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The unique value of telephone customer care

In a digital age that’s obsessed with efficiency and automation, many organizations are questioning the need to maintain telephone support. The arguments against it seem strong. Telephone is a costly customer contact channel to maintain, both in terms of staffing and third-party fees. Agents can only serve one customer at a time and have to be available on-demand in real-time. And then there are the ongoing costs and administrative burden for operating telephone lines. If you’re on a drive to be more competitive, reducing overheads by cutting out voice calls seems like a no-brainer.

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But is there another side to this story?

A global survey carried out in 2016 by Verint Systems and Opinium Research showed 69% of respondents would prefer not to do business with an organization that doesn’t provide a telephone support number. Dispensing with voice support may not be such a wise move after all. Our own examination of why telephone contact remains uniquely valuable revealed a range of benefits, for both customers and businesses.

Five reasons for maintaining a voice support channel

  1. Faster resolutions mean more efficient use of support agent time
    Telephone contact is actually one of the best channels for first-time resolution of problems. Especially when it comes to more complicated issues that can be difficult to articulate in writing. Talking enables naturally flowing communication which is both factual and emotional. Customers tend to explain their needs more clearly. And agents can give more convincing reassurance about how they will help. This leaves less room for misunderstanding, on both sides. And with that, less time is wasted identifying both problem and solution. The customer is satisfied through a single communication session, with one agent. While agents actually spend less total time servicing each customer to the point of resolution.
  2. Higher customer retention
    The value of customer retention is quantified in research done by Frederick Reichheld of Bain & Company (the inventor of the net promoter score), which shows increasing customer retention by 5% increases profits by 25% to 95%. It’s a wide range, but significant even at its lowest end. Telephone support has a hugely influential role in retaining customers. The emotive power of connecting through human voice can prevent tensions, soothe worries and instill trust. Actions which can make or break a customer’s decision to shop with the same brand again. Even if the logistics behind a problem can’t easily be fixed, a well-trained agent can still leave a customer feeling positive enough to remain loyal.
  3. Immediate, fully attentive communication
    Being able to talk with someone on the phone prevents tension from escalating while waiting for a response via email or social media. Although live-chat can also provide immediate communication, in many instances it can be a frustrating experience. Automated response lines dehumanize the dialogue. Customers can spend a lot of dead-time staring at their screen, waiting for agents to become available and respond during a chat session. If an agent is servicing multiple customers, the session can become very drawn out. This disrupts the customer’s ability to get on with whatever else they need to be doing. With voice calls, the customer has the reassurance of knowing they have the agent’s undivided attention.
  4. Delivering satisfaction  
    Today’s customers can be served via a wide range of technological and self-service options. Harvard Business Review research found that 57% of calls to customer support came from people who had already attempted to resolve their issues via the organization’s website. Despite the availability of chat, e-mail, online support communities, and social media.  The majority of respondents found talking to a real human was the way to satisfactorily resolve their problems. Either because they failed to get the answers they needed or simply because they were overwhelmed by the self-service choices.
  5. Accessibility
    Even in the age of the internet, the telephone is still the most convenient communication tool for many customers. Wherever they are in the world, most people have easy access to a phone. Calling a number is the most straightforward form of action. Not everyone has 24/7 ability to get online. And there are still a great number of people who aren’t active on social media channels required by some companies as a means of contact. In fact, when it comes to inviting customers to communicate via social media, this would appear to be a particularly risky strategy. This method may be convenient for many, but it actively encourages people to air their dissatisfactions in the most public of spaces. Is all publicity really good publicity?

The human voice remains a powerful marketing tool

People will continue to have an instinctive need for emotional context. No matter how technologically advanced our communication systems become. Something which talking delivers more effectively than any other means.

At Sound of Data, we believe there’s no substitute for the human voice when it comes to satisfying customer concerns. And the way our business is growing shows we are not alone in recognizing that. This is why we continue to invest in technology and strengthening our partner networks. So businesses and customers around the world can continue to enjoy talking to each other, as and when they need to, on crystal clear lines.

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