Customer Experience News & Trends

Is the phone a relic in customer service?

Do you really need the phone — and people to answer it — to help customers today? New research reveals what customers prefer when they need answers.

According to the results, you’ll want to keep that 800 number and the staff to take the calls.

Everyone who believes self-service is the way to go will be surprised (and perhaps disappointed): The phone remains the most popular customer service channel, according to new research by BT and Avaya.

About 75% of customers have used the phone — most likely a mobile one — to call an organization for help in the last six months, the survey found.

What’s more, the demand for help from a real person with a soothing voice on the other end of a phone isn’t dropping any time soon: Nine out of 10 customers want companies to display helpful phone numbers clearly on all of their other customer service channels — websites, mobile apps, paper documents, email, etc. And nearly as many customers said that when things go wrong, there is no alternative to talking with a real person.

Despite the ease of doing business online and through mobile devices, customers still prefer and need comfort. This comes in the form of questions answered in terms they use and understand, a direct apology when necessary and solutions from a living, breathing person.

What you can do

It’s a good idea to give customers options when it comes to getting help — especially because they’ve come to expect information at the click of a mouse at any hour of the day.

But be cautious: As you increase the information and availability of self-service channels such as chat and mobile apps, don’t sacrifice the quality of telephone service. Two keys:

  • Include everyone within the organization in periodic phone training. Phone calls can get misdirected, causing to talk to people throughout the business. So everyone needs to know the basics of good phone customer service — courtesy, baseline knowledge of how the business flows and where customers can find the information they need.
  • Review for consistency. Regularly call into the numbers your customers are directed to us to make sure the phone tree isn’t more than three options deep before a customer can reach a person and that automated information is up to date.

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