The proliferation of omnichannel customer service in recent years has transformed the world of brand-consumer interactions. Phone conversations remain synonymous with customer service, yet today customers can also communicate via text messages, email, social media platforms and even purpose- engineered customer service chatbots. Increasingly, businesses feel compelled to have a range of platforms available for customer interaction, investing in digital strategies to handle customer interactions. Brands are also right to be concerned: a survey on US consumers revealed that 61% of millennials stopped using a business based on poor customer service in 2017, with 68% of the total consumers doing more business with brands that offered great customer service. As multiple new channels become available to customers, is voice interaction still an effective, and necessary, mode for customer service?
It is important for businesses to consider what customers expect from their customer service. A more in-depth analysis of customer experiences across multi-channels suggests that human voice interaction remains indispensable for superior customer service.
A recent report by Accenture highlighted the errors in many businesses’ perception of their digital customers and the profitability of multiple channels. Brands today operate with the belief that customers prefer digital platforms for their customer service, and that providing this will drive customer engagement and commercial return. In reality, 73% of consumers would choose human interaction over a digital platform when seeking advice or looking for answers to a service issue or complaint.
This statistic confirms that the vast majority of consumers find human contact, such as voice conversations, a necessary means for brand interaction. Customer service is still the management of customer relations. It involves handling sensitive emotions, empathising with the customer and providing meaningful responses, something which voice interaction still excels in above other channels. As a result, 40% of customer service interactions still occur on the phone. Customers who contact brands are seeking assistance, and typically explaining the issue or concern is best conducted across the phone. Consumers require services that are efficient, on-demand and personalised. While Artificial Intelligence devices do provide fast customer responses, they still lack the sophistication to handle complex and emotive customer requests.
Nevertheless, this is not to say that voice interaction should be the only channel for customer service.
Providing an omnichannel customer service experience has become an essential today, reflecting consumers’ busy lifestyles and desire for quick and instant interactions. However, truly modern customer service means striking the appropriate balance between digital and human interaction.
The variety of channels available for customer service interaction gives customers greater choice and personalisation: they can select a channel which best suits them. Digital customer service interactions, for example, can be ideal for busy customers who cannot speak with a human customer service agent in normal working hours. At the same time, customer service channels are only successful when customers obtain the answers they want.
This was the subject of discussion in a recent article by Econsultancy, which revealed the pitfalls of a social media-based customer service. Social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook enable brands to communicate with hundreds of thousands of customers instantly, however this can be more problematic than efficient. The sheer volume of customer interactions often leaves individuals without a response, and often, those who do receive replies are directed back to a telephone number for the customer service team. Social media sites also mean customers can publicly share negative experiences, and if they are not handled correctly this may exacerbate the situation and damage a brand’s reputation.
Ultimately, customers want relevant and empathetic responses to their concerns. Voice interaction delivers this, although it is also not a perfect channel. Long call waiting times and dissatisfying interactions remain common complaints amongst customers, creating a negative customer experience. There are a number of ways brands can upgrade their voice interaction, and investing in your Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system is one of the most valuable ways to augment the customer service experience. A well-designed and intuitive IVR makes the keypad selection process easier for customers, allowing the caller to be quickly connected with the appropriate customer service agent. Continuous support and training for the customer service agent will also benefit the overall voice interaction. It equips the human representative with greater emotional management skills which enables more productive conversations, and consequently, happier customers.
The rise of multichannel customer service has not demoted the importance of voice interaction, on the contrary, it has highlighted how central human contact is for brand interaction. Voice and digital channels do work effectively alongside one another, yet it is vital that brands remember the emotional element at the heart of customer service, something which human interaction provides best.