Pre-internet customer support consisted of in-person help at a retail store to return an item, get product help or speak to a salesperson about a potential purchase. Call centers, originally known as private automated business exchanges, were created in the 1960s. Interactive voice response (IVR) was invented In the early 1980s and continues to be used today. Customer support in the mid-to-late 20th century had two main channels: a phone call or talking to someone in a store.
Pew Research Center’s Spring 2018 Global Attitudes Survey found that 81% of adults own a smartphone. With such a large percentage of smartphone users, customer support can’t afford to lag behind consumer trends. Companies need to adapt to the current and potential smartphone features and implement those in their customer support strategy.
The smartphone is a daily device for consumers and usage continues to grow yearly. Why is customer support still using old strategies for customer support? By integrating features, like photo and video sharing, companies can develop intelligent customer support experiences that can improve first call resolution (FCR).
How could photo and video sharing improve FCR? It presents an immediate level of context that agents can understand and decrease issue resolution time. Customers already have these tools on their smartphones.
The smartphone is more than a phone
Voice is the main communication channel for most companies. But other channels are growing. Customers want the easiest experience for them and voice is losing ground to other channels. This is why it’s important to offer other channels.
Text between devices was used for the first time in 1992. Cell phone texting on feature phones was available, but usage costs limited the viability as a customer support channel. It wasn’t until carriers focused on data usage rather than assigning limits voice calls and messaging that text grew as a major communication channel.
33% of United States consumers prefer text for customer service compared to 27% who prefer voice calls. Text as a support channel isn’t widely used across all industries, but it should be considered because of its growing popularity. Twilio found that 47% of consumers prefer to use text messages to contact businesses. Google even offers the option for companies to add text messaging to business listings so customers can text instead of calling.
You can also send photos and video through text. For customer support, a photo or video can be more helpful than an entire written explanation of a problem.
If a product like a glass baking pan is broken, the only context an agent might receive is “the pan is broken.” Based on this sentence, the agent has no idea where the crack is located or the severity of the breakage. It might even frustrate the customer if the agent asks for a longer description. By sharing a photo of the pan, the agent will be able to see the existing damage immediately. The customer is able to visually communicate the issue without needing to spend time explaining it.
Sending a video for more complex issues is also helpful. If a smart home device is stuck in a loop, the customer can record a video to show the agent precisely what is happening.
The problem might be a technical issue that the customer isn’t familiar with so an explanation through a voice call or text wouldn’t reveal the actual problem and lead to a lot of speculation from both sides. The video provides important context, so the agent can provide the right solution.
Self-service and chatbots
Consumers are becoming more savvy and self-sufficient. This extends to consumer expectation for more self-serve customer support options. 72% of United States consumers expect a self-service portal. This creates an opportunity to develop a communication channel that can offer self-serve solutions with the option to connect to an agent when necessary.
Chatbots in text and web chat can help resolve low urgency, low complexity issues quickly. If a customer has a question about their subscription renewal date, they could simply text the question. With the phone number, an agent could quickly pull up the customer account, find the renewal date and text it back.
If all renewals happened on a specific date, a chatbot could reply with the date and a link to an FAQ page with more detailed information. If the customer is reaching out about an urgent issue, the chatbot can route the customer to an agent for assistance.
Text is a preferred channel
The smartphone has many technological advantages compared to the landline, but customer support still relies heavily on phone as a primary channel. A phone conversation is important for highly complex and highly urgent issues because an immediate resolution is needed.
However, voice shouldn’t be the only support channel. Agents can be overwhelmed with the amount of calls causing long wait times or customers find other channels more convenient.
By building multiple communication channels, you can optimize the customer support experience for both customers and agents. While phone is important, text is a useful channel because it’s a versatile solution for all types of issues.
The ability to share photos and videos helps agents quickly understand issues, while chatbots can help customers find solutions on their own.
The text channel is more than a quick conversation. It has the potential to be a digital concierge. Text can guide customers exactly where they need to go, whether that be a self-service solution or an agent for a white glove experience.