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There was a time when call centers were populated mostly by headset-wearing “operators” (as in, “Operators are standing by!”). Now, however, whether they are located in a physical call center location or work remotely from a home office, call center agents typically have a comprehensive dashboard of communications options at their fingertips. Depending on the company, customers can now choose to make contact via email, text messaging, live text chat, social media, or even the humble telephone.
Which is the best call center communication tool for your company? The answer, of course, is all of them.
Digital vs. Telephone?
The proliferation of smartphones and multiple email addresses per person means that customers are now accustomed to being able to communicate using various media. Their preferences may depend on a number of factors, including age, experience, familiarity and comfort with technology, and even location.
Millenials have grown up practically clutching a smartphone and are more likely to prefer communicating via text than any other generation, averaging about 60 texts per day. Seniors, on the other hand, are engaging in social media in greater numbers than ever before, but email remains the favorite of 86% of all adults over age 65.
Despite these numbers, this doesn’t mean that call centers can beef up their technology investments in digital communications at the expense of traditional telecommunications. Seniors and teens alike may have their overwhelming preferences when it comes to communicating with friends and family, but as a recent nationwide survey conducted by Consumer Reports found, 1 out of 5 customers still want to talk to a customer service agent via phone. Only 2% would prefer live chat, and fewer still want to send an email.
This is why companies continue to expand their phone trees and contact center operations. Despite the comprehensive list of communication tools, the phone is still the first thing most people pick up when they have a complaint or question for a company. Even with the poor reputation of many corporate customer service centers and their massive phone trees, people still want to connect with a human being and may wait a long time just to reach one.
Let the People Decide
So why would I suggest that companies deploy all modern technologies in their contact center? Because — despite the enduring popularity of the telephone — people still want choices. They want to know that, if their circumstances demand it, they can open up a live chat with a call center agent and ask their question that way.
They want to know that, if time wasn’t of the essence, they can fire off an email instead of waiting on hold for what could be an interminable period.
That same Consumer Reports survey mentioned above bears this out, too. They found that over 60% of respondents said their “preferred method of contact depends on the nature of the problem.”
In other words, they may want to talk on the phone most of the time, but sometimes, they don’t. Knowing they have choices and can exercise any of them to fit their circumstances is the key .
Whatever suite of communication tools your company decides to select, make sure that it’s designed with customer ease and responsiveness in mind. That means ensuring callers aren’t routed a dozen times, or aren’t made to wait half an hour to live-chat with an agent. It means that if your email response time is publicly stated as “between 24-48 hours,” a customer should expect to receive a response within that timeframe, and preferably sooner.