What Would Barbara Do: 7 things you could be doing now to support more users at once

Question: Wait a minute - you can talk to a bunch of customers at once with live chat?  How does that even work?


One of the best things about live chat is how many customers I can help at one time.  Back in the days of phone support I could take one call at a time.  Each call lasted anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes with a lot of pauses and looking up information.  Spelling anything took forever ("my name is Barbara - that's B as in ball, construct memeA as in aardvark, R as in racoon......).  Sharing links was out of the question.  I'd work a packed day and feel like I hadn't helped that many people.

But with live chat you can talk to many people at once.  Here's how I handle the most chats at a time without losing my mind:

  1. Set up your screen so you know where everything is.  I always have https://chat.olark.com/ open in a browser window that lives in the upper left hand corner of my screen.  In the same browser I'll have a couple tabs open to https://www.olark.com/help so I can quickly search our help pages when needed.  On the right hand side of my screen I have 2 more browser windows open.  I always open tabs to bug reporting, email and account tools in the same place so I can find them quickly during a chat.  Pro tip - bookmark all of pages you use regularly in a browser bookmark folder.  Right click on the folder and select "open all" or "open all in tabs" when you're ready to start working and *boom* they'll open in order and be just where you expect them.
  2. Use the pre-chat survey.  If you always need the same info at the beginning of a chat - name, email address, customer ID number, product number, etc - request it in the pre-chat survey so you'll have it at the start of a chat without waiting for your visitors to look it up.
  3. Use keyboard shortcuts!  Once you're in more than one chat use CTRL + ] and CTRL + [ to move between your open chats.  I like to start at one end and methodically move through the tabs.  Answer the question or send the next prompt then move on to the next tab.  Repeat.
  4. Use shortcuts!  If there's something you say regularly or a link you hand out often shortcut it.  Don't waste time searching for info you use all of the time.
  5. Use chat limits!  Be sensible with how many chats you handle at a time and set a maximum so you’ll automatically be set away.  Internally we've tested out several options and 5 seems to make the most sense for the Olark team.  Depending on the type of questions you see you might find you can handle considerably more at a time.  Or considerably less.  It's a good idea to regularly check in with your team to find that sweet spot.
  6. Have an easy way to communicate with your teammates so you can quickly ask questions.  We use slack and have a room specifically for the support team and anyone else who's doing a chat shift.  There's usually at least one engineer hanging out there as well, and another slack room to reach them if not.  I know that if I get a question I can't answer easily or if I need a sanity check or another set of eyeballs there are folks who are happy to help me out.  And I absolutely do the same for them.
  7. End and close a chat when it's done.  I find extra chat tabs to be distracting and unnecessary.  Once a chat is over !end that chat, close that tab and move on!

Chatting with many folks at once can be pretty disorienting at first.  With a little practice you'll likely find you can be in all the chats like a pro in no time!

Got a chat question you want answered? Ask away!

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Barbara Maniar

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Barbara is part of the support team at Olark and she loves to chat. When she's not talking with all y'all she's chasing around her 2 kids, having mild success at craft projects and trying to schedule in a nap.