Accessing the benefits of omnichannel customer service requires a diligent approach to readying your operations. This critical decision not only shapes the way your customers interact with your brand but also plays an integral role in shaping your organization's overarching strategy. As businesses strive to cater to the diverse preferences and ever-changing behaviors of their customer base, the choice between retaining traditional voice or pivoting towards more digitally-driven customer service channels has emerged as a key focal point. Balancing the familiarity and personal touch of voice communication with the efficiency and accessibility of digital platforms is a challenge that requires careful analysis and strategic foresight.

In this article, we delve into the intricacies of selecting your channel mix, exploring the advantages and considerations surrounding both voice and digital channels, and ultimately seeking to determine whether businesses should stick with voice as a communication channel or embrace the wave of digital transformation. 

What are the benefits of omnichannel customer service? 

Omnichannel refers to a customer service approach that provides a seamless and integrated experience across multiple channels (voice, chat, email, social media, etc) and touchpoints. It aims to create a unified experience for customers regardless of the channels or devices they use to interact with a company. Creating an omnichannel strategy plays a big role in the success of a company as it impacts the way customers engage with your business and ultimately the experience they receive. 

What contact channels are available to businesses today? 

There is a multitude of pathways through which customers can raise inquiries, seek assistance, and connect to a business. As organizations strive to be omnipresent and responsive, the repertoire of available contact channels has expanded far beyond traditional phone lines. A brief overview of some of the common contact channels that are popular today has been summarised below: 

  1. Voice Calls - Customers can directly call the contact center using their phone to speak with a live agent, resolve queries, and receive assistance.
  2. Email - Customers can send detailed inquiries, issues, or requests via email, allowing for a written record of communication and responses.
  3. Live Chat -  Live chat offers real-time text-based interactions on a website or app, enabling customers to engage with agents quickly and conveniently. Live chat can be either synchronous or asynchronous. Synchronous live chat involves real-time conversations, similar to a phone call, requiring both parties to be online simultaneously. Asynchronous live chat allows customers to leave messages that agents respond to later, offering flexibility for non-real-time interactions.
  4. Social Media -  Customers can reach out via social media platforms like Twitter (currently rebranding to ‘X’), Facebook, or Instagram, engaging in public or private conversations for support. It is worth noting here that often private messages will be directed to the contact center for support, whereas public messages may be dealt with by another team (such as Marketing) as these have a greater impact on brand image and perception.
  5. Text Messaging (SMS) - Texting provides a simple way for customers to send concise messages and receive quick responses on their mobile devices. More recently, WhatsApp has become an increasingly popular messaging service that companies are utilizing to communicate with their customers.
  6. Video Calls - Video chat allows face-to-face interactions. This might not be suitable for all companies, but can be very effective for complex issues that benefit from visual explanations or demonstrations such as showing an item that is faulty or damaged and requires a repair or replacement.
  7. Virtual Assistants (Chatbots) - AI-powered chatbots offer automated responses and assistance, available 24/7 for common queries and tasks.
  8. Web Forms - Web-based forms on the company's website allow customers to submit inquiries, feedback, or requests, with structured information gathering. These forms normally include fields for customers to input their contact information so that the contact center agents can respond to the customer using another contact channel.

These customer service channels provide customers with a range of options to interact with a company's contact center based on their preferences and needs. Additionally, through the right set-up and connectivity, customers can now easily transfer to different contact channels that better suit their needs as required. For example, a customer may initially engage with a contact center over a voice call, however switch to asynchronous live chat or SMS to receive status updates. 

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What contact channels are right for my company?

The specific kind of omnichannel contact center solution best used will vary depending on the nature of the business and its target audience. There is not a one-size-fits-all approach that can be deployed for all businesses. The key aspect is to ensure that whatever channels your company deploys, the experience should be consistent and seamless across all channels, enabling customers to transition between them effortlessly.

Should my company focus on digital contact channels? 

Focusing solely on digital contact channels within a contact center can offer numerous benefits; digital channels provide speed, convenience, and accessibility that align with evolving customer preferences. They enable customers to engage seamlessly through their preferred platforms, from live chats and social media to email and self-service portals. This approach can streamline operations, potentially reduce costs, and open doors to innovative automation solutions like AI-powered chatbots. However, exclusive reliance on digital channels may risk alienating customers who still value traditional voice interactions, potentially undermining personalization and rapport-building. Additionally, there may be times when conversing over a voice call is essential, for example when supporting a vulnerable customer or discussing a sensitive topic. Striking the right balance between digital and traditional channels is essential to provide a comprehensive, customer-centric service that accommodates diverse preferences and needs. 

Is voice still an important contact channel? 

Despite the rise of digital and text-based communication options, voice still remains a popular and significant communication channel in many contact centers. However, some of the most popular and successful customer service companies, like Amazon and Uber, don’t offer a telephone service for the vast majority of their interactions. So what are the advantages and limitations of continuing to support telephone calls?  

 

Advantages 

Limitations 

Existing Customer Familiarity: Customers are accustomed to phone calls, making it a comfortable and familiar communication method. 

Cost - People Are Expensive: Hiring and training agents for voice support can be cost-intensive, impacting the budget. 

Flexibility: Voice calls allow for detailed information exchange, facilitating comprehensive issue resolution and customer support. 

Cost - Storage of Call Recordings: Storing and managing call recordings for quality assurance and compliance purposes can incur storage costs. 

Less Advanced IT Required: Compared to some digital channels, implementing voice support may require less complex technology infrastructure. 

Brand Image: Relying solely on phone calls might project an outdated image, potentially affecting the perception of the business. 

Risk Mitigation: Removing phone support could lead to negative feedback from customers who prefer or rely on this channel. 

Long Wait Times and Lack of Availability: High call volumes can result in extended wait times and agent unavailability, leading to decreased Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score (NPS). 

Essential for Specific Situations: Phone calls are essential for certain customers and situations, ensuring inclusivity and operational effectiveness. 

Agent Utilization: Agents can only handle one call at a time, which might limit their productivity compared to handling multiple chat conversations simultaneously. 

 

Balancing these advantages and limitations is crucial when deciding whether to continue supporting telephone calls in a contact center, as it influences the overall customer experience and operational efficiency. We believe that voice remains a key contact channel for customers as it allows for immediate, detailed, and empathetic communication, which can be crucial for resolving complex issues, providing emotional support, and building strong customer relationships. While digital channels have gained prominence, businesses often continue to prioritize and invest in voice channels to offer a well-rounded and comprehensive customer service experience. Therefore, we believe voice as a communication channel is here to stay.  

Want to know more? 

Interested in finding out how our team can assist you in your next project? Contact us and one of our experts would be happy to tell you more.  

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