Customer service is usually the first place we contact if we need more information or perhaps make a complaint. This means that customer service is the main opportunity for service recovery: turning one scratch of customer experience into something great. So that the customer ends up feeling more satisfied after the company has solved the problem than if everything had gone as planned in the first place.
With that kind of responsibility, customer service needs to take ownership of every step of the customer experience formulation, starting from the first touchpoint. Otherwise, the opportunity for service recovery is lost in the process. For example, when I recently needed to call customer service of a big insurance company, I spent the first 50s dealing with automated menu making choices and then another 50s listening to elevator music before I was connected to customer service.
By contrast, many of our client companies continue to reach under 10s response times in live chat. From customer’s point of view, this means that with live chat there is basically no waiting time. Plus there is no need to switch to another device as you can just type the question while browsing on service provider’s website. It’s no wonder that millennials prefer live chat over other channels in their day-to-day communication.
For many people, especially the younger generation, logging onto a computer and typing feels much more natural than picking up the phone and calling someone. Written communication has also other advantages, for example, it makes sharing and preserving documents easy. It also diminishes the opportunity to misinterpret when you don’t have to deal with disruptive background noise that makes e.g. understanding different accents more difficult.
People who prefer phone support often argue that live chat feels less personal than actual conversation. Expressing emotions in written communication can, of course, be challenging but that doesn’t mean that it could not be done. For example, some simple key phrases like: “I can see your point” can help to show empathy and make you feel like a caring person you are.
The biggest shortcoming of the phone compared to live chat is still the mere impossibility to have more than one (phone) conversation at the same time. A feature that easily leads to long waiting times as the number of customer representatives taking care of phone support is also limited. That is why the customer journey with phone support often starts with complicated automated menus and then if the customer manages to overcome that, he/she still often ends up being placed in a queue for the next available representative. Looking from the customer’s perspective this means wasting time waiting to get connected. Which is especially bad if the customer has a complaint to make as hanging on a line will do nothing to diminish his/her dissatisfaction.
Live chat agents, on the other hand, can usually handle 5 to 8 chat conversations at the same time which cuts down waiting times to nothing and, as live chat is a real-time channel, the customer can interact with an actual person straight away. Agents can also quickly copy pre-written answers (i.e. canned answers) to the chatting field which speeds up the communication even more.
Obviously, phone and email still have their place; sometimes calling to customer service might still be the fastest way to sort out something and the good thing about email is that it reduces geographic and time zone barriers. Additionally, customers also expect to be able to pick up any of the service channels and receive the same level of service. That is why it is important for the customer service to make sure they can deliver seamless Customer Experience across different support channels.
The best way to do this is by combining different support channels into one integrated customer service solution. So that all the reporting, contact details and other valuable customer data are made available to the same team of customer representatives taking care of all the requests from different channels. Then, if for example one support channel gets jammed, the customer can be guided to use another channel without compromising customer satisfaction. For example, how our customer Finnair does.
And then, after your company has done all the above mentioned, you would be wise to give priority to live chat. Simply because live chat outranks other channels in two very critical factors influencing customer experience; efficiency and clear communication.