In order to meet customer expectations, companies must provide multi-channel customer support
We live in an on-demand, frictionless society in which we expect anything delivered any time, anywhere. Receiving resolutions to our customer service issues is no different than getting caught up on the daily news. The expectation is for 24/7 access across multiple channels.
Over the past few years, customer service has emerged as a major point of differentiation for companies of all sizes. The payoff for great service is huge – in terms of revenue, retention and reputation.
- 16%: Premium people will pay when accompanied by good customer experiences
- 95%: Say customer service plays into brand loyalty
- 33%: Switch companies after 1 instance of poor customer service
Core to a good experience is offering your customers choice. Choice for the channels on which they receive support and choice on when they are able to get problems resolved. There are a growing number of traditional, digital and futuristic (hello, Alexa) channels where people expect to be able to get a question answered or a problem resolved. Providing quick, convenient support experiences on the channels your customers prefer is key to great support.
It’s no longer enough to be readily available on one or two channels, staffing agents to answer phones during limited business hours. The expectation is for 24/7, low-effort support on the channels of choice. Companies are not doing this today: Less than half of consumers find any customer service channel easy to use.
How to offer multi-channel customer support
Focus on making your customers happy by making them feel appreciated and listened to. Your customers expect customer support on these primary channels:
- Email: While there has been talk about the long-term importance of email as a channel, it remains as critical as ever. In fact, 54% of people have used email for customer service in the last year. Email is the most popular digital channel for customer support.
- Social Messaging: Platforms like Facebook Messenger, Twitter DM, Instagram messaging, WhatsApp, WeChat and others are emerging as increasingly popular channels that customers expect to connect with companies. Messaging is one of the top habits on the smartphone, so making yourself available to answer questions on the platforms where your customers are spending a lot of time greatly decreases disruption to their lives.
- Chat: Offering real-time chat on your website can assist people during the shopping experience as well as with post-purchase needs. It’s loved by customers for its immediacy and convenience. In fact, 73% of customers find live chat to be the most satisfying way of communicating with a business.
- Online Self-Service: This is often an expensive support channel to adopt, but it can lead to high deflection from other channels. People like to help themselves, on their time. In fact 50% of customers think it’s important to solve product or service issues themselves.
- Phone: While phone remains an important channel for particular scenarios and within certain demographics, millennials have rejected using phones altogether. This trend shows no signs of slowing down: 59% of consumers would rather go through additional channels to contact customer service than have to use their voice to communicate.
- Voice: A channel with a small percent of customer support traffic today, but one that will play a growing role in the future, is voice platforms like Alexa and Google Home. Key use cases for voice include troubleshooting, usage tips and reordering.
Circumstances change, and channel preferences are fluid
Customers don’t usually have a single channel that they prefer 100% of the time. A person might prefer a self-service website portal for a question about a return policy. While a more urgent matter is better suited for live chat. Some customers might prefer sending a refund request in a customer support email, while others might want to submit a complaint in between chats with friends on social media.
For every customer, the situation, their situational context, the urgency of a resolution and the nature of the issue directly changes their preferences for how they get in touch. It’s not just younger consumers who seamlessly flow between channels. There is an undeniable shift across age groups adopting more channels. Omni-channel is here to stay.
Bring Humans and AI together, in union, across every channel
It’s not just enough to offer support on these channels, you also have to provide personal support instantaneously. Consider this: 32% of people expect a response within 30 minutes on messaging platforms, and 57% expect the same response time at night and on weekends as during normal business hours. [To learn about specific response time expectations by channel, check out Hubspot’s blog here].
Most companies cannot afford to staff human agents round-the-clock, across every channel. It’s simply cost-prohibitive. Companies need to deploy AI across channels to act as the first line of defense. AI can solve repeatable queries autonomously, while escalating complex issues to human agents. While some companies are weary about AI, “45% of consumers don’t care who they interact with — live agent or chatbot — as long as the service is effective, accurate, and handled quickly.”
A human and machine team effort is the only way to scale personal support across multiple channels without multiplying the current resource allocation to customer service. With customer service now directly impacting buying decisions and building loyalty, it’s essential that companies meet demands for convenient, cross-channel support.
Celebrate each channel’s differences, and adapt your service accordingly
Your interaction needs to be adapted to fit each channel. Messaging and chat are less formal, more conversational and expected to be immediate. Long-form sentences are hard to read in a chat environment. Short-form and abbreviations, on the other hand, don’t usually work on email.
Choice matters. Let your customers decide how they want to resolve an issue and be a hero in their eyes.