Customers are increasingly turning to channels such as email, live chat, social media and text messaging to get in touch with businesses, and, in some cases, these tools have become the main focus of the contact centre. A recent Destination CRM article profiled the practice among several social media companies of abandoning phone-based customer support altogether. According to industry analysts, this approach is likely to alienate some people, and one that ignores other channels is risky as well. To provide adequate customer service for today’s consumers, a multichannel contact centre solution in the cloud can be the best approach.
At companies such as Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, the phone call centre has been abandoned in favour of other technologies, DestinationCRM reported. The rationale is that customer service preferences are migrating toward text-based media anyway. According to consulting firm Fifth Quadrant, consumer preference for email customer service increased from 51 percent in 2011 to 64 percent in 2012, while preference for live chat increased from 19 percent to 28 percent in the same period. Text and social media increased from 4 percent and 3 percent, respectively, to 10 percent each.
In total, more than 30 percent of customer service encounters now take place over a non-phone medium such as email or web self-service, according to a study by analytics firm CFI Group. And a survey of U.S. adults by Harris Interactive found that 68 percent thought that a company without customer service options other than a phone support line seemed outdated, Wired noted. The phone is still important, however. Fifth Quadrant found that talking with a live agent over the phone was still a top preference for 71 percent of customers, especially for making complaints (66 percent) or asking technical questions (70 percent).
“If you are focused on customer experience as a competitive differentiator, you may not necessarily want to be eliminating the voice channel,” Forrester Research principal analyst Kate Leggett told DestinationCRM. “Across all demographics, voice is still the primary communication channel used.”
Bridging all channels in the cloud
Companies often choose to cut phone service due to the cost, but the most common alternative is automated phone support, which can alienate customers, DestinationCRM noted. To reduce costs and expand functionality to include new channels, businesses can adopt a unified communication (UC) solution hosted in the cloud. With UC, phone service is packaged with email, live chat, social media integration and other features, allowing agents to interact with customers in their preferred format.
“Thanks to hosted platforms, businesses subscribing to a cloud service can handle large increases in volume on a variety of platforms, incorporate appropriate self-service options or leverage employees with specialized skills to better serve customer needs,” Wired contributor Paul Jarman explained in a recent column. “Further, because cloud solutions are built for innovation and agility, life cycles of the deployment can evolve, and investing in a flexible platform doesn’t have to mean costly upgrades or integrations as a company expands, but rather they have the ability to add new channels or services in real time.”
As customer service preferences change, organizations do not have to see phone and chat as either/or propositions, but can instead adopt a contact centre solution that incorporates both. With cloud-based unified communications, managing the contact centre can be handled in a scalable, low-cost manner.