How do you keep your customers or get new customers without offering a range of communication channels? The simple answer is you don’t. This may sound a little extreme, but it’s the reality of business in 2020. Companies who only offer one communication channel or otherwise limit their communication options are finding themselves left behind. A long-standing company might be able to keep their customers based on their reputation in the industry, but even this isn’t a certainty.
Customers care increasingly about the experiences they have with businesses. They are willing to spend more money on a better experience, even if they can get a cheaper product from a competitor. This isn’t just about customers. There is a mutual benefit for customers and businesses to move to an omnichannel communications approach. Not only do businesses increase profits by offering a better experience to customers, but they can also save money on their customer service operational costs.
Running a call center can be expensive. This is why so many companies have diversified their communication channels to give customers more options and cut down on the high cost of only providing call-based customer service. If you’re one of these companies, you’re probably wondering how you can get your customers to engage more heavily with your other communication channels. That’s what we’re going to be looking at today. How do you shift customers away from phones and on to alternative communication channels? Let’s take a look.
Why You Should Shift Customers Onto Lower Cost Communication Channels
Phones are great, but they shouldn’t be your only communication channel. You can deal with customer issues just as expertly and efficiently using Live Chat or SMS. Phone lines can also reach capacity quickly, leaving customers waiting around to speak to an agent. This leads to increased anxiety and feelings of frustration for the customer, which can be difficult to reverse even for the best agent. The benefits of omnichannel communications platforms are evidenced. Let’s have a look at some benefits and the statistics that back them up.
Benefits for Businesses
- Businesses who adopt omnichannel solutions have 91% greater customer retention than businesses that don’t.
- 79% of businesses said that implementing Live Chat solutions increased customer loyalty and boosted revenues.
- Visitors who engage with your Live Chat service on your website are worth 4.5 times more than customers who don’t.
- Reduce costs by maximizing efficiency. Agents can respond to multiple Live Chat issues at one time which isn’t possible on a call.
- Text-based solutions give you a wealth of customer data that can be used for analytics to create actionable goals.
- Online customers prefer Live Chat over other communication channels and 41% of customers expect you to have Live Chat on your website. By implementing Live Chat you give customers what they want which increases their satisfaction levels.
- Customers expect a consistent experience with your business and an omnichannel approach achieves this. One study found that 90% of customers expect consistent interactions across channels.
- Using alternative channels is fast and easier for customers. This is essential in a world where customers expect to talk to an agent immediately.
Alternatives to Phone-Based Customer Service
There are several channels you can use in addition or instead of phone calls. Let’s take a look at them and their benefits.
Online messaging platforms such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger can be utilized as a part of your customer service operation. The benefits of online messaging platforms for customer service are:
- They are easy to integrate with your business.
- Your customers are already using WhatsApp and Facebook. This means they don’t need to download another app if they don’t want to. It also means that they are familiar with how the platform works. WhatsApp and Facebook have high adoption rates, even in less tech-savvy groups.
- Customers trust these platforms.
- Online messaging platforms are reliable.
Having a dedicated Live Chat solution is great for customers who don’t like to call or want to contact your company on the go. The benefits of Live Chat solutions are:
- Great for customer convenience.
- Short wait times for customers.
- It helps you identify customer pain points.
- Increase customer loyalty
- It signals to customers that your business is trustworthy and always available to help.
Email is often criticized as a tool for customer service and many of these criticisms are warranted. However, this doesn’t mean you should abandon email altogether, but rather refine and improve your email policies and seek to improve them with AI and automation where possible. The benefits of email for customer service are:
- Email is widely used by customers and businesses. Around 98% of customers have used email for customer service. This means they are comfortable with the process.
- You can clearly detail instructions to complex issues that the customer is facing. If the customer is experiencing a technical issue with your product or service, you might want to send them written instructions on how to handle it. This can be less effective on the phone because the customer might not have access to the product at the moment or might not have the time to fix the issue straight away. They might also forget how to fix the issue in the future.
The benefits of using SMS for customer service are:
- It’s universal – Everyone has a phone even if they don’t have a smartphone.
- It’s fast, direct, and reliable. You don’t have to contend with spotty or weak internet connections that might cut the conversation short.
- You can deliver direct resolutions. You can be confident that the customer has seen your response with SMS because it doesn’t require the user to log on to your website, sign in to the app, or open a dedicated messaging platform.
- It’s convenient – Customers can engage with you in their own time.
Self Service and Chatbots
Chatbots can be a great tool for customers who need an answer immediately, especially where the problem is simple. This can save the company huge amounts of money by reducing the workload and pressure on agents. The same is true for self-service articles that address common problems. The benefits of chatbots are:
- They operate 24/7. You can offer great customer service outside of your operating hours.
- They can deal with thousands of customers at once.
- They never get tired or need breaks.
- They can act as a representative of your company and provide a consistent message.
One key thing that all of these options (except self service) have in common is that they put more control in the hands of the customer. With a phone call, only the company has a record of the conversation. Customers have to trust the company has recorded the call or updated their account with the relevant complaint history. The customer doesn’t know what the agent is noting down or if they are at all. This can leave the customer feeling anxious that their complaint has been lost or will be forgotten about after it’s resolved.
With these alternative channels, the customer has their own record of the complaint. This gives more control to the customer and empowers them to engage fully. Customers also have greater control when it comes to when they engage with customer service and which channel they use. This will encourage customers to see you as a customer-focused company.
5 Ways to Shift Customers to Lower Cost Communication Channels
1. Promote Your Channels
It’s great to have a varied set of communication channels for your customers, but your customers won’t use them if they don’t know they exist. When you implement new channels, make sure you communicate this to your customers. Inform them of the change via email or on your social media. Clearly display the communication channel options on your Contact Us or complaint page.
2. Ask Their Preferences
Ask your customers what their communication preferences are. Do they prefer to be contacted by SMS, email, WhatsApp, phone? Send out communications to collect and update the communication preferences for all customers. This serves two purposes. Firstly, you’re letting the customer know that you support all of the options you ask them to pick from. The customer might not know that you have Live Chat or that they can talk to you on WhatsApp. Well, now they do!
Secondly, you can engage customers first through an alternative communication channel. If they select WhatsApp, then the next time you need to inform them of something, you can utilize this information. This will set a precedent that they can always contact you through this channel and will encourage the customer to use lower-cost channels.
3. Create Excellent Self Service Articles
Your customers won’t contact your agents at all if they don’t need to. No one likes talking to customer service. Your customers aren’t calling because they’re lonely and want to chat. They have issues with your product or service and they want these issues addressed straight away. To reduce the pressure on your agents, create excellent self-service articles. The articles should:
- Have a concise overview at the top so customers can address the problem quickly.
- Have a more detailed walkthrough underneath so customers who need more help can still address the problem themselves.
- Cover every known issue.
- Be put into clear sections so they are easy to find.
4. Show Your Customers the Benefit of Alternative Channels
Some customers already know the benefit of alternative communication channels and will be happy to engage with them straight away. However, other customers might take some convincing. This doesn’t mean you should limit their access to customer service calls, but that when they do engage with an alternative make sure they have a great experience. As we said above, one key benefit of text-based customer service is that the customer has a record of the conversation. It’s a good idea to email the customer a record of the chat once the chat is over. This way they can find it whenever they want.
5. Create Advanced Chatbots
Chatbots are becoming increasingly popular with customers, but they still hold a bit of stigma. The chatbots of ten or even five years ago were known for being unintelligent and clunky. The bots would forget something that was said earlier in the conversation and customers would have to repeat themselves. The bots weren’t great at understanding context or detecting the true meaning of non-standard language. This led to chatbots getting a bad reputation. The chatbots of today are completely different. They are advanced and capable.
Make sure you create an expert chatbot who can be a representative of your company. We can help!