Aug 092013 Tagged with , , ,

In Customer Service, Why Does The Phone Still Rule?

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Think of the people with whom you tele-connect on a regular basis. You may have a business contact who communicates strictly through email, or a colleague who prefers sending texts. You use Skype and Google Hangouts for your contacts in faraway places. Some people can only be reached via Facebook. So where does the phone fit it these days? That’s only for family, close friends, and emergencies.

But when it comes to customer service, most people would still rather use the phone and talk to a live person.

Our research shows that 55% of customers prefer to pick up the phone to get service and support from a brand. Not only that, but they also expect to speak to a live person. A 2011 Consumer Reports Survey claims that 67% of customers hung up the phone out of frustration when they were not able to talk to a live agent, while in their findings, KissMetrics.com reports that only 12% of callers are willing to remain on the line after it becomes apparent that the IVR does not include an option for live person support.

So even with our growing familiarity and heavy personal use of other digital communication channels (some of which have been incorporated into forward-thinking contact centers), when it comes to customer service, why do we still prefer the phone over other digital modes of communication? 

Offering Phone Support Says Something

High-quality phone service is a key element of a great customer experience, because it shows customers that you appreciate them as individuals and are willing to interact with them on a personal and on-demand basis even after they have spent money with you. A phone call with a live agent is still more natively interactive than any other channel, and more clearly demonstrates the brand’s willingness to engage and provide quality care. In offering telephone support, a brand provides evidence that it is willing to trade the high cost of live voice communication for the extra satisfaction consumers derive from that channel.

The Power of Personal Contact

Email, chat and social media may be convenient channels for support requests, but many consumers are willing to sacrifice that convenience for the higher level of care that they feel can only be delivered through personal, real time contact. Some of the preference for the phone may be attributable to the consumer’s unfamiliarity with other digital channels, but most of it is related to the customer’s preference for personal attention and contact. Along with the how-to aspects of the service call, there is usually a corresponding need for the customer to tell their story, express frustration or anger, and to be heard and reassured. When emotions like these come into play, the phone will prove itself over and over to be the superior channel for delivering the message (emoticons notwithstanding). Brands that ignore the emotions related to product ownership and service run a great risk of increased churn, attrition and defection.

Customers like the idea of being served. A meal brought to your table is perceived as a finer dining experience than a buffet. Just as most of us would prefer to ask the concierge for a personal restaurant recommendation rather than searching through the impartial hotel room guidebook, and would prefer to have their own personal IT assistant rather than walk through a knowledgebase article to set up a new email account on their smartphone, so also most customers gravitate towards getting live personal assistance for service and support issues.

Of course not everyone wants the concierge. Self-service options for customer care are a great idea, not only for cutting costs, but also for providing options for those who are intrinsically inclined to fix, solve, and look after themselves. But, although technology has made some customer service easy to “do it yourself”, it seems as if the natural human instinct perpetually leans towards “do it for me” – and that’s one of the reasons why telephone support with a live agent will be a support staple for years to come.

Building Relationships and Rapport

Pastor and author John C. Maxwell once said that people don’t care how much another person knows until they are able to know just how much that person cares. By providing agents who can deliver quality service over the phone, and resisting the urge to hide behind your support@xxxxx.xxx email address, you’re reassuring customers that their concerns and issues are important, both to you and your brand. This in turn builds a relationship with your customers and provides a foundation for loyalty and retention. And, your customers will be more inclined to share their positive experience with others, because they know that if they need assistance, you will have someone on the other end ready and willing to listen, engage, and help.