Happy Cyber Monday! Maybe today a company will invite you to discuss your shopping plans or questions with one of their customer service representatives via chat. Maybe while you are deciding exactly what to type, and revising your messages before you hit “Enter,” the customer service representative will be secretly reading your work in progress.
Yep! Did you know that? Yesterday, I was in a customer service chat with a company that annoyingly holds back some discounts unless you ask for them directly. The chat agent offered me the discount I was looking for, and then I went to ask a question about an accessory.
Me (11/25/2018, 4:17:34 PM): Do you know what sort of [redacted] would work with one of those? We live in an apartment, so the smaller and quieter, the better.
[Agent] (11/25/2018, 4:17:35 PM): a [redacted] will be a good option: [link to product]
See the time stamps? I hit “Enter” to submit my chat at 4:17:34 (in whatever time zone the chat software was using), and the agent had a response, complete with product link, one second later.
When the answer popped up, I felt off balance. It was too uncannily quick. I remembered that I had, for whatever reason, been tinkering with my message before I sent it. Maybe it felt as if “We live in an apartment” better captured the small-quarters situation and spirit of restraint than “I live in an apartment” would have?
Apparently my thinking about how best to present the question was moot, because the agent had to have been reading both versions while I was typing them. Beyond the social awkwardness, it felt as if the agent had jumped in too soon, like an anxious game-show contestant. The agent-recommended product did not seem like it would really have been the smallest and quietest option, but presumably they started writing their answer before I got to that part. I could have asked a follow-up question but by then all I wanted was to get out of the chat as fast as possible.
Was I imagining things? I typed do customer service chats show your typing in real time into Google (with Google watching and trying to autocomplete it as I typed) and got a link to a service that did exactly that:
Real-time typing view
View what your customers are typing on Live chat in real-time. Have your answers prepared before the customer submits his questions…
Before the customer clicks the “Send message” button, you have a chance to see in real time what the customer is typing. This gives you more time to prepare an answer or solution to the customer’s problem. Customers will appreciate your quick and precise answers.
If the customers appreciate quick answers that much, why not tell them you’re doing it? Why give them a fake “Send message” button while secretly transmitting their messages all along?
Like Facebook’s data-mining, this is one of those situations where the people inside an industry have a completely different theory of what’s normal than the people on the outside, who deal with the industry, do. Along with real-time typing monitoring, the chat-service company also offers a feature that enables the chat operator to “see the current webpage of your customer on chat, and you’ll also be notified of each page they switch to.”