In live chat, don’t argue with customers who are trying to pay

by | Feb 15, 2013 | Writing Matters Blog | 6 comments

This year, I’ve been helping customer service agents learn to write high-quality chat to customers. And if I had to give them (and their managers) just one piece advice about chat, it’s this: “Writing good chat is WAY harder than it looks.”

My recent chat with Lord & Taylor is a case in point. This agent, “Paige V” does little to help me and succeeds in antagonizing me in a few ways. Take a look at the chat transcript:


Please hold while we find a customer service agent to assist you…
We thank you for your patience. An agent will be with you as soon as possible…
Welcome! My name is Paige V, how may I be of assistance?
Paige V:  Good evening, this is Paige speaking.
Leslie O:  Hi. I am having trouble placing an order online. Every time I click “Check Out” to pay for my shopping cart, I get an “Access Denied” error message. Why is that happening?
Paige V:  I would not know why unfortunately. You can call into customer service to place the order at 1-800-223-7440.
Leslie O:  ok
Paige V:  Is there anything else I can do for you?
Leslie O:  Please hold on the chat.
Leslie O:  I am on the line waiting for Lord & Taylor to answer, but I have been on hold for a long time
Paige V:  I would not know why. There is not a wait.
Paige V:  Are you still there?
Paige V:  Ma’am?
Thank you for using Lord & Taylor’s Live Chat. If we can be of further assistance please Chat with us again or contact us at 1-800-223-7440.
Your session has ended. You may now close this window.

  1. Lack of empathy. When I asked why I couldn’t pay for my items, Paige should have scrounged up a bit of caring. “I would not know why…” doesn’t work. How about “I am sorry that happened, but don’t worry. We can process your order over the phone.”
  2. Insincerity. Don’t ask “Is there anything else I can do for you?” if you don’t mean it. I asked Paige to stay on the chat in case I wasn’t able to place the order over the phone. She didn’t agree to do this.
  3. Picking a fight with the customer. I said I had been on hold on the phone for a long time. Paige’s sassy answer, “I would not know why. There is not a wait” antagonized me. Even if I had been lying about the long hold on the phone (and why would I do that??), the live chat agent should not contradict me. Her writing sounds sarcastic.


In the end, this chat did little to build my rapport with Lord & Taylor, a store that sells the same items as many other retailers, I might add. Even if the live chat agent’s best advice about placing my order is that I should call the customer service line, she still should have taken the opportunity to make this exchange more pleasant. In the future, I’m not likely to purchase anything online from Lord & Taylor. The shopping cart is hinky, and the live chat agents are crabby.

Check out these resources for writing great chat to customers

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Update: Polite, quick response from Lord & Taylor to my tweet about this post

Mere minutes after I published a tweet about this blog post, I received a polite response from Lord & Taylor. But why would I want to email them to get the help I asked for via chat…where they suggested I phone in? This is circular customer service!

Tags: Chat, Customer service


  1. Interesting that they are actively monitoring chat on Twitter but not their customer service agents.

  2. They should have phoned the customer immediately and then try and resolve the issue over the phone.

  3. Thanks for your comment, Pierre. I agree. They should have phoned!

  4. Pierre, I’m hoping you meant “Hire Leslie O” instead of “Fire Leslie O! 🙂

  5. Thank you, no questions at the moment.

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