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Phone and email aren’t dead.

Smartphones and the Internet have transformed our communication habits. Instead of using phone calls to stay in touch with friends and family, we’re increasingly turning to social media and messaging apps. Facebook Messenger’s users alone, for instance, send over 21 billion photos to friends every month, while various social networks around the world boast more than 3.5 billion users. These trends have also changed the way people talk to companies. 

Customers now want to enjoy asynchronous interactions and the freedom to contact your business via familiar apps without considerations for waiting line or office hours. Offering only phone and email support will no longer suffice. And if people are unhappy with the service, they’ll tell about it to their friends on WhatsApp or post negative reviews across social media for millions to see. Brands can’t afford to ignore these digital channels. Word-of-mouth influences purchase decisions of 83% of people, and efficient online support can cast your brand in a positive light.

But what such changes mean for the day-to-day workings of customer service teams? Is phone and email support really dead? Well, yes and no.

Offering phone support comes at a cost

Over half of customers prefer to contact companies via email, chat, social media, and other digital channels. But those troubled by complex problems, such as payment disputes or missed deliveries, are more likely to seek help from a real person on the phone. They want to talk to an agent to escalate issues that frustrate them.

Many customers are also forced to call because they couldn’t solve their problems through online support. 

But relying primarily on the phone comes at a price. Agents can talk to only one person at a time, putting other customers on hold, unlike on social media and messaging apps where your employee can deal with multiple queries simultaneously. This forces companies to employ a large and expensive agent workforce, even though solving support issues on social media can be up to six times cheaper than a voice interaction.

Also, customers often start their journey on digital channels. They check the company’s website, read up-to-date information, and only then reach out to customer service. And many of them end up knowing more about the product than the agents serving them who then have to put callers on hold to check how to resolve the issue. All of this makes for subpar customer experience.

Tech giants double down on digital messaging solutions

Consumers have various needs and preferences, which is why phone and email support remain useful. But embracing new channels like social media and messaging apps is critical as that’s where billions of people spend a lot of their time. In fact, a brand with over eight communication channels enjoys a loyal customer base and an average Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 71, compared to an average NPS of 31 for brands available only on a single support channel.

Failure to meet customers on their terms might also turn them into ‘silent’ customers who find it hard to contact you and are thus unlikely to voice their complaints. They are, however, more likely to leave you for a competitor with no warning.

Fortunately, tech giants are making it easy for businesses to interact with customers digitally. Facebook offers two social media channels, Facebook and Instagram, as well as two messaging apps, Messenger and WhatsApp. Apple is a challenger with Apple Business Chat, while Google My Business pages, YouTube, and Twitter offer additional opportunities to engage customers. And as tech firms double down on building better consumer-to-business chat solutions, the importance of digital support is only set to grow.

Deploying chatbots and smart routing functionalities

Social media and messaging apps may be asynchronous channels but customers expect prompt replies nonetheless. That’s hard to achieve when your support team is asleep or gets overwhelmed by a huge number of messages. One way to go about that is by deploying chatbots.

These software tools engage customers through conversational user interfaces and collect information, deal with simple queries, and hand over complex problems to an agent.

Bots can be a game-changer for customer support reps that have to spend close to 90% of their time answering the same questions and solving the same problems over and over again.

Relieved from these tasks, agents will have more time to deal with complex issues and provide personalized service.

Companies that want to further improve their customer service can also deploy smart routing. This AI-based functionality categorizes incoming messages and routes them to the agent with the relevant skills. If a customer has problems with late delivery, for instance, the system forwards the message to the shipping team or to an agent tasked with solving this type of inquiries.

Transforming customer service doesn’t have to be complicated

Gone is the age when customers interacted with companies only in brick-and-mortar stores or over the phone. Social media, messaging apps, and other digital tools are becoming vital for companies that want to use customer service as their competitive advantage. And incorporating new communication platforms into your support operations doesn’t have to be complicated either.

By deploying RingCentral’s cloud-based solutions you can elevate your customer service to a whole new level and enable your agents to handle multiple digital channels through a single interface. This and many other features will help you cut costs and make your team more productive, turning customers into loyal advocates. Call us now to find out more!

Originally published May 26, 2020, updated Jan 30, 2023

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