When companies review their customer service levels, they typically rely on data from traditional telephone channels. However, as the Internet Generation reaches maturity and preceding generations adopt the technologies that the Internet Generation grew up using, consumers are expecting companies to offer methods of support other than standard contact center numbers. Competitive companies are adapting to these expanded expectations while maintaining their service level targets. Let’s review some of the alternative contact methods that companies are employing, and a few tips for using them successfully.
While the bottom-line impact from social media presence on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn hasn’t been established, with over 10% of the world’s population using Facebook alone, customers expect companies to be available through social media. Although such interactions are public and that means that any negative interactions are aired in full view, this shouldn’t be used as a reason to avoid social media. Even negative comments can turn into a positive record when addressed quickly and thoroughly.
Email and Online Chat
According to Avaya, a communication technology leader, 40% of consumers prefer email and online chat to telephone contact – meaning companies that don’t support email or online chat could be unknowingly disappointing almost half of their customers before contact is made. Email and online chat offer full customer-to-business interaction, often at a lower per-interaction cost than traditional telephone communication, so there is little to lose by offering these capabilities.
Though at first glance email and chat may appear to be an informal communication channel, customers still expect quick response times and a professional attitude. Correct spelling and punctuation as well as a degree of personalization, such as using the customer’s name and references to the customer’s specific issue, should be inherent to the interaction. Companies that offer email and chat that meet these expectations will go a long way towards increasing customer satisfaction.
Mobile Phone Calling, Voicemails and Text Messaging
As consumers progressively abandon landlines to use mobile phones as their only telephone link, they are becoming more open to contact from companies on their mobile phones. Notably, the Pew Internet and American Life Project found that 31% of mobile phone owners who use text prefer to be contacted by text when someone needs to reach them. Though mobile phone outreach is convenient and inexpensive for companies to employ, not all mobile phone users are text users and many do not have unlimited calling plans, so companies must keep contact messages concise and relevant, while considering the customer’s time zone and likely activities (i.e., avoid outreach while customers are at work, or over mealtimes).
As VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) technologies become more accessible, consumers are entering the video messaging space to interact with companies, setting up for a VoIP revolution much like that seen with video-conferencing for business. Out of all channels, video messaging comes closest to face-to-face interaction with customers, providing huge potential for increased sales and overall customer satisfaction. While it isn’t yet widespread, adoption by companies and consumers is growing.
Your company should be seriously considering adding alternatives to its communication channel blend to ensure that you are offering the services that customers expect. Remember that no matter which communication channels your company has in play, it’s important that customers are treated well across all contact methods for a meaningful, positive impact on service levels and overall customer satisfaction.