Many of the things that make for a good in-person reference interview apply when answering questions over chat.
Maintain a welcoming tone. Greet the student and let them know that you are there to help them. Examples:
Hi, I'm happy to help you with that.
Hello! Give me a moment to review your question.
Ask clarifying questions like you would in an in-person reference interview. Examples:
Tell me a little more about your topic.
Is there something more specific about ____ that you would like to know ?
Communicate what you are doing. It's best to offer short updates throughout the chat, rather than letting a patron wait a long time for a response. Example:
I'm taking a look at the catalog to see what we have on your topic. One moment please.
I'm not finding as many resources as I expected in Academic Search Complete, so I'm taking a look at a few of our other databases. I'll be back soon with more info!
Offer links to search results when possible, rather than simply directing students to a database. Example:
I entered your topic into Encore, our library catalog. Here are the results for eBooks [insert link here]. You'll notice that the format can be used to filter the results, if you only want to see eBook, or academic articles for example.
Use "canned responses" for common questions. There are canned responses for a variety of common questions, such as textbook access and database access. You can also add your own canned responses for personal use.
Offer the use of Zoom when appropriate, and understand that not all users will be comfortable using it. Example:
Would you be open to doing a Zoom call to help resolve your question? If not, no problem.
Always follow up once you have provided help or information. Examples:
Do those results look like what you need?
Can I help you with anything else?
Always notify the user when you are closing the chat. If you have resolved the initial question and the patron doesn't need more help, or your shift is ending and the patron hasn't replied in more than five minutes, feel free to end the chat. Examples:
Thanks for chatting with us today! I'm going to go ahead and close this chat window. Please come back if you have any additional questions.
I need to go; however please feel free to chat with us again if you need additional assistance. Thanks!
If you get disconnected, follow up over email when appropriate. All chat users should now be entering their email before starting a chat, so you should be able to see their email address in the Patron Information tab. Also look for incoming chats to see if the patron that you were working with is trying to reconnect.
Share the wealth! Please keep only one chat active at a time if there are other librarians logged into chat.