Connecting with your customers was once a single-avenue operation, addressing customer inquiries exclusively over the phone. Since the advent and popularization of online written forms of communication, the means of contact available to businesses has diversified significantly, necessitating a multi-channel approach to customer service and support. Although the phone conversation remains the most efficient and effective form of distance communication, many customers prefer the editability and convenience of live chat.
Choosing the ideal solution for your company can be tricky. You may be tempted to take one form over the other, however in the battle of live chat vs. phone, there are no clear winners, and a multi-channel strategy may be your best option for providing excellent and personalized support to your customers.
What is Live Chat?
Live chat came onto the customer support scene in the early 2000’s, and more closely resembled a modern direct messaging platform. A customer would connect with a single agent on the other end in an informal chat room, and address their inquiries directly to said support agent.
In recent years, live chat has advanced significantly, incorporating features such as:
- Chat bot support, to provide initial assistance to customers and schedule meetings with agents.
- Automated visitor engagement, which prompts new visitors to a site to engage with the support services before they open a chat.
- A centralized agent inbox, allowing all customer support personnel to manage and respond to customer inquiries in a single location.
- Traffic monitoring, allowing you to understand who is visiting your website, and how they’re using it.
Far beyond a simple communication tool, live chat has enabled a whole new method of customer support and data collection, as it easily integrates into existing web platforms. Live chat is often the easiest communication method for many customers, as it meets them where they are: browsing your website via desktop, mobile, etc.
Live Chat vs. Phone Support
We’re not prepared to make a case for one method or the other. Both live customer service chat and phone support play an equally important role in customer support. And a seamless break between either platform is ultimately the preferable solution: our research shows that 86% of consumers expect their conversations to move between channels, the top three including phone calls, emails, and live chat. Either method has its place in the canon of customer support technologies, and used in tandem will ultimate enhance the customer experience.
Pros and Cons: Live Chat
Pro: ability to offer proactive support. Implementation of chatbots and other automated chat systems allows you to reach out to customers browsing your website first. This helps to initiate a relationship between the customer and your company by encouraging interaction.
Con: awkward timing. Although live chats are in real time, without the immediacy offered by a phone call, communication can lag, if either the customer or the agent is slow to respond. Customers may choose to abandon the chat if they are not attended to quickly enough.
Pro: fast analysis. Data is more easily gathered from written communications than vocal recordings. Chat transcripts are keyword-searchable, references to products are easily located, and the script itself takes up significantly less storage space than its recorded cousin.
Con: prank chats. Most phone-based solutions have built-in technologies which help to weed out prank callers and other malicious communications. And live chat has yet to catch up in this sense: live chat programs are much more susceptible to abuse and cyber-attack.
Pro: fast resolution. Customer inquiries are solved quickly and easily, due to the combined efforts of automated systems and live agents. Customers with FAQs and simple inquiries are addressed by the frontline chatbot or FAQs, who might then pass on more complex problems to live agents. This means your company is able to tackle a higher volume of inquiries at increased speed.
Pros and Cons: Phone Support
Pro: complex analytics. You can’t read tone of voice: emotions play a significant role when analyzing customer interactions. Tone of voice, language used, whether the customer laughed and why, etc. can give your analysts deep insight into customer behavior.
Con: hold times. The phone call is not a great channel for customers needing fast answers. Phone conversations usually involve an initial interaction with an auto-attendant, before the customer is routed to the appropriate agent, where they find themself on hold before they can have their conversation. This can be irritating, and the customer may choose to hang up. [Read More: Call Center Software]
Pro: speed. Once the customer finally gets past the auto attendant and the hold music, agents are able to respond and problem-solve at the pace of a normal conversation. The exchange rate of information is significantly increased without the need to type out every sentence, and customers can often get multiple questions answered in a single phone call, boosting the quality of their overall experience.
Con: one at a time. Live chats allow agents to address more than one customer inquiry at a time, which has its own benefits and drawbacks, but this is not allowed by a phone call. So while the interactions themselves may be faster paced and ultimately more productive, they must be tackled one at a time, slowing efficiency.
Pro: the human factor. 82% of consumers say they love receiving a personalized experience, and are encouraged by these interactions to do repeat business with a company. In the realm of customer support, this begins with a humane one-on-one conversation which is not afforded by a generic chat box. Having a real conversation with a customer allows the agent to read the customer’s tone, and truly attend to them as a person and not just a ticket.
Final Thoughts: Live Chat vs. Phone Support
Each with its own unique benefits and drawbacks, live chat and phone support are best used as integrated customer service software, picking up the slack the other drops. A wide range of communication options, fit for every customer and their inquiries, can boost your customer support game and keep your consumers returning again and again.
To see what Gladly has to offer your contact center, get a free demo of gladly.