Top 6 Customer Service Channels (Hint:Voice is still king, for now)

    Customer Service Customer Experience
  • 26 Jul 2022
AI is yet a summit to be reached as industries across the world are in various stages of implementing this nascent capability.
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Live chat as a customer service channel is second to voice and maturing quickly not just as a service solution but as a revenue driver.
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Voice is still king - when digital channels aren’t enough, getting on the phone is how an issue is best resolved.
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Social continues to evolve as a viable customer service channel as businesses and solution providers refine how to integrate the platforms into customer service operations.
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Direct messaging solutions like WhatsApp and SMS have quickly become the channels of choice with mobile-first consumers.
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Email peaked in adoption as an effective digital channel around 2015.
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Hint: Hover over Click on the to learn more.

Chat

In terms of customer satisfaction, live chat is the most meaningful and effective digital channel. With nearly 1 in 3 customers attempting to self-service by visiting a company website before placing a voice call, a robust live chat capability is a low-effort high-ROI solution to reduce customer friction, expedite issue resolution, and increase revenue - in some cases at a rate of 2.4x for cross-sell and upsell opportunities.

Social

The most compelling statistic came from Facebook with a reported 100% increase in customer messages to businesses from 2019 to 2020.

Spotify begins training their agents on the email customer support channel before clearing them for the social support channel. Throughout the training agent emails are evaluated for specific quality and service metrics to ensure agent confidence before graduating them to the generally more public social channels. Word of caution: most users who reach out via social media for support expect a response within 60 minutes.

Voice

Even with post-COVID forced digital acceleration, one study reports a preference for voice as high as 71% compared to other channels. Perhaps this is a result of older customers’ preference for in-person or assisted service (whereas younger generations prefer self-service). In any case, this should be no surprise as 56% of customers surveyed reported frustration with IVRs prior to speaking with a live agent. Stay alert contact centers! The experience on your IVR/IVA is more important than you think and could make or break your voyage to a better customer experience.

Artificial Intelligence

“Roughly one third” of American companies surveyed in a study May 2021 are using some degree of AI for consumer experience initiatives. The possibilities and promises of increased self-service and customer satisfaction, reduced inquiry handle-times, trend forecasting, agent assist, next best action and many opportunities are examples of the hopes and dreams for overall customer loyalty and revenue potential. As you consider how to implement or scale an AI solution, be mindful of the differences between static analytical models, natural language understanding, robotic process automation, and true artificial intelligence.

Email

For most businesses email was a low friction, self-service channel easy to add to the multi-channel support model, but as organizations pivoted to omnichannel support models with better-integrated and more real-time digital solutions, email declined in satisfaction and popularity - and is predicted to continue to decline as mobile-first messaging adoption increases. In a survey conducted in October 2021, as few as 15% of American respondents indicated email was the preferred channel for customer support.

Messaging

With a particularly sharp uptake during the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns businesses adapted by implementing direct messaging for support and marketing motions to stay in closer contact with their customers. One study reports an increase of 62% in companies using WhatsApp for customer service inquiries from the previous year.

Selecting The Right Customer Service Channels

Regardless of the overall channel adoption statistics above, selecting the proper customer service channel mix for your specific business to deliver the best customer experience should be the primary driver. Look for friction points, add new channels, eliminate extra steps, add touch points along the customer journey to share transparently and engage with your customers in a friendly way.

Below are just a few examples and the steps you can take to see immediate improvements in your customer experience feedback:

  • How would you feel? Consider how the customer feels when attempting to reach you for various reasons. Next, go and listen to every branch of your own IVR and consider whether your automation matches the customer’s need. Should you route priority customers differently than those calling for hours and location? Can you easily automate order status inquiries in your IVR to free up staff to handle higher cognitive inquiries?

  • Proper channels in place? If you are only communicating by phone and email, consider adding live chat. This channel can have a direct impact on your top-line revenue as many customers - in an e-commerce setting - use chat when they are further down the sales funnel and may have a clarifying question or two prior to checkout.

  • Monitor and adjust! You can’t improve what you don’t measure. What is the traffic volume on each of your support channels? Can customers (or your agents) easily pivot from chat to voice if the interaction escalates in customer frustration? Are you receiving an overwhelming number of emails because it is too difficult to reach you on the phone, or your phone system is poorly configured to handle the volume of calls? 

Conclusion

Customer service trends indicate that the leading differentiator is less about unit price or product quality and more about service level experience. From a customer loyalty or NPS perspective, the emotional intelligence, tactful questions, and benefit of the doubt offered by agents to customers arrive at a sum greater than its parts. What will you be known for? The channels you offer and the quality of service delivered via those channels will set you apart from your competition!