Contact channels for customer service: email still rules


Econsultancy posted some data on its site regarding the contact channels people use to find customer service. In recent years, surveys from contact centre specialists always showed that the telephone and email where the predominant customer service channels. However, it's obvious that the role of digital is rising.

Despite the fact that several new ways of providing customer service have popped up, Econsultancy found that email now is the preferred contact channel.

Email inquiries often answered too late or not at all

44% of consumers use it to contact  businesses in order to solve their issues or get other forms of assistance. One of the reasons why the telephone is the preferred contact channel for just one in three consumers and email rules, is the increasing frustration regarding the traditional telephone customer service, with call queues, automated menus and IVR systems, and paying telephone service as main complaints.   

Although, 39% of consumers say the telephone is the most effective channel for service, 48% say it's the most frustrating one. This leads Econsultancy to state that "the telephone is broken". However, customer service via email is not always what it should be either: 33% of respondents responded it's the most effective channel, quite a gap with the 44% of consumers who use it. 

Obviously, this disconnect between use of the channels and satisfaction about them, has nothing to do with the channels themselves. Customer service and the way it is organized, is a human matter that involves processes as well. Regarding email, for instance, a report by Snow Valley, which Econsultancy mentioned before this summer, found that it took UK retailers (n=200) in 60% of the cases over a day to answer an email enquiry. 16% never responded and 6% gave no email address…

Customer service and social media

Despite the buzz regarding customer service via social channels, consumers use them much less than we tend to believe when reading the many articles about how important they are.

Under 2% of respondents cited Facebook or Twitter as a preferred channel for customer service. However, 3.3% of respondents said social is the most effective channel, 9% of respondents claimed they asked a question of a brand via Facebook and 6% did so on Twitter. 

One should take into account that there is a huge difference between various social networks and media. The adoption of Twitter, for instance, is much lower than that of Facebook. It's also important to realize that the way people use various channels, is entirely different, even when it comes down to social: Twitter can in no way be compared to Facebook.

The main takeaway, however, is that people seek customer service via different channels (let's not forget live chat and even written letters, for instance), and that it's important to be there where and when they seek customer service.

Customer service is a multi-channel and multi-choice business function

It's really a multi-channel matter whereby businesses should realize the importance of choice and of customer service as such, while looking at the ways their individual customers act and the overall efficiency of various customer service possibilities.

Furthermore, the key to good customer service is not to be found in the channels but in the way you use them. And this involves, among many others, having a proper strategy and structure in place, also regarding the way the customer service flows are organized across the business and channels. Obviously, it requires allocating the proper budgets to customer service as well. The fact that this often does not happen, shows how the importance of customer service in the age of word of mouth is still underestimated.

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