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Customer Service Blog

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Key things you should know about customer support channels

by Alex Mercado | January 18, 2019

Choosing the right channel to do customer support can make or break a fledgling business. Understanding the trade-offs between the most common channels is essential.

If you are just getting started setting up a customer support department, we suggest you start at the beginning and read Customer Service Basics: The How-to Guide.

In this post, we will cover the most well-known customer support channels in detail so you can make an informed decision that will make your team and your customers happy.

 

 

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Phone

Phone support is one of the most known channels, however, the use of it for customer support is declining. Partly due to automated answering systems and long waiting times but mostly because Millennials don’t like making phone calls.

 

Pros:

  • Simple to use
  • Fast reply time
  • It offers a better understanding of your customer’s problem
  • Can be highly personalized

Cons:

  • Convenience. Not everyone has time to make a phone call
  • It requires great communication skills
  • Training. Agents are answering on the go so they need to be prepared to answer in real time any question your customers might have
  • One problem – one agent. When an agent is on a call, they can’t be answering emails or chats at the same time
  • High costs

 

Email

It is one of the first channels of communication the Internet gave us, making it extremely popular with customers. It is especially helpful if you have clients all over the world.

 

Pros:

  • Simple to use
  • Low costs. You can have an inbox for free or pay a little extra to have your company’s domain
  • Convenience. Your client can send an email and then move on to something else. You can reply to the email now, or in the future (hopefully within a reasonable amount of time)
  • You can personalize certain aspects of the email but at the end is not highly personalized
  • File sharing. Your customer can send you a picture of something that is broken, just as easily you can send them a PDF with instructions.
  • It can be easily stored

Cons:

  • Not the best channel if customers need an immediate reply
  • It requires perfect written communication skills
  • It's easy to lose track of new emails or follow-ups
  • As you grow so will your backlog

 

Web chat

A great option for all the people who dislike talking on the phone and are looking for immediacy.

 

Pros:

  • Quick reply time (typically 1 to 2 min)
  • Customers can chat with you in the middle of their purchase process which in turn, will make them convert better and faster
  • File sharing. Your customer can send you a picture of something that is broken, just as easily you can send them a PDF with instructions.
  • One agent – multiple chats. You can reply to multiple inquiries at the same time

Cons:

  • Sudden inquiry influx during certain hours
  • Customers expect fast replies
  • It requires perfect written communication skills
  • Time-consuming. You need at least one person available for most of the working day
  • Setting it up is not as straight forward as other channels
  • You can probably get a free tool but to truly get the most out of it you are going to have to invest in software

 

Social Media

These days, for any brand having a social media presence, is a must-have. That doesn’t mean you need to consider using your accounts as a customer support channel.

 

Pros:

  • It allows you to address a broad audience
  • Efficient and mobile
  • Allows you to build customer relationships
  • Publicly available replies. You can turn a loss into a win
  • Low cost

Cons:

  • Requires a fast response
  • Time-consuming. If you want a large online presence you might need a dedicated person
  • An angry comment can be seen by potential customers
  • You are exposed to trolls 

Scaling your customer service operation is more straightforward if you use fewer channels, so as a startup it’s wise to start with one channel and make sure you nail it before even considering adding additional ones.

 

You might also like: 

Creating an excellent live chat experience for your customers

Customer Service Terms: The only glossary you will ever need

16 essential customer service metrics you can't do without

Alex Mercado

Alex Mercado

Alex works from Utrecht, which has been her home away from home for several years. Originally from Mexico, she enjoys creating content and listening to podcasts. In her spare time, she likes to cook Mexican food and play Mario Kart.

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