Multi-Channel Customer Service: How to Choose the Best Channels for Your Business

As an owner of an online business, you know how vital customer service is for your brand. It helps you beat competitors and win the hearts of your customers. But customer communication habits are changing. One day they contact you via email or phone; the next day they use Facebook.

These changes are inevitable. Modern consumers switch between channels while communicating with friends or family, and they tend to have the same habits while connecting with brands. For you, it's vital information. If you want to keep up with ongoing changes, you need to be open to multi-channel customer service.

The Essence of Multi-Channel Customer Service

Multi-channel customer service is all about giving your customers the choice and convenience to decide how they want to contact you. It’s a better experience when customers can seamlessly contact you in a way that is simple, known, and natural for them.

Companies that open multiple communication channels and design a consistent customer experience have a higher chance of engaging visitors, impacting their purchasing decisions, and boosting online sales.

Customer Service Channels You Should Consider

As a small business owner, you may wonder how to deliver stellar service without spending a ton of money. No worries — you have options! Below you’ll find a list of different communication channels you can cover at low cost, plus tips to help support them efficiently.

Self-Service Tools

Being able to assist a customer right when they experience a problem is ideal, but it’s not always possible. Fortunately, not every case requires your direct assistance. Sometimes, customers can solve their problems themselves, provided they are given proper information. Research shows that up to 24% of American consumers prefer to use a self-service website to answer simple inquiries.

Research shows that up to 24% of American consumers prefer to use a self-service website to answer simple inquiries.

Therefore, if your team is small and can’t focus entirely on responding to inquiries, consider creating a FAQ section or a knowledge base. Such tools can dispel customers doubts and help them resolve minor problems. For you, this means less money spent on staffing and more time to focus on demanding tasks.

If your customer base is large enough, you can even create a customer forum or a Facebook group. Data shows that a dedicated community of users can handle up to 67% of customer service interactions.

Social Media

Over 60% of consumers say they have used social media channels for assistance. This method is especially popular among millennials who place a high demand on quality customer service. If you sell to younger consumers, social media is an essential service channel.

Interestingly, only 20% of consumers expect brands to answer their social media questions immediately. That makes total sense when we examine the way people use different communication channels in their daily life: if we call a person, we expect them to pick up the phone — and we get irritated when they don’t answer.

On the other hand, we’re used to waiting a bit for the answer from a friend while connecting via Facebook. When it comes to business communication, people have similar expectations regarding contact timeframes.

Only 20% of consumers expect brands to answer their social media questions immediately. [However,] up to 48% of consumers expect companies to respond to their social media questions within a maximum of 24 hours.

With that said, up to 48% of consumers expect companies to respond to their social media questions within a maximum of 24 hours. So although you can answer some social media inquiries with a slight delay, try to take care of them the same day.

Additionally, you should never wait on replying to a serious complaint. Social media gives customers the power to share their posts with plenty of other users at breakneck speed. An angry customer can start a fire from just one little spark, even if their claims aren’t accurate. The only way to prevent the a negative social media storm is to monitor consistently for complaints, then react quickly and reasonably.

Live Chat

Live chat is becoming a more and more popular communication channel (2019 Customer Service Report). There’s nothing surprising about this. Live chat channels let customers connect with brands instantly, no matter which device they're using.

Businesses can use Live Chat to serve more than one customer at a time, allowing them to solve problems as they appear and boost customer satisfaction as a result.

But that’s not all. Live Chat allows you to engage website visitors proactively by sending them personalized invitations to chat. Such chat greetings are triggered when a visitor performs a particular action on a website. For example, when they enter a pricing page, gather several items in their shopping carts, or spend a specific amount of time on the checkout page.

Live Chat allows you to engage website visitors proactively by sending them personalized invitations to chat.

Microsoft's research found out that over 60% of consumers increase their perception of a brand after receiving proactive notifications from companies. Our data at LiveChat shows that visitors invited to chat are more likely to convert. It seems clear that investing in live chat communication is a game worth playing.

Chatbots

Online shoppers find live chat communication very convenient. But when your customer base is growing rapidly, your small team may not be able to meet the pace. Failure to provide quick assistance to every person can quickly lead to lower customer satisfaction.

If you can’t afford to hire more live chat agents, you can take advantage of chatbots. 55% of users say they would enjoy getting an instant response to simple questions from a chatbot.

55% of users say they would enjoy getting an instant response to simple questions from a chatbot.

Bots hold their own in cases of simple, repetitive issues and can significantly speed up your services. They can assist your customers with booking appointments through interactive calendars, help them track ordered packages, gather contact details or display your store’s offers.

Unlike human agents, customer service chatbots can support multiple visitors simultaneously. They're a perfect solution for when your customers demand fast live chat responses, or after your company's working hours.

Phone

The phone is the most traditional communication channel of the IT era. No wonder it’s still popular among older generations. When it comes to millennials, however, preferences are quite the opposite. More than half of them prefer to contact brands via live chat rather than via phone.

If you sell mostly to young and tech-savvy consumers, you probably won’t pick a phone up very often. In that case, you'll want to put more effort into social media or live chat support.

However, over 40% of all customers make calls in cases of complicated and urgent issues, particularly concerning billing or personal data. Therefore, it’s still worth providing the option for phone support. It will often be the first choice among customers who are seized by panic and need to hear a human voice, if only to reassure them.

Email

Even with all the available channels consumers have for contacting brands, over 60% admit to choosing email first.

There are good reasons for this choice. Email offers a better experience for consumers who don’t like to listen to hold music or wait for a customer agent to pick up the phone. It’s also a safer option for consumers who are afraid to communicate in a foreign language in real-time.  

Email offers a better experience for consumers who don’t like to listen to hold music or wait for a customer agent to pick up the phone.

An essential aspect of email communication is to provide answers within 24 hours. If you fail to do so, customers may get nervous and bombard you on social media, grousing about your poor service.

If you feel that your email communication is spinning out of control, it may be time to look into a ticketing system. Ticketing software helps to automate email communication by gathering customer questions on your website and converting them into tickets. It stores all messages in one place, so you can be sure that none of them gets lost in your inbox.

Choose Channels That Meet the Expectations of Your Customer Base

Delivering excellent multi-channel customer service is no longer a luxury solely offered by big and famous brands. If want to keep up with your competitors, you need to be open to new communication channels. The consistent brand experience is a must-have as well.

The good news is that you don’t have to cover all of the possible communication touchpoints. Choose those that are the most convenient for your target audience and that let you solve problems efficiently. Only then will you be able to consistently turn website visitors into happy customers.