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Instant Messaging & Live Chat Etiquette - for Business

With the development of infrastructure and technology in communication it won’t be wrong to say that we are in the golden years of communication. Telephone and Internet have revolutionized the way we do every thing, and I mean everything. Internet has become the alternative means of communication apart from regular PSTN, mobile and limited mobility phones.  Offices are using various internet based communication software’s and online chat to enhance their performance and minimize costs.

Online chat has traditionally been used to make friends or stay in contact with them, but it quickly emerged as an effective tool for business communication. It enables you to chat with clients, colleagues and your boss. It is fast, cost-effective and best of all, it functions in real time.

You should establish a dedicated account, distinct from your personal chat account, for business chat. This will ensure that you don't have any clients harassing you at home and it will also prevent any embarrassing mix-ups at the office.

So whether you are using Google, Yahoo or MSN messenger service, there is etiquette to be maintained -- especially if you have an impression to create with your business chat.

Create an identity
When choosing a nickname or user name, avoid youthful ones, such as “Cool dude 24” or “ismokeweeed.” In order to maintain your professional dignity, keep it business-like and simple.
If your name has already been taken, try adding a unique number in front of it or behind it. For instance, add your vehicle’s plate number to your name to make it unique and easy to remember. You can also try adding your department to your name, as in “Roshan_sales” if you work in the sales department.

Use availability status feature
All IM applications allow you to set your status as “Available” or ”Away” and the like. Some also let you customize messages like “I am in a meeting until 2:30 p.m.” You will upset people if you leave them waiting for a response when your status is set to “Available,” but you are away from your computer. Don't forget to update your messenger's status.

Think before you hit enter
Proofread your text before hitting the enter key. In situations where emotions are running high, one wrong word can turn a difficult situation into an explosive one. You need to check for spelling and tone before you send a message.

If, at any point in time, you accidentally hit the send button before proofreading your text, send a message that highlights, between stars, the correction that you would like to make. This extra step in your communication shows that you care.

Be polite
In the instant messaging world, you won't be judged by the color of your skin, eyes, hair, your weight, age or clothing -- not even your accent. What you will be judged on, however, is the quality of your writing and the protocols that you adhere to.

Use appropriate abbreviations

You can use abbreviations that are acceptable and comprehensible by both chat partners, especially when both parties are in the same organization. These sometimes include COB (Close of business) or EOD (End of the day). The appropriateness of their use will vary across different company cultures, and will also depend upon the recipient. Above all, sound professional.

Listen and pay attention
Used sparingly and appropriately, words like “OK,” ”alright,” ”sure,” ”definitely,” ”great,” and ”absolutely,” will help show that you are listening. You can also use phrases like “I hear you,” ”I'm listening, please go ahead” or ”I understand what you are saying.” Stay away from gutturals such as, ”mmhh” and ”ah” to show you are listening -- it looks unprofessional.
It helps to be cooperative during a chat. For example, if a client asks a difficult question, instead of replying with”no clue” or “beats me,” answer with something along the lines of: ”Good question, Mr. Sameer. Hold on for a minute and I'll find out.” The few extra keystrokes may help you land the deal or at least become a preferred representative that Sameer likes to deal with.

Avoid multiple chat sessions
You need to avoid multiple especially while chatting with clients or your boss. You may miss an important point in the other person's messages or lose the gist of the conversation.

Don't rush it
Give people enough time to respond. “Machine-gun” messaging is a good way to get people to ignore you in the future. Multiple questions sent to a recipient before they have had a chance to answer can seem more like an interrogation than a conversation.

Use caution with humor
Humor is very culture-specific. There are all sorts of cultural and personal differences among people from different places, so what may seem funny to you may be considered weak or even offensive to others. For example, LOL may be acceptable while chatting with a colleague. Your boss, however, may take offence because he tends to be more formal.

Be flexible
A business chat can be a great way to build relationships with colleagues and clients. Getting chat smart is something you should work toward as quickly as possible before you get left behind. Nevertheless, know your client or boss and their preferences -- if they prefer a phone call, you better call.

Take care of the following points and make use of the technology. Its easier to get the job order through chat than physically being present to take them.

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