Live Chat Best Practices & Etiquette for Local Businesses


Live chat is becoming the preferred mode of communication for customers everywhere. It's fast, it's efficient, and it's frictionless.

Fortunately for local businesses, live chat software is also becoming more affordable and accessible. No longer is this revolutionary technology exclusive to the big brands.

Once you've chosen a live chat solution, you need to figure out how to manage your chats. 

Best live chat practices for local businesses

Many people prefer instant messaging over talking on the phone. But there are still a few things local business owners need to keep in mind when responding to their customers' messages.

Here are some general tips to keep in mind when managing live chat for your local business:

  • Message back fast. Lead response times matter! If you're not able to reply in a timely manner (ideally instantly), it's a good idea to set up automated responses.
  • Enable cross-platform notifications. You won't be able to reply quickly if you're not notified when you receive a chat. Be sure to set up notifications on all your devices.
  • Train your team. No matter who's replying to your messages, all your team members need to be on the same page.
  • Protect sensitive customer data. If you're working in the medical sector, your live chat software must be HIPAA compliant. The good news is, ZyraTalk is fully compliant! 

Now that you know the basics, let's dive in to some more specific concerns.

Is it okay to use slang in live chat for local business?

The internet is divided. Some say you should avoid it at all costs. Others believe it’s the new “business-casual.”

No matter how you feel about slang in the workplace, there’s no denying that “textspeak” continues to integrate into everyday speech.

Think back to your last email or Slack exchange. You’re a busy person, and you’re undoubtedly keen to save a few keystrokes where possible. It’s much quicker to type “LMK!” than “let me know!”

The answer isn’t straightforward. Ultimately, it depends on your brand, your reputation, and your location, among many other factors.

Consider these factors when deciding whether to use slang in your live chat communications:

  • Your brand. Would using slang contradict your branding?
  • Your location. Are there any slang terms specific to your city or region?
  • Ideal customer profile. How would your ideal customer react to slang terms in written business communciations?
  • The individual conversation. Is your customer using slang terms or abbreviations in their message?

Above all, read the (chat) room. Emulate your customer’s tone and tailor each chat for that individual.

We don’t have to tell you how to talk to your customers, of course. You’re a professional. You know what you’re doing. But maybe you’re not sure where to draw the line when it comes to slang. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of using slang in live chat for business.

✅ Pros of using slang in live chat for business

Is It Okay to Use Slang in Live Chat for Business

It makes your business more relatable

When done right, using slang is a great way to showcase your business’ authenticity. It proves there’s a hardworking team of real people behind that fancy logo.

It shows you can speak your customers’ language

This depends entirely on your ideal customer profile. If you’re marketing to millennials or Gen Zers who grew up using text slang, it’s a great way to boost engagement.

But if your customer base is mostly Gen Xers, they might be more confused than anything else.

It’s not always down to a generational divide, though. Preferences are always personal, even if they generally apply to a demographic.

❌ Cons of using slang in live chat for business

Is It Okay to Use Slang in Live Chat for Business?

It might make your business seem corny or out-of-touch

You’ve probably seen that meme of Steve Buscemi wearing a hat backward and a “Music Band” t-shirt with a skateboard slung over his shoulder. You know the one: “How do you do, fellow kids?”

That’s exactly what you’ll look like to your customers if you use outdated or corny slang in your live chat conversations.

Skip outdated terms like “groovy” and “rad”. But also steer clear of modern slang like “yeet” and “shook”.

It’s constantly evolving

“Yeet” and other modern slang terms will soon join the likes of early-2000s slang terms like “crunk” and “peace out”.

Every slang term has its 15 seconds of fame. Keeping up with what’s popular right now will take a lot more time and effort than it’s worth.

It could worsen a complaint or customer service issue

Imagine replying “IDK” or “IDC” to a customer who’s approached your business with a complaint.

Do you want bad reviews? Because that’s how you get bad reviews.

Even if your ideal customers are digital natives who use slang regularly, they expect a certain level of decorum. This is particularly important in customer service.

A practical tip for using slang in live chat communications

Generally speaking, it’s probably best to avoid slang altogether in your web chat messages. But if you do decide to use slang, stick to the most popular, appropriate acronyms, like:

  • BTW (by the way)
  • LMK (let me know)
  • ATM (at the moment)
  • TBD/TBA (to be determined/to be announced)

Remember, less is more. Limit yourself to only a few acronyms, if any, during each conversation. You should also avoid shortening “thank you” to “TY”. This might sound sarcastic and insincere.

Is it okay to use emojis in live chat conversations?

Yes! In fact, we encourage it wholeheartedly. Why? It shows your customers that you’re friendly, relatable, and authentic. It proves you’re capable of speaking your customers’ language. (And that’s super important in customer service.)

After all, your customers are probably using them. So you should too.

Besides, emojis convey emotions that words simply can’t. Remember that time the crying-from-happiness emoji was the “word” of the year? Try typing “laughing so hard I’m crying” and see if it has the same effect.

But before you tap that smiley face, there are a few things you should know. Keep reading to discover some best practices for using emojis in your web chat conversations.

using emojis in live chat for business

✅ DO use appropriate emojis

Certain emojis have certain connotations. Some of them can even be a little inappropriate. (You probably know which ones we're talking about.)

Obviously, you want to avoid suggestive emojis, like wink or tongue faces. And if you’re not sure what counts as an inappropriate emoji, take some time to learn.

Tip: Use emojis that are appropriate to your tone and brand. (We’ll cover brand-related emojis later on.)

❌ DON’T overdo it

Save the long string of emojis for your personal social media accounts. You should aim to keep all your conversations as short and concise as possible.

Use emojis sparingly. Overusing emojis not only creates visual clutter, but it could also weaken your credibility with your customers.

Tip: Limit your emoji use to 1 per message, and no more than 5 throughout the whole chat. (Not including the emojis set up in your automated chat buttons.)

✅ DO read the (chat) room

Using emojis in every conversation might not always be a good idea. So read the chat room. Pay attention to the customer’s tone and language.

If their tone is formal, it might be best to use only one or two emojis at most. (Or skip them altogether.) On the other hand, if they send lots of smileys and emojis, feel free to send them some back.

Tip: Tailor each chat according to the user’s tone of voice (or in this case, text).

❌ DON’T be sarcastic or unprofessional

If a customer messages you with a complaint or a problem, they might use emojis related to frustration.

Getting sent an angry face isn’t a good feeling. But the absolute worst thing you could do is respond with an emoji like the eye roll.

We’re not lecturing you on how to communicate with your customers, of course. You already know that professionalism is one of the many cornerstones of a successful business.

using emojis in live chat for business

✅ DO use emojis related to your brand

Let’s say you’re a home improvement company. Feel free to use emojis for tools (⛏️) or weather (❄️).

Tip: Add emojis to the buttons in the chat window. This helps your customers easily find what they’re looking for.

❌ DON’T forget to train your team

If you’re not using automated web chat for your local business, you’ve probably got someone handling your chat conversations. (Or maybe you’re handling them yourself.)

Whatever the case, it’s super important to make sure all your team members are on the same page when it comes to emoji use. And just about everything else related to customer communications, for that matter. You don’t want your new hire overusing emojis or sending inappropriate emojis.

Tip: Training your team on your brand’s emoji use guidelines is a quick, easy process. It’s also essential to preserve customer loyalty and reputation.