Voice, text and video – the fundamentals of all customer service channels
The number of channels through which customers expect to reach you is ever-increasing. In many ways this is a positive step as it provides greater opportunity to engage with customers, solve their problems and understand their needs and motivations. However, as hard-pressed contact centre teams already know, managing the growth in channels can add to complexity and cost.
‘Old’ channels can’t just be turned off. People will always write letters for instance, and, as this CNN article points out, the fax machine is still used across the legal, finance and healthcare sectors. So how can companies manage the sheer number of channels – now and in the future?
A good start point is to segment channels by their basic type - voice, text and video. This seems a sensible way of organising channels as essentially the skill sets required within the teams managing them are similar, albeit with nuances specific to the exact mechanism used. Let’s look at each in turn.
Whether traditional phone calls or through newer VoIP services such as Skype, voice continues to be popular, as it delivers real time, personal interaction. Agents need the right verbal skills in order to build a rapport and empathy if customers are to gain the reassurance of talking to ‘real people’ who can assist with the personal details of their query. While expensive, voice is arguably the easiest channel to manage – it’s one to one and is lower risk i.e. voice conversations are unlikely to go viral and tarnish a brand should things go wrong.
Channels such as email, chat and social media, are slightly less real time, giving agents time to think on their feet and it can suit those with more process driven, written skills. There are many benefits with text, not least that it can be more efficient since more than one customer can be managed at any one time. There’s also greater scope for control. By automatically analysing incoming interactions, companies can provide agents with standardised, template-based answers from a centralised knowledgebase, reducing handling time while ensuring consistency. These systems can also be used by ‘voice’ staff to help customers over the phone. Arguably, text needs to be managed more carefully than voice or video since one badly worded email or tweet could quickly go viral and no organisation wants to be branded with #custservfail.
The newest and fastest moving in terms of technology, with lots of innovation. Take Amazon’s ‘mayday’ button on its Kindle devices or retailer Schuh which offers both live video and text chat. We’ve covered the many benefits of using video in a previous blog but the key differentiator is that firms can show customers how to do something not just tell them, which Amazon has already found invaluable for tech support. Video chat is technically demanding – it needs greater bandwidth at both ends of the line and supporting multiple devices and platforms can be tricky. It also requires agents that are comfortable with this medium and prepared to present themselves face to face. Still, get it right and there is a great opportunity for companies to drive engagement and use it as a USP.
What of the future? No one knows precisely what we’ll see but, based on previous experience, channel choice is likely to expand. Whether it is smart TVs being used for video customer service, greater use of messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Google+ Hangouts, the possibilities are potentially endless. One thing will remain constant – all will be based around one (or a combination of) voice, text or video. Therefore, there is a real advantage in companies acting now and ensuring their customer services teams have in place people with all these skills so they’re prepared to embrace whatever may be around the corner.