This post was last updated on January 6, 2022.
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Connecting with customers was once a single-avenue operation, where addressing their inquiries exclusively happened over the phone. But with the rise of online forms of communication, the means of contact available to businesses has exploded, necessitating a multi-channel approach to customer service and support. Although phone conversations remain the most efficient and effective form of distanced communication, customers increasingly prefer the flexibility and convenience of live chat.
Choosing the ideal solution for your company can be tricky. You may even be tempted to use one form over the other. So, how do you choose? In the battle of live chat vs. phone, there really is not one clear winner. Using a multi-channel strategy—where you know the best times to deploy phone instead of chat, or vice versa, is your best option for providing excellent and personalized support to your customers.
Here, Gladly breaks down the pros and cons of phone support vs. chat support, plus the best times or scenarios for support teams to leverage each channel.
What is Live Chat?
Live chat came onto the customer support scene in the early 2000’s. At that time, it 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 agent.
In recent years, live chat has advanced significantly. Chat now incorporates features like:
- 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 opening 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.
Live chat has evolved far beyond a simple communication tool. Its current form enables an entirely 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 customers, as it allows them to browse your website wherever they are via desktop, mobile, or tablet devices.
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 ultimately enhance the customer experience.
Pros and Cons of Live Chat
Pro: Ability to offer proactive customer service. Implementation of automated chat systems allows you to instantly reach out to customers browsing your website. This helps to initiate a relationship between the customer and your brand 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, product references are easily located, and the script itself takes up significantly less storage space than its recorded alternative.
Con: Prank chats. Most phone-based solutions have built-in technologies to weed out prank callers and other malicious communications. Unfortunately, live chat has yet to catch up in this sense, as 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 self-service 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 of 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. Then, they find themself on hold before they can have their conversation. This can be irritating, and the customer may choose to hang up.
Pro: Speed. Once the customer finally gets past the auto attendant and the hold music, agents can 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 sentences, and customers can often get multiple questions answered in a single phone call. This boosts 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). However, this multitasking approach 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, not as a ticket.
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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.
Gladly is a customer service platform for digitally-focused B2C companies who want to maximize the lifetime value of their customers. Unlike the legacy approach to customer service software, which is designed around a ticket or case to enable workflows, Gladly enables radically personal customer service centered around people to sustain customer loyalty and drive more revenue.
The world’s most innovative consumer companies like Godiva, JOANN, and TUMI use Gladly to create lasting customer relationships, not one-off experiences.