Live Web Chats

Rules of Engagement: Live Web Chat Lessons

Key practices for member service via web chat.

It’s a multimedia world, and your members want to communicate with you through any number of channels. While the telephone is the oldest and most popular communication channel and social media gets the most buzz, online chat is still a viable and popular way to serve your members.

Online (or web) chat has been used by customer-service centers for more than two decades. It still provides some excellent service opportunities, such as enabling members to connect with your agents immediately if they have questions about something on your website.

Over the years, call centers have developed several best practices. Here are a few examples:

1. Measure your progress. Measurable metrics are just as important when using chat as when answering calls. Some basic chat metrics are average handle time, concurrent chat interactions, and chats per hour.

2. Mixing channels is not efficient. Agents should not respond to chats while answering calls. Agents can respond to multiple chats and still provide sufficient attention. The same is not true when on a call. Agents should not be distracted with a chat while speaking with a member.

3. Grammar and spelling count. Responses should be written in complete sentences and contain no abbreviations.

4. More is not necessarily better. Limit the number of simultaneous chats to three. More than that can lead to delays in responding and annoyed members.

Michael Barbagallo is senior manager, member services, at the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics in Reston, Virginia. Email:


Michael Barbagallo

By Michael Barbagallo


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