Communicate on live chat like you would sending a business email, not texting your buddies.  Just be aware of common grammatical and spelling errors to maintain professionalism.

If you follow these seven simple live chat etiquette tips you’re sure to have a friendly, enjoyable, and most importantly fruitful live chat session.