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Ask an IT support pro: Why I hate live chat

Sure, there are benefits to live chat between IT support and end users, but the potential negatives outweigh them.

By Nathan Daniel on Tue, 07/31/12 - 3:06pm.

During peak business hours it is not uncommon for someone calling into support to be put on hold. Support technicians prefer not to make a customer wait, but sometimes it is necessary. Often times these customers have exhausted all other support services, such as knowledgebases, customer forums and perhaps their own troubleshooting attempts, without success. As a result, being put on hold can make them understandably frustrated and impatient. Some companies have implemented a “live chat” feature on their websites so that customers have another channel for contacting support. Live chat functions can be useful for sales and marketing, but it is my belief that it is not suitable for support.

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Information black hole

When someone calls into support, we first verify his or her account information. On the phone, this can take seconds. On a chat feature it can take a minute or two because people type slower than they speak. I also find that when people type in a chat they try to make the process go quicker by abbreviating the conversation. This means they might not give me all the information they would have if we were talking on the phone. The more descriptive a customer is about a problem, the easier and faster it will be to solve their issue. But the nature of a chat feature means people will abbreviate their stories to be more efficient, without realizing this just makes it more difficult to solve the problem. I end up asking more questions, which takes longer for the full story to come out.

You can’t solve difficult problems

Explaining how to fix a problem can be difficult on the phone, but on a chat feature where I can’t see your screen and likely have less information to work with, it can make it impossible to tackle a complex issue. It would be much more efficient for both me and the customer to talk on the phone so I can walk the customer through the steps I am taking.


One of the arguments for offering chat support is that support techs can respond to more than one customer at a time by having multiple chat boxes open. This is incredibly inefficient. I prefer to give each customer my complete attention, as this is a much more effective way to solve a support problem. Plus, there’s always the possibility that the support tech will type a message into the wrong box, confusing matters.

I am open to new ideas for helping support our customers, while hoping that live chat is kept with sales and marketing.