28 March 2014
Website Chat Software Vs Phone Support: The Rapid Rise and Brief Fall
There was a time when, if a customer had a problem, they needed to approach the seller personally and rely on their good grace for a refund or replacement. But then along came the mighty telephone, introducing call centres, switchboards and a whole new meaning to the customer support.
Phone support has become an indispensable tool for every business, whether it’s operated in-house or outsourced to a third-party call centre. In some cases, it’s the only support option available. Businesses now have more options available to them and would be well served in exploring them.
One reason for this is the cost. According to the US Contact Centre Decision Makers’ Guide, call centres in the US spend an annual $12.4 billion just to authenticate the identity of the caller. This doesn’t include all the other maintenance costs. There is absolutely no justification for a 21st century SME to invest all of its customer service efforts in phone support, especially when you take a look at the disadvantages.
Yes, phone systems can record each and every one of your operators’ conversations, but this creates a massive demand on infrastructure, which can get expensive. Another option is to store phone conversation for a set amount of time, but this would still carry significant costs and be useless if an investigation takes places after the record’s expiration period. Both website chat software and email support offer a simpler and more cost-effective way to store valuable data.
Sometimes customers need a little more information than what your website offers or information that is sensitive and for their eyes only. Having a built-in file sending functionality in your email or website chat software solution will save operators from spelling out a web address over the phone or getting postage details.
One of the single biggest advantages of email and live chat software over phone support is that operators can handle more than one customer at a time. If a company experiences growth it will also need to increase its support efforts, which in turn means increasing prices to pay for more staff – not something that regular customers will appreciate it. Phone support is great for complex issues and riled customers, but alternative customer support choices are much more efficient.
Average Time per Customer
Providing each and every customer with a dedicated phone agent is a great way to make every customer feel valued, but a well-trained live chat operator can have the same impact. According to the US Contact Centre Decision Makers Guide (2012), phone operators waste an average of 5 weeks per year between calls (based on 2.5min a day). Adding something as simple as filter questions to your support process can save valuable operator time.
Mitigate Outsourcing Problems
Despite globalisation rubber-banding in the 21st century, there are still organisations that choose to outsource their calls to overseas call centres. Choosing the wrong company to handle your customer support issues can lead to serious customer dissatisfaction and permanently scar a company’s reputation. This problem can be tackled by opting for non-voice channels that masks the operator’s accent and includes a spell-checker.
Call centres are no longer the most accessible support tool. Outsourcing solutions means using international (or setting up redirects for them) or exploring VOIP solutions, which some customers may struggle with. By comparison, the internet is a global contact platform.
It’s very hard to understand performance when all you measure is time spent on phone and the resulting conversions. Implementing a system that can categorise customer engagements, record a transcript and track commission-earner is a much more solid way to assess the performance of individual operators.
While call centres and phone support is struggling to keep up with other technologies, they are still an integral part of any company’s support structure. However, email and website chat software offer a very real opportunity to reduce the money your company spends on its customer support infrastructure (the latter being the only viable real-time replacement).