Instant messaging programs such as Slack, Facebook Messenger, and Google Hangouts can often be used for both synchronous and asynchronous communication, but for this section, we focus on synchronous, or real-time, communication.
Benefits of Instant Messaging
Virtual office hours
As with any telecommunication relationship, you should go over with the consumer how you will structure any instant messaging communication, and when and how often you will be available to respond via that method.
See “Structuring an Email Relationship” on the Email page for suggestions.
When instant messaging might not be the best fit
Engaging in chat-based communication
Below are a few additional suggestions to make your chat sessions more effective(20,21):
- Begin with a greeting.
- Read messages thoroughly before responding, and ask clarifying questions before forming a response. When chatting, it can be tempting to start typing a response prior to fully understanding the issue.
- Break responses into shorter sections that are easier to read.
- Focus on one chat conversation at a time, especially if you are holding “office hours” with multiple consumers.
- Stay focused and avoid distractions, such as checking emails, while waiting for a response.
- Use emoticons and abbreviations to promote a faster exchange of ideas, if both you and the consumer are comfortable with doing so.
- Offer reassurances and approvals, which are more common in face-to-face conversations.
- Have information ready in anticipation of the chat (such as a consumer’s file).
- Check the chat history of returning consumers.
- Maintain chat histories so you have a record to fall back on and refresh your memory
- As with texting, don’t send sensitive or confidential information over instant message unless you confirm this chat is encrypted.