Customer Unresponsiveness

When customers log onto chat with a question and then seem to disappear, what is actually going on?

Like ghosts seemingly spirited away after a brief glimpse, we have customers who flit away after taking the time to sign onto chat.  There can be various reasons for why this happens:

  • The question is posed but the customer never responds.  Maybe they have done this before and they know a librarian will eagerly send helpful info, so they figure nothing more from them is needed.  In cases like this, it's a customer's choice.
     
  • The customer can't respond for some reason (such as the computer acting up.  Or maybe the baby just started screaming).  It's not a choice.

The Customer's Choice:

Working the system to get what we want sometimes displays the creative side of our humanness and can lead to some inventive processes.  Our intent is to have a conversation with each customer, from the student who needs research to the customer with the quick question about library hours. 

When customers log onto chat with a question and then seem to disappear, what is actually going on?  Sometimes, after attempting to interact we hear back from the customer, "Sorry!  I had to leave for a moment".  Other times, a librarian may skip over the initial paraphrasing of the customer's question (using open-ended questions for feedback) and just send a web site.  When the librarian then checks to see if this is what the customer needs, the customer may be reviewing the site and ignore the chat. 

The rule of thumb is to ask, "Can you please confirm that you are still online?" and wait the appropriate amount of time (usually about five minutes of no response) before letting the customer know "we seem to be disconnected from each other" asking the customer to log back on if more information is needed, and exit the chat session. 

If there is an email address we have a couple of options.  Before ending the session, we can opt to provide a thorough answer knowing that the patron will probably receive the information through email. Or we can set the question's resolution code to "Follow up by patron's library".  These are good options for ensuring the customer receives information as well as to help the customer better understand the process of chatting with a librarian.

If there is no email address and the customer never responds, the question is set to "lost call."  This rarely-used resolution code is explained, along with the others on QuestionPoint's wiki under Best Practices. The Resolution Code Flowchart (created by Julie) is linked here as well.

Beyond our Control:

Technical issues happen - we've all been there.  Customers may be booted out of chat.  Librarians' Internet connections may hiccup.  It may even be that the customer is responding so slowly we think there is a problem, when they are trying to decide what to say and how to form the words.

When connections begin to fade, the customer's indicator will go from green to yellow.  When a connection is severed, it will show red and after a few moments, a "Patron is no longer connected" notice will appear for the librarian in chat.

It's best to address the issue with, "It looks like we're losing our connection," and politely give options to the customer, such as suggesting they give their email (or verify it) so a follow up is possible.  Or to log back on and the librarian will try to retrieve them again.  Clearing out caches may help, too.

Customers who take the initiative to log on and ask a question usually expect some interaction with librarians as they work together to resolve issues and find excellent information.    Follow the procedures to help elicit some interaction and know that, without the conversation we can have in chat our work is one-sided (like email).  But if you get customers who disappear and/or are unresponsive, never take it personally!