Most discussions about customer service these days seem to emphasize social media, online communication, and other emerging technologies. This leads the average small business owner to question whether call centers and telephone support are still important in the year 2014.
While the answer is yes, call centers and telephone customer service are still important, it’s helpful to understand why and see how other channels compare. In this post, we explore the current role customer service call centers have in small business communication.
Phone Still Preferred Customer Service Channel
Consumers are using more channels to communicate with businesses than ever before. Whereas phone calls and in-person support used to be the only options, people now look to email, live chat, and social media in order to get the help they need.
However, despite the continued growth of these digital channels, a consumer research study commissioned by Oracle shows live telephone support remains the “overwhelming preference” for consumers in North America.
Live Help Trumps Other Support Options
The purpose of the Oracle research was to study how consumers utilize live chat systems on the internet. One of the key findings was that live support was favored over all other communication channels.
Live chat was consistently selected over email, social media, and self-service (such as a knowledge base where users can find their own answers), but in-person and 800 numbers were still the support methods of choice.
Since driving to a physical location and receiving in-person support isn’t feasible or economical in most circumstances, calling an 800 number is the method most consumers use to interact with customer service.
Consumers Want to Speak with a Real Person
Why do consumers prefer calling customer service instead of using digital channels? 76% said they would be better understood by phone. 56% said they preferred speaking with a human being.
The data is clear. Customers want to speak with a real person when they need help, not an automated system or a text based medium that requires them to detail their problem and hope the person or software on the other end knows what they’re talking about.
A Challenge for Small Businesses
Learning that phone calls are critical to customer service may be disheartening to the average small business owner. It’s easy to forward calls to a cell phone and field the occasional inquiry, but anything beyond that can become a serious distraction.
Even if handling requests by phone takes the same amount of time as responding by Facebook or email, people expect phone calls to be answered right away. You can dedicate time for processing your inbox or social media queue, but letting calls go to voicemail (especially during the day) is bad for business.
People call because they prefer to speak with a live person, so sticking them with a recorded message doesn’t meet their needs. In the Oracle study, 42% also said telephone support is faster, presumably because they expected to reach someone right away instead of leaving a message and awaiting a reply.
Call Centers Remain Affordable Solution
Customer service call centers remain the most cost effective means for small businesses to handle their telephone support inquiries (at least at scale). With a company like CMS, setting one up is as simple as providing your business information to an account representative and having a solution tailored to your needs. No employees, no equipment, no extra office space–just partnering with a trusted third-party to answer business calls on your behalf.
In addition to answering calls, contact centers are evolving and handling a wider variety of customer service communication channels, including email and live chat. According to a contact centre benchmarking summary compiled by Dimension Data, email ranks up with telephone as one of the top channels, making it important to consider outsourcing partners that are capable of handling both.
So, Does Your Small Business Need a Call Center?
Whether it makes sense for your company to work with a small business call center like CMS depends on a number of different factors, but what’s known is this: Consumers prefer receiving customer service by phone, so you need to be available.
If the idea of taking more phone calls makes you think about hiring staff, setting up an automated system, or investing more money in digital communication channels, then you may benefit from exploring call center outsourcing. Unlike hiring staff, call centers typically charge based on the time that’s required, not the time they’re available on your behalf.
For example, if they take calls for you over the weekend and those calls take 60 minutes, you pay for an hour. If you pay employees to monitor your phones over the weekend you’d pay for those 60 minutes worth of calls along with 47 hours of downtime.
To learn more about customer service solutions from CMS, or to discuss setting up a call center for your small business, contact our account experts by requesting a quote.