Truly, we live in an omni-channel world where talking with someone on the phone is only one among many communication options. Businesses have begun to recognize this, and the call center has evolved into the “contact center.” But many businesses still get omni-channel customer service wrong because they don’t understand when and why customers will use a given communications channel.
Let’s take chat as an example.
Recently I’ve run across several businesses that hide their customer support phone number and instead redirect the buyer to Web-based chat. While chat has its uses, making it the only way to connect just frustrates the consumer.
That’s because chat is best used for quick questions when customers are currently shopping online, according to a recent study by research firm Software Advice. It found that chat was the preferred means of communication if the question was basic, such as pricing options of model differences. For online shopping chat is great. But for more complex queries, customers would rather skip chat and go to phone interaction.
The numbers bear this out; the Software Advice study found that while 49 percent preferred to use chat for questions related to online shopping, only 26 percent wanted to use it for financial questions.
Not only are financial questions often more complex, but there is the question of privacy. This highlights another nuance in chat—it is often viewed as less secure and “official.” So businesses that are deploying chat as a support channel need to recognize when chat is viable and when it is the wrong tool.
Age plays a factor, too; businesses that cater to younger customers can safely incorporate chat, but the older the consumer gets, the less likely they are familiar with chat and willing to use it as a support method.
While 56 percent of those under 35 said they preferred live chat over phone support, according to Software Advice, this number dropped to 29 percent for those above 35. Roughly 60 percent of those older than 55 had not even used chat for customer support, which should be a telling statistic for businesses that cater to mature customers.
The bottom line is to know thy customer, then choose support options accordingly. Chat and other communication channels have their place, but they need to be deployed intelligently with the demographics of the customers in mind, as well as the range of support usually needed. Only then are support channels such as chat and SMS useful for business.
Edited by Maurice Nagle