Let’s be honest, in most cases, a customer contacts a company not because they want to, but because they need to. People get in touch with customer service teams out of necessity, and it is ultimately an inconvenience for them in their day-to-day lives.
So how do you transform an inconvenient task into a positive interaction which helps to improve your customers’ experience?
The answer is simple: be available, easily accessible and provide quick, high quality responses.
But how exactly do you do that? As they say, horses for courses, different strokes for different folks, different customer contact channels for different… customers? You get the picture.
It’s important to offer your customers as many contact channels as possible to ensure they’re able to contact you in the most convenient way for them. What’s more, this isn’t a one-sided story: there are benefits for the company too.
Not only do different communication channels give you insights into how your customers are interacting with your company, but having multiple customer contact channels alleviates some of the pressure from traditional contact channels to reduce call centre wait times and improve overall customer satisfaction.
To help you decide which contact channels you should consider for your business, we’ve made a list of 12 of the most prominent customer contact channels, along with some of their key benefits. We’ve split these contact channels into the following categories: chat, written, voice and face-to-face.
Chat channels are becoming an increasingly popular contact channel amongst both customers and organisations. They are one of the best ways to offer personal and fast customer service.
1) Live web chat
Human-powered live chat is an incredibly popular contact channel for younger audiences, because it provides in depth, tailored responses to their queries instantly.
The 18-34 age group is the most likely to have used web chat ‘many times’, with the top reason for preferring live chat over phone being the reduced hold time.
Live chat allows agents to build relationships with customers as they travel through the website, by enabling meaningful conversations to take place in a super convenient way.
It can also be a 24-hour contact channel, meaning customers can receive assistance at any time, in any place.
Live chat also has benefits for the business, such as providing insights into the customer’s website journey and being able to easily escalate conversations to a voice or video call at the click of a button.
2) Chat bots
Automated chatbots popularity as a customer contact channel is growing. They provide an efficient alternative to human-powered live chat, can deal with multiple queries at once, are available 24/7, and offer customers immediates responses.
Due to programming, the biggest con of chatbots is that they cannot deal with unusual requests - they’re experts at fielding basic requests and FAQs, but get thrown by complicated issues.
As a result, the best way to employ chatbots as a contact channel is alongside human-powered live chat. Chatbots deal with simple queries and then hand a customer over to an agent when issues are more complicated. As chatbots develop, more and more call centres will use this two pronged chat method.
3) Messenger Apps
Messenger apps, like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, are quick and convenient customer contact channels, and are also great for providing insights about how many of your messages get delivered and read.
They can also be incredibly powerful for broadcasting messages about offers and promotions. This is particularly true of WhatsApp - it has a huge active user base (1.2 billion active users to be precise) and messages on these channels are more frequently checked than emails.
4) Social media
Nowadays, many brands are discovered on social media, which makes social media platforms a great communication channel for engaging with new and existing customers very early on in the customer journey.
Social media is one of the only public customer contact channels available (meaning messages aren’t always private), which means it can double up as a marketing tool as well as an effective contact channel.
Companies can and do use this to their advantage. On Twitter, for instance, many companies make sure they communicate using their brands ‘voice’ when engaging in customer conversations to improve or change their brand’s perception.
For example, some brands use humour to showcase the human side of the brand. A great example of a company who does this well is Greggs (for those who aren’t British, this is a much beloved national bakery chain).
Written customer contact channels, such as email, post and webforms, are some of the most traditional ways customers can get in touch with companies, but they are not always the most efficient form of communication.
Email is one of the best options for formal communication when an immediate response isn’t necessarily required.
It’s a versatile contact channel which can be used to communicate personal correspondence to customer support, or to disseminate news and information across a company’s customer base.
Another key benefit is that agents can respond to emails during breaks in dealing with other real-time contact channels e.g. between two live chat conversations, they can respond to an email request.
The biggest drawback of email is that it can take a long time to get a response; the average response time for email customer service requests is 12 hours 10 minutes.
Email addresses are one of the most popular customer identifiers, meaning customers are matched up to CRM records via their email. As a result, even if you do not want to utilise email as a principal contact channel for your business, it is worth collecting customer email addresses for identification and re-targeting purposes.
With many companies moving towards paperless correspondence, often for environmental and convenience reasons, post is not a very prolific customer contact channel today.
Nowadays, it’s mostly used for formal and official customer correspondences, bills or invoices, or simply to inform customers of changes made to their accounts or services.
A huge advantage is that it can be one of the most personal contact channels if the letter is handwritten or personalised.
However, as lovely as it is for the customer to receive a handwritten (or hand-typed) letter, it is one of the more expensive and time consuming contact methods.
A number of robotic handwriting tools have been developed recently, which reduce the cost and time connected to sending handwritten communications, but, with marketing automation, emails can also be quickly and easily personalised, and remain a cheaper contact channel.
7) Web forms
Web forms operate in a similar way to email, but a big difference - and key benefit - is that the customer doesn’t need to leave your website to get in touch, which can reduce abandonment rates.
Web forms are also a good method of capturing customer data, provided it is GDPR compliant, as customers need to fill out a number of fields to submit the form.
Another key benefit of web forms as a customer contact channel is that people who submit them often get confirmation of receipt, so they know the message has been received by the company.
For companies, one of the biggest advantages of web forms is that they mean you don’t need to publish your email address on your website for customers to get in touch with you. This is a great option if you receive a lot of spam mail and/or want to control who has access to your email address.
Voice customer contact channels, such as traditional phone calls and web calls, are ideal for dealing with urgent enquiries. When a customer needs an immediate response to an urgent query, they usually prefer to call you. As a result, all companies should allow customers to call them in some form.
8) Traditional Phone Calls
A telephone based contact centre is one of the most conventional choices for customer services teams.
Phone calls are a tried and tested customer contact channel with proven success, and because customers are familiar with the process, they’re a popular contact channel for companies to implement. It is the most popular channel for the older generation (65+) in particular.
The downside of a traditional phone call is that customers often have to wait in long queues before they can speak with an advisor, which can be tedious and inconvenient.
9) Web calling
Web calling is a great way to offer customers over-the-phone advice, without the need to leave your website.
Leveraging WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) technology, a click-to-call button means customers can engage in a voice call with an agent directly through the website. Web calls can be escalated from a live chat conversation, which means that agents have information about a customer’s journey, and have already built rapport with a customer, before they speak to them.
Another key benefit is that web calling lets companies offer free support to customers, regardless of their geographic location, as it doesn’t require the customer to dial an expensive landline number.
10) Call backs
Whether you offer web calling or traditional phone calls, adding in web call back is a great way to reduce call wait times, abandonment rates and boast customer satisfaction and leads.
As a contact channel, it is no different to a phone call - the customer and the agent communicate over the phone - however, call back allows customers to request a call from a company at a time that suits them.
The best way to offer this channel is to set up a call back option on your website. The customer can quickly fill out their contact details and an agent either calls them back as soon as possible, or at a time stated by the customer.
Face-to-face contact channels are the perfect way to provide personalised customer service. By helping to bring the in-store experience online, they are great for dealing with complex queries and showing customers products.
11) Video chat
Preferred by the younger generation and very powerful when you need to show, not just tell, video chat is a very useful customer contact channel.
The main use is to deliver in-person customer support remotely. This has become increasingly important since the coronavirus pandemic, with traditional brick-and-mortar stores being forced online - video chat has allowed businesses that rely on face-to-face contact to provide the same customer experience online.
Video chat is also a great contact channel to have in your arsenal for when customer issues are quite complex. For example, if a customer is having trouble navigating through your website or filling out a certain form, video chat can be employed and an agent can share their screen to show the customer exactly what they need to do.
12) In-store appointments
Sometimes, the original is the best; nothing can beat speaking to your customers in person. Making customers feel relaxed and comfortable in your company’s physical environment is immeasurable in building a reputable and trustworthy brand.
The luxury and high-end sector in particular can benefit from encouraging in-person customer support, as this can evoke a feeling of exclusivity and provide a super-personalised experience.
However, in-person support is not the most efficient method of handling customer requests and can be inconvenient for the customer, so it’s important to recommend more convenient customer contact channels for day-to-day queries.
The future of customer contact channels
Who says you should just pick one contact channel to utilise! The future of customer communication lies in a multi-channel approach.
This doesn’t mean you need to employ all 12 of the contact channels we’ve mentioned immediately. In fact, that is probably a recipe for disaster! Instead, try picking 2 or 3 channels. You can then add more contact channels if and when you need to.
To deliver the best online customer experience and customer service, you need to sync up different contact channels so customers can jump from one to the other when needed. This is known as providing an omnichannel customer experience and can bring many benefits to your business.
The great news is, you don’t need to buy and install loads of different solutions to offer multiple channels. With a solution like Talkative, live chat, web calling, call back and video chat all come together, offering you a wide range of customer contact channels in one package.
Book a demo today to see how Talkative can help you implement the best contact channels for your organisation.