Top 8 customer service channels [& how to pick the right one]
September 14, 20239 min read
In this digital age, every interaction with a customer is an opportunity. Imagine a user urgently seeking assistance with your product. They could choose to contact you by email, phone, social media or even live chat on your website. Yet, each channel comes with its own nuances and expectations. Simply being present on multiple platforms isn't enough.
You must choose the right channels strategically, based on your customers' preferences and the nature of their inquiries – to name a few factors. After all, efficient customer service is about more than just answering questions — it's about delivering the right response, at the right time, via the right medium.
This blog discusses how companies may choose the best customer service channels for delivering better digital customer experiences.
- What are customer service channels?
- Why is it important to evaluate customer service channels?
- Popular types of customer service channels
- How to select the right customer service channels
- 1. Determine your customer base
- 2. Assess your contact drivers
- 2. Prioritize response time and resolution
- 3. Scale up with AI and automation
- 4. Offer multiple channels of customer service
What are customer service channels?
Customer service channels are the communication mediums that customers use to contact a business to request assistance, provide feedback or convey/communicate problems with its goods or services.
How customers communicate has changed dramatically over time. We've journeyed from traditional counters and call centers to social media, live chat, chatbots, self-service portals and other channels in the digital realm.
While the avenues of customer service are aplenty, your business might not need to be present on every channel. However, your customers still expect quick turnaround time and an experience that stays uniform, regardless of the channel. So, delivering omnichannel customer service isn’t just a best practice for modern businesses today, it’s a gold-standard.
Why is it important to evaluate customer service channels?
Your customer service channel selection impacts everything from your response time to your brand perception. That’s why it’s essential to apply thought and effort in evaluating customer communication channels. Let’s unpack this now.
Different channels have different customer response times. Analyzing these ensures consumers receive prompt replies and timely support. For example, if you’re an airline or healthcare company, quick response time is mission-critical as people engaging with these sectors often face time-sensitive situations. So, it’d make more sense to prioritize, say, conversational AI and live chat support to ensure real time attention to customers.
Your channel mix influences your customer satisfaction scores. Evaluating customer service channels helps identify and address shortcomings that impact CSAT like low first contact resolution rates on email or high average handle times on phone calls.
Allocate wisely, ensuring each channel's full potential. Assess the performance of various channels to ensure optimal allocation of resources. This ensures that funds, personnel and technology are directed towards the most effective channels. For example, for effective two-way outreach, especially outbound sales, investing in voice channels might be a great idea. While they might be more expensive, their direct and personal touch often delivers superior results — justifying the added cost.
Optimize touchpoints for peak customer interactions. Regular evaluation can spotlight bottlenecks, inefficiencies or potential improvement areas, paving the way for refined client experiences. For example, for a trendy athleisure brand, post-purchase surveys can reveal a sizing chart confusion. Addressing this key touchpoint, they can revamp the sizing guide with more intuitive visuals and interactive features.
Exceed expectations on every chosen platform. Modern consumers demand convenience and personalized attention. Align more closely with customer demand by choosing the right customer service channel. For example, if your audience is young, chances are it’s mostly found on channels like Instagram and TikTok, instead of Facebook.
Popular types of customer service channels
In customer service, the switch to digital is more than a trend — it's a seismic change. Service leaders are racing to dominate using every digital touchpoint at their disposal. In fact, this fluid shift has pushed 80% of them to prioritize the effectiveness of their digital channels in 2023. The more effective your channels are, the more satisfied your customers will be.
Let’s jump into the various customer support channels available for your business.
1. Phone calls
Phone calls have long stood as the cornerstone of customer service.
They offer immediate, voice-based communication, swiftly addressing queries, providing solutions and alleviating customer concerns with a human touch.
This blend of human touch and technology ensures phone support remains relevant, even for those less tech-savvy.
Technologies elevating this experience include:
Conversational IVR: Empowers customers with natural language use, streamlining their journey to the right department or solution without a maze of options.
Call deflection: Utilizes AI to analyze the intent for the call and guides callers to alternate channels (like a self-help portal or chatbot) if it's more efficient.
Call routing: Ensures that calls are directed to the most suitable agent based on the customer's query, history or the agent's expertise.
Voice biometrics: Streamlines the verification process by recognizing a caller's unique voiceprint, boosting security while reducing call time.
Speech analytics: Analyzes voice calls in real-time to give agents feedback, helping them improve customer interactions on the fly.
The digital age's answer to traditional mail, email as a customer service channel bridges the gap between immediacy and reflection.
With email, brands can communicate intricate instructions, detailed feedback or even help articles that customers can peruse at their own pace.
Its asynchronous nature allows both customers and support agents the luxury of time — time to understand the issue better, draft a comprehensive response, or even escalate matters if necessary.
Hassle-free integration with other channels like chat and voice support.
Enhances CSAT for customers looking to have their issues written, documented, and traceable over email.
Improves CX for customers looking to describe their concerns comprehensively and have agents provide step-by-step solutions.
💡 Food for thought: Many people believe that for mail to rhyme with snail isn’t just a mere coincidence! While emails can feel slow, the solution is simpler than you’d think. AI-powered canned responses are quick, pre-written replies from past interactions, that can help agents respond to customers a lot faster.
3. Live chat
Imagine being in the middle of a purchase on a website and encountering an issue. Instead of abandoning your cart, you spot the “Chat with us” bubble. This is the advantage of live chat — timely interventions. Unlike emails, live chat is synchronous but retains the digital convenience.
It's a seamless blend of real-time support with the benefits of written communication, allowing for file transfers, links or even integrating AI-powered chatbots for instant automated responses.
Check out this video for the most important questions you need answers to before deploying live chat support.
4. SMS & text messaging platforms
Text messages come with an innate sense of urgency, often resulting in higher open rates than emails.
For areas with unstable internet connectivity or for users who aren't always online, SMS offers a consistent and reliable touchpoint.
Whereas, text messaging platforms have presented themselves as ready-to-use support channels with easy adoption for customers and businesses. They can:
Provide support for business accounts, along with business-specific features. Just like Meta offers features to deliver WhatsApp customer service.
Maintain conversation history for better transparency
Safeguard personally identifiable data
In an age where information is at our fingertips, many prefer seeking answers themselves before reaching out to customer support. Self-service tools empower customers, offering them a sense of control and autonomy.
Whether it's through knowledge bases, tutorial videos or FAQ sections, this channel promotes proactive problem-solving. However, while self-service can handle common queries, there's always a need for human intervention for nuanced issues.
6. Social media
From a casual platform for sharing life updates, social media has morphed into a business-critical support tool.
Customers now anticipate brands to be active and responsive on these platforms. The informal nature of social media often encourages users to reach out casually, expect quick resolutions and even share feedback. Most young adults also tend to flock to social channels to find direct answers through non-company guidance.
Given its public nature, social media customer care can also act as a testament to a brand's dedication to its user base.
The more you know: Benchmark your social service game against your competitors
7. Video chat
There are times when words — whether spoken or written — just aren't enough. In instances where visual aids can drastically simplify explanations, video chats come into play.
This channel provides the intimacy and depth of face-to-face interactions but from the comfort of one's digital device. Especially for products or services that require demonstrations, tutorials or visual walkthroughs, video chat can be a game-changer.
8. Customer reviews and community forums
Customer communities and review sections are often seen as platforms for feedback, but their potential in customer support is immense.
They act as communal hubs where users share experiences, solutions and insights. By actively participating in these forums, brands can not only address individual concerns but also cultivate a community of users helping each other. Plus, frequently raised queries in such forums can guide your product development and form an evolving knowledge base.
How to select the right customer service channels
Today, it's no longer enough to simply be heard; one must resonate. The right customer service channels are pivotal — helping your brand stand distinct and memorable in a crowded market. Here’s a comprehensive strategy and tips to help you navigate the channel selection process with ease.
1. Determine your customer base
Recognizing your target market is the first step in choosing the best customer service channels. For this, conduct customer surveys, examine customer data and gather feedback. Age, geographical location and industry are a few variables that might affect a person's channel choices. But it’s not just about age. Dive deep into a day in your customer’s digital life. Mapping your customer’s journey will not only help in recognizing preferred channels but will also unveil untapped touchpoints.
Social media may be more popular with younger groups, while phone calls may be preferred by elderly customers.
2. Assess your contact drivers
Assess the intricacies of the queries your customer service team often fields.
Simple questions, such as “Where is my order?”, could be efficiently answered via FAQ chatbots or in-app messages on WhatsApp, etc.
However, when addressing more nuanced problems, like troubleshooting a software issue, there's a demand for a dedicated helpline or perhaps video support.
Visualize trying to assemble a detailed piece of furniture using merely text-based guidance. Wouldn't a video demonstration make it smoother?
💡 A nugget for your noggin: Think about how geo and demography influence these contact drivers. Here are some examples:
Regions with high smartphone penetration but low data speeds might rely on lightweight messaging apps.
Localities with frequent power outages might gravitate towards offline solutions
The tech-savvy might find QR-code-based instant chat links at offline stores both trendy and convenient.
2. Prioritize response time and resolution
Gauge the speed at which your customers expect answers. Evaluate each channel's capabilities in relation to your team's ability to produce quick and efficient answers.
For instance, in the Finserv sector, precise record-keeping is important. Consider a mutual fund's intricate tax implications: Email as a mode of communication will simply be more efficient. It provides a detailed, timestamped record — crucial for both client clarity and regulatory compliance, ensuring every communication is audit-ready and transparent.
Interesting read: 5 ways to improve customer response time with AI
3. Scale up with AI and automation
Foresee the future, but be ready to adapt. Your setup today should be robust enough to handle your aspirations for tomorrow. But as you scale, human touchpoints might become limited.
Here’s where AI steps in.
AI segregates routine inquiries and routes them to chatbots and self-service portals, freeing up human agents to concentrate on more complicated problems.
Chatbots learn to respond better after every interaction, speech analytics can read customer emotion in each call and predictive analytics can forecast busy hours for better planning. Automation helps you reap benefits from such capabilities on the channels you choose.
For example, AI can offload post-call tasks for agents like transcribing calls, updating CRMs, extracting action items from the conversation and analyzing feedback. And if you set the right budget aside, you can reduce customer churn and associated costs.
4. Offer multiple channels of customer service
A multichannel approach is key to a successful customer service strategy that allows tailored experiences to diverse customer needs. Instead of spreading thinly across every possible channel, prioritize a core selection of channels that is in line with the preferences of your customers.
However, ensure consistency in service quality across all channels, so a query on Twitter gets the same caliber of response as one on email.
Customer service has changed dramatically over time. Gone are the days of sole reliance on phones; today's customer expects diverse avenues like email, live chat, social media and self-service portals. So, is it worthwhile for companies to invest in multichannel support?
Totally. `It offers better convenience, faster response times, higher competitive advantage and greater accessibility.
But here's the catch: While multichannel support is undeniably transformative, it can risk becoming siloed. Different channels can end up operating in isolation, leading to broken customer experiences, disjointed brand voices and frustrated agents juggling incongruent systems.
To truly enjoy the might of multichannel, businesses like yours must elevate their strategy to an omnichannel approach. This unified approach ensures consistency across platforms, maintains context flow, echoes a singular brand voice and streamlines operations for agents.
After all, being truly multichannel isn't just about being everywhere but about presenting a coherent, cohesive brand experience everywhere.
Sprinklr is a definitive way to unify all your customer service channels to paint one holistic picture of all your customer support channels and interactions in one pane of glass.
30% lower resolution time on average. With an omnichannel customer support solution routing customers intelligently across channels, you increase agent efficiency and provide unmatched customer experiences.
Frequently Asked Questions
Some of the best practices to follow when managing multiple channels are:
Empower agents with a unified customer view
Build and train specialized teams to man specific channels
Monitor each channel’s query volume and allocate resources accordingly
Set and maintain specific response time targets for each channel
Monitor feedback and track quality issues to improve service standards