Customer Support in the Digital Age: Which Channels are Right for Your Business?
With advancement in technology and penetration of the internet, the way brands interact with their customers has undergone a paradigm shift. Customer support is no longer confined to one channel, and indeed customers expect instant as well as multi-channel support. After all, we are in the age of the customer. To keep up with customer expectations, modern businesses now deploy customer support across multiple channels:
- Phone – one of the oldest and most popular channels, also one of the fastest
- Email – another popular channel, not known for speedy resolution but extremely cost effective
- Live chat – one of the newer and fastest growing channels; embedded in your app/website and provides very speedy resolution like phone
- Social media – very new customer support channel, but also very impactful given
- Self-service – the most economical channel, requires one time creation of web articles/FAQs, and updates to content as and when needed
- Help desk – very similar to emails, but speedier resolution on account of better tracking of requests in the form of tickets
- Chatbots – AI-based automated response channels, recommend web articles/FAQs to solve queries, and can be redirected to another channel if queries are not resolved; very speedy resolution, costs can vary depending on complexity of chatbot deployed
- Direct messaging – FB Messenger, Whatsapp for business, and iMessage for business; while similar to live chat, they offer greater convenience, and at full potential, will epitomize conversational commerce
With so many support channels available, which then is the right one for you? While there’s no simple answer to the question, here’s a framework that can help you think in the right direction. The trade-off while choosing the right channel is cost and customer convenience, and we will compare these channels on these 2 factors. For the sake of specificity, here’s how we define them:
- Cost – This includes one time costs such as infrastructure and implementation, and running costs such as platform costs, maintenance as well as personnel cost.
- Convenience – We define customer convenience on 2 factors: speed of resolution and ease of access of channel. Please note this is no way refers to quality of resolution, since that is more intrinsic to the team and process.
In our later blogs, we will also introduce channel intelligence as a factor and how this can help you push up Customer Lifetime Value, but for this discussion we will keep at only Cost and Convenience.
Clearly, being real-time, phone and live-chat are very customer friendly, but more expensive to run, where as something like email or self-service, is extremely low cost but not very convenient for customers. Which solutions should you then go for? Most companies end up using a combination of channels to offer customer support. A lot depends on factors including but not limited to:
- Stage of business
- Nature of product/service
- Ticket size
- User demographic
- Expectation from customer support
Typically, a young business, with conventional product, low ticket size products (e.g. apparel) would go for a low cost – low convenience channel such as help desk, email or self-service. While a fast growing business, with complex offerings and a high ticket size (e.g. electronics) might opt for high-touch point, high customer convenience channels, such as phone, social-media and chat. Another important factor in the decision is expectation from customer support. For a vanilla business with no major differentiator, investing in customer support might be key (e.g. Amazon), while a well differentiated business can afford to focus a little less on customer support (e.g. Uber). However, any business will find it impossible to altogether neglect customer support in this day and age. Similarly, if your majority user base is under 35 years of age, live chat might be a good option given popularity with young customers.
At Atidiv, we have expertise in these channels and pride ourselves in not only being your customer support execution team, but rather partnering with your strategy team to help decide your ideal customer support strategy. Our approach to choice of customer support channels takes into account factors such as business priorities, stage of business, ticket volumes, user demographic, allocated budget and more. In our upcoming blogs, we will touch upon some of the above mentioned channels in more depth. Keep watching this space for more and please reach out to us if you have any queries!