I admit that I am as much an advocate and evangelist for multichannel communications as anyone I know. I’m a believer that customers should have choices. That service providers should deliver a great customer experience via the phone, email, chat, SMS, and social media. I wrote my first magazine article on the multichannel contact center in 1995. So I get it. I embrace it. I promote it.
Still, with all the emphasis on alternative communications channels, it is important to note that voice – a phone interaction with a live agent – is still the method preferred most by consumers when interacting with customer service or support, regardless of their country origin. This was shown in a survey of over 1,400 consumers, conducted by Interactive Intelligence in May of this year (see the full results here.)
If this is true, why does voice seem to take a back seat to the other channels in what we read and hear? Simply put, voice is old and perceived as boring (Bell received a patent for the telephone in 1876). Things like social media are fresh and new (the first tweet was sent in 2006). And with any subject, on any continent, consumers and vendors alike would rather talk about the new stuff.
Now as the results of the survey show, beyond a live agent on the phone, channel preferences then get a bit murkier. Brazilian and North American consumers most often cite web chat as a preference more than respondents in any other country. German consumers were most likely to indicate a preference for email than respondents from other countries. Self-service from a smartphone or tablet is most valued in South Africa. Brazilian and North American consumers all value the presence of web interactions significantly more than the worldwide average. Social media access is valued more highly in Brazil, North America and South Africa than in any of the other countries.
Bottom line is that all of these channels are important as companies strive to deliver choice and availability to their customers. However, don’t turn your back on voice. The king still sits on the throne.
Joe Staples – chief multichannel evangelist