Let’s be honest.
Whatever the contact channel, most customers get in touch because they need to. Not because they want to.
So, how do you make sure you're offering support and solving problems fast?
The answer is simple: you need to offer the right contact channels for your customers' needs.
In this article, we'll explore how to do just that. We'll cover:
- The benefits of offering a variety of channels
- The twelve key contact channels at your disposal
- Which channels work best for different types of customers
- The perks of each channel and their best use cases
- How to connect your contact channels
How many contact channels do you need?
It’s important to offer your customers as many contact channels as you can effectively manage.
It'll ensure they’re able to contact you in the most convenient way for them.
Offering several channels has huge benefits for your company too.
Firstly, deploying different communication channels give you insights into how your customers are interacting with your company.
What's more, having multiple customer contact channels alleviates the pressure on your contact centre teams.
This means you can reduce call centre wait times and improve overall customer satisfaction - two very smart customer service goals.
To help you decide which contact channels you should consider for your business, we’ve compiled a list of the twelve most prominent customer contact channels and their key benefits.
We’ve split these contact channels into the following categories: chat, written, voice, and face-to-face.
Chat contact channels
Chat channels have become a hugely popular contact method for good reason.
They're one of the best ways to offer personal and fast customer service, whatever type of customer you're serving.
Here's four example channels you'll want to consider.
1) Live web chat
Human-powered live chat is an incredibly popular contact channel for most demographics.
In particular, the 18-34 age group is most likely to favour web chat over any other channel.
This is for a few key reasons:
- Live chat interactions can provide instant and in-depth responses.
- It has a greatly reduced hold time compared to phone support.
- It offers maximum ease and convenience for customers.
- With live chat solutions like Talkative, interactions can be smoothly escalated to video or voice with a click of a button.
In some circumstances, live chat can also work as a 24-hour contact channel.
This means customers can receive the assistance they need at any time and in any place.
Here's some of the reasons why:
- Chatbots provide an efficient alternative to human-powered live chat
- They can deal with multiple queries at once
- They're available 24/7
- They provide customers with immediate responses.
The main downside of chatbots as contact channel is that they struggle with unusual requests or messages.
They might be experts at fielding basic queries and FAQs, but they'll get thrown by complicated issues.
This isn't great news if a customer is prone to frustration or has a complaint
As a result, the best way to employ chatbots as a contact channel is alongside human-powered live chat.
That way, chatbots can deal with simple queries before handing over to a human advisor when issues are more complex.
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 have always been popular contact channels amongst the public.
This is because they're quick, convenient, and cost effective.
Now, businesses can benefit from these perks too - thanks to social media live chat.
With this kind of integration, you can speak with your customers on social media from within your live chat dashboard.
From there, you can also review the useful insights that these channels provide.
For instance, messaging apps are some of the most efficient channels for analysing whether your messages get delivered and read.
These apps can also be incredibly powerful for broadcasting information about your latest offers and promotions.
This is particularly true of WhatsApp. It has a huge active user base - 1.2 billion people, to be precise. Messages on this channel are more frequently checked than emails.
Just remember: if you serve European customers over WhatsApp, you still need to make sure your WhatsApp is GDPR compliant.
4) Social media
Social media is one of the key channels customers use to discover new brands.
This is particularly true for Millennial and Gen Z customers.
As such, social media is a great contact channel for engaging with younger audiences.
Unlike the direct messaging apps we've already covered, standard social media platforms are one of the only public-facing contact channels.
It means that this contact channel can double up as a marketing tool.
Companies often use this to their advantage. On Twitter, for instance, many companies make sure they communicate using their brand's ‘voice’ during customer conversations.
It helps to engage customers more effectively and curate a change brand image.
Written contact channels
Written customer contact channels include email, post, and webforms.
They're the more traditional channels that customers use to get in touch with companies.
That said, they're not always the most efficient form of communication. Let's explore why.
Email is a versatile website engagement tool and contact channel which can be used to communicate personal correspondence and customer support.
It's one of the best options for formal communication when an immediate response isn’t necessarily required.
It can also be used to disseminate news and information across a company’s customer base.
One of the most efficient ways to offer email support is to answer emails in between real-time interactions on other contact channels.
For example, if a customer advisor is in between two live chat conversations, they can respond to email requests in the meantime.
In terms of drawbacks, one main complaint customers have about email is that it has a slow average response time.
In fact, the overall average response time for email customer service requests is 12 hours and 10 minutes.
That said, email does have some other uses that make it worth your time.
For instance, email addresses are one of the most popular customer identifiers, particularly when using CRM software.
So even if you don't use email as a principal contact channel, it's still worth collecting customer email addresses for identification and re-targeting purposes.
With many companies moving towards paperless correspondence, post is not the prolific customer contact channel it once was.
These days, it’s mostly used for:
- Formal and official customer communications
- Bills or invoices
- Updates on accounts, services, and terms and conditions.
Nevertheless, post does have one huge advantage over other contact channels.
It can be one of the most personal communication methods if the letter is handwritten or personalized.
Still, as lovely as it is for the customer to receive a handwritten letter, it's one of the more expensive and time-consuming contact methods.
What's more, mass email can also personalised with ease, thanks to marketing automation.
This means that post might be one contact channel to avoid - unless completely necessary.
7) Web forms
Web forms operate in a similar way to email, but there's a big difference.
With this contact channel, the customer doesn’t need to leave your website to get in touch.
This is great news for reducing shopping cart abandonment rates.
Web forms are also a good method of capturing customer data, as customers need to fill out a number of fields to submit the form.
Just make sure your forms and data-storage methods are GDPR compliant if you serve European customers.
Another key benefit of this customer contact channel is that web forms can provide confirmation of receipt.
It means you're less likely to receive customer nudge messages in time to come.
Finally, one of the biggest advantages of web forms is that they limit the need to publish company emails on your site.
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 contact channels
Voice customer contact channels, such as traditional phone calls and web calls, are ideal for dealing with urgent enquiries.
As a result, most companies should allow customers to call them in some form.
You just need to find which form works best for you!
8) Traditional phone calls
A telephone based contact centre is one of the most conventional choices for customer services teams.
After all, phone calls are a tried and tested customer contact channel with proven success.
What's more, most customers are extremely familiar with the concept.
It's the most popular contact channel for the older generation (65+), for instance.
The downside of a traditional phone call is that customers often have to wait in long queues before they can speak with an advisor.
This can prove extremely tedious and inconvenient - as most of us can attest!
9) Web calling
Web calling is a great way to offer customers over-the-phone advice, without them leaving your site.
Leveraging WebRTC (Web Real-Time Communication) technology, you can place click-to-call buttons throughout your webpages.
From there, customers can call you directly through their browser.
With this technology, web calls can also be escalated from a live chat conversation.
This saves you from bouncing the customer around between contact channels - a huge digital customer service mistake.
Another key benefit of web calling is that it lets companies offer free support to customers, regardless of their geographic location.
There's no charge for the customer over the landline, and you're improving the customer experience with maximum convenience.
It makes web calling one of the smartest contact channels you can offer.
10) Call backs
Whether you offer web calling or traditional inbound phone calls, providing an additional web call back option has some fantastic benefits.
- Reduced call wait times
- Reduced abandonment rates
- Improved customer satisfaction
- Increased leads and remote sales
As a contact channel, call backs are really no different to a phone call.
For both traditional calls and customer callbacks, the interaction occurs over the phone.
However, call back allows customers to request a call from a company at a time that suits them.
What's great about this option is that both customers and companies benefit from increased convenience. Once a customer has filled out their contact details, an advisor can either call them back as soon as possible, or at a later scheduled time.
In turn, this allows for better management of contact centre workloads. It's win-win.
Face-to-face contact channels
Face-to-face contact is the perfect way to provide personalised, proactive customer service.
That said, up until recently, it was extremely difficult to offer this kind of support online.
Now, that's all changed - thanks to the next customer contact channel on our list.
11) Video chat
Over the last year, the use of video chat for customer service has sky-rocketed.
In fact, some of Talkative's customers have seen a 400% rise in interactions since deploying video chat on their site.
Customers love video chat because it allows them to communicate effectively and easily.
This means that video chat queries are often resolved even faster than live chat queries - making it a supremely efficient customer service tool.
Nevertheless, video chat is also a great contact channel when customers require a little more time and attention.
Take more complex customer requests like product or site demonstrations, for example.
In these scenarios, video chat can be employed, and advisors can even share their screen with cobrowsing.
From there, the advisor is no longer impeded by having to type instructions. Instead, they can focus on solving the customer's issue, whatever their query.
This feature also makes video a prime sales tool, as you can answer customer questions fast and bring the in-store experience online.
Finally, in terms of convenience, video chat is just as versatile as web call backs.
For instance, you can technically separate video chat into two distinct contact channels, depending on your customers' needs.
Why just offer on-demand video chat or scheduled video appointments when you can offer both with ease?
12) In-store appointments
Sometimes, the original contact channel is best: nothing can quite beat speaking to your customers in person.
Making customers feel relaxed and comfortable in your brick-and-mortar locations is immeasurable when building a reputable and trustworthy brand.
In particular, the luxury and high-end sector can benefit from encouraging in-person customer consultations.
It evokes a feeling of exclusivity and provides a super-personalised experience.
However, in-person support is not the most efficient method of handling customer support requests.
It can even be inconvenient for the customer - especially with more and more of us shopping online.
So, remember to recommend more convenient customer contact channels for day-to-day queries.
It'll allow you to treat each customer with the required level of focus and attention.
The takeaway: connecting your contact channels
Whatever industry you're in, the future of customer communication lies in providing a seamless customer experience.
This means connecting all your contact channels to provide a smooth and contextualized digital customer journey.
A key step to achieving this is getting the right platform.
After all, if you want to get the most out of digital customer service, you need a solution that's specifically designed to connect you with the right customers, via the right channel, at the right time.
And that's where Talkative comes in.
And you'll be able to manage every interaction, from every channel, within a single dashboard.
So, if you want to offer a wide range of customer contact channels, the great news is that you don’t need to purchase multiple solutions.
With an omnichannel solution like Talkative, it all comes in one package.
Want to see for yourself? Book a demo with Talkative and start powering better customer conversations, today.