While companies now agree that customer service support is important for the business’ bottom line and for continued positive customer engagement, they are now faced with a new question. ‘Which customer service support channels should I offer’ is a question they need to answer and it is not an easy one.
Imagine an aged individual trying to raise a complaint /issue with a company. The person would be bewildered by the sheer range of channels to seek customer support and would probably here a new generation customer would be disappointed if only these options were available to contact the support team. It’s not a ‘one size fits all’ case and businesses need to offer the right channel to the customers.The basic consideration to determine the best channels to be provided would be the customer demographics, the complexity of the product, the likely customer request and preference in conjunction with the needs of the support team. We have seen that a younger audience generally prefers social media and live chat, while an older one prefers phone and email. For instance a company selling expensive machinery and hardware should facilitate a discussion over phone while processing a refund can be taken care of with a self-service option.
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It would be interesting to look at the different options and see how they compare.
- Phone support is a traditional form of support but probably the most difficult channel. It requires a dedicated IVR system and a group of agents to cover all the calls. The communication is one to one only and could be tough on the staff. It is the ideal channel to resolve both urgent and emotional issues, and create positive customer experiences while achieving quick closure.
- Live Chat is similar to a phone, but on the web or mobile platform. Customers get service faster through live chat and it is considered 25% more efficient for the company since a skilled agent can attend to several customers in real time.
- Self-service through knowledge base or an FAQ is the most efficient form of customer service. It can quickly recover the initial cost of producing self-service materials. Since each customer finds help on their own, it takes away the strain on the agents. It is ideal for issues that are complex and technical in nature where the audience is also equally aware.
- Social media support is the newest form and has been found to be as quick as live chat but agents may often have to direct the cases to other channels if it involves details that cannot be discussed on a public forum or channel.
- Email is a more efficient option and it requires a lot less effort than phone. Agents can attend to several cases simultaneously since the communication doesn’t happen in real time. However it is quite slow and closure of issues can take time and it typically takes 3–4 interactions to resolve. Email cannot be used when the customer is faced with an urgent matter, or is stressed or upset. It can be used by customers to report non-critical bugs, or for service modifications or any other issue that is neither urgent nor emotional.
- SMS is a great way to address the issue directly and respond quickly, with crisp and decisive responses without clutter. It has a terse style that is efficient in conveying information, but this channel cannot be used for complex, emotional matters.
There are also other options that are variants of these channels, such as a video chat or Skype support that can be considered as an extension of a voice call. These modes can increase empathy and speed up resolution time.
A business has to consider all these aspects when providing customer support. Building an effective customer service offering is ultimately about being there for the customer and helping them when they need it. Channels should be chosen depending on the level of severity and the nature of customer service request.