In the customer service industry, we like talking about channels. A lot. Which is strange, in a way, because customers themselves don’t think in terms of channels at all – they decide how to get in touch simply based on context. So, if they’re already on your website, they’ll start a chat. If it’s an urgent matter, they’ll make a phone call. If they’re lounging on the couch, they’ll use social media.
With that in mind, there’s no doubt that finding the right customer service channels (and channel mix) for your business is key to creating a great customer experience. And that starts by putting yourself in their shoes.
While it’s admirable to have all channels enabled for all customers, all the time, it’s not the most efficient or effective approach. Building your customer support offering on a channel-by-channel basis will only lead to inconsistency and negative experiences. For the best results, you need to identify which customer service channels are suited to your customer base and feed this information into your strategy.
Spoilt for choice
Let’s look at the most common customer support channels that you should be exploring, and what to consider when figuring out which ones will be most effective for you. Keep in mind that this is by no means an instruction to adopt them all. By considering what’s available and taking time to review your customers’ behavior, you can understand where best to focus your support resources.
Phone accounted for 31% of conversations across all Dixa customers in 2022, and we find it to be the best channel for first contact resolution. It’s a personal approach that offers immediacy as well as an opportunity for follow-up questions. In some cases, moving chat or email conversations to phone results in a faster resolution…
You read that right – while digital channels continue to increase in popularity, traditional methods of customer communication still very much have their place. The detail lies in the demographic. According to Salesforce, even though Gen Z are 1.6 times more likely than Baby Boomers to engage through digital channels, 43% of customers overall prefer a non-digital route.
Live chat combines the control of email with the speed and immediacy of phone support. The benefits are such that 63% of customers said they’re more likely to return to a website with live chat enabled. Best of all, customer support representatives can handle multiple live chats simultaneously, which improves productivity.
However, just like customers don’t want to wait on hold during a phone call, they also don’t want to wait for a chat to begin or have a lag time between responses. Hubspot reports that 60% of customers expect an immediate response when contacting live chat.
Want to take your live chat game to the next level? Add a chatbot to the mix. Optimized self-service options like intelligent chatbots can help people help themselves and reduce customer attrition.
Email is the most popular channel amongst Dixa customers – it accounted for a whopping 61% of our customer conversations in 2022. While it meets a wide range of support needs, it can be limiting for conversations that need back-and-forth dialogue, as both sides will be waiting for updates. That being said, we’ve found that customers prefer to wait a little longer for a response that resolves their issues completely, as opposed to getting a quick reply but having to reach out multiple times to resolve the issue fully.
Which leads me to the next email limitation… trying to scale customer support with a single shared email account will quickly cause frustration for both customers and staff. The McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the average worker spends 28% of the work week managing email and nearly 20% looking for internal information or tracking down colleagues who can help with specifics.
The solution? Conversational customer service software with a built-in knowledge base. Instead of long, confusing email threads, teams can track complete support history across all contact channels, all in one place. This allows customer service representatives to work more quickly and save time resolving customer issues.
WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, & Instagram
Most consumers use at least one form of social media on a regular basis. And with the growing role that social media plays in our everyday lives, it’s become natural for customers to contact companies through these channels.
In fact, a study from Statista shows that 47% of respondents have a more favorable view of brands that provide customer support responses over social media. However, it’s important to keep in mind that due to the immediate nature of social media, when customers do reach out, they expect a speedy reply…
Text messages are seeing rapid growth, especially as more customers recognize the channel as a hybrid between phone and chat. It offers an asynchronous conversation via a synchronous media like a phone. But again, just like you would expect an immediate SMS response from your friends and family, customers will expect the same from a business they contact in this manner.
5 steps to designing the right customer service channel strategy
Before you start adding multiple new channels to your customer service setup, it’s essential to consider the impact on your customers. Ultimately, their needs should dictate the support avenues you offer.
You only need a few carefully selected channels to succeed, and which ones you add depends on your channel strategy. Here’s what you need to consider:
1. Be available
Make sure every channel experience you provide is excellent – even if it means offering fewer channels. Once you know what you can offer and what your customers want you to offer, it’s time to understand the industry expectations. One of the many reasons customers churn is because companies don’t offer the experience they want, need, or have found elsewhere…
2. Help customers work smarter – not harder
Customers frequently choose the wrong channel to resolve their query, which leads to channel switching, extra effort, and frustration. Rather than enabling customers to use any channel, you must guide them to the channels where they can resolve their issues with the least effort.
While there are always exceptions to the rule, customers from different generations show typical channel preferences. If your customer base is dominated by one generation over another, their preferences can help you decide where to put resources and boost customer retention. As a general rule:
- Baby boomers prefer phone and email.
- Gen X can move between email, text, and chat.
- Millennials prefer social media.
- Gen Z lean towards social media.
3. Do the math
It sounds obvious, but you must make sure you have the right number of customer service representatives working at the right times. And keep in mind that not every customer service agent will be suited to every channel. Some people do well with fast-paced chat, whereas others excel via email. Pay attention to how your employees perform, and staff channels with the best-equipped people.
4. Work out the “why?”
Collect all the customer service data you can, and build an insight-packed picture of your customer base. Correlate the contact reasons with CSAT, and keep an eye on first contact resolution, time to first response, total time to resolution, and average handling time. If, for instance, most of your support requests are technical, and you find complex technical queries are often better handled via email, it may not be as essential to open up a channel like SMS.
5. Find room for improvement
Audit your customer support offering and review performance across each channel. The best way to do this is to monitor how your customer satisfaction score has progressed over time. If you notice that one of your channels is suffering, focus on improving that channel before you add any more.
Meet customers where they are
Finding the right balance of customer service channels will help you meet customer expectations while increasing your efficiency. But remember that the right channel mix will depend on your customers, your product, and even the kind of support you offer. It’s an equation and approach that should be unique to your business.
Are you excelling in all of your current channels? If not, adding a new one probably isn’t the right move. Be available on the channels customers need, but remember to guide them to the channels where they can resolve their issues with as little effort as possible.
By offering customer service on the channels where your customers are most active, you can make their lives easier, nurture customer loyalty, and help grow your business. Win-win-win!