8 essential customer service channels for your business

Khoros Staff

Digital customer service channels are being more widely adopted as customers seek faster ways to receive customer support. Almost two-thirds of US online adults believe that brands valuing their time is the most important thing they can do, with 79% of consumers desiring a fast response when reaching out.

While you certainly don’t need to cover every customer service channel, it’s important to know the different types and see which ones could help speed up the process. Each customer service channel meets customer needs differently, so it’s important to evaluate which channels make the most sense for your business. Below, we’ll cover the most essential customer service channels.

What are customer service channels?

Customer service channels are any way customers can contact your business to ask questions or get support. Traditional customer service channels are email, phone calls, or in-person meetings but digital customer service channels are increasingly common. Some examples of digital-first channels include social media platforms like Instagram or messenger apps like Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, which we’ll cover in more detail below.

Mastering your service operations

8 types of customer service channels to know

1. Phone calls

Contacting a business over the phone remains a top choice for customers who need support, especially if the situation involves sensitive information like speaking with their bank or healthcare providers. However, many customers run into long holding times, get transferred to various agents, or need help getting past the automated system to talk to a human.

Despite its drawbacks, this service channel is important to cover as a 2022 survey by Salesforce reported that 61% of consumers still prefer to speak to someone over the phone when they require assistance, with 75% believing that phone calls are the quickest way to get a response. Offering phone support is crucial for customer contact channels that require secure connections.

2. Email

Email is another popular method of customer service that has been around for quite a while. The same Salesforce survey showed that email is the second most used service channel by service organizations, at 76%, a close runner-up to phone calls, at 77%. 

Offering email as a support channel is unique in that it allows for a written record of the conversation, asynchronous communication, and customer service agents can work on resolving multiple issues at the same time. The downside of email is that it can easily get lost in the shuffle and response times can be longer than other contact methods.

3. Live Chat

Live chat is an increasingly popular customer service channel because it saves time and allows customers to receive a quicker response than an email request. It also allows for personalization, which can boost customer satisfaction. In fact, McKinsey reports that 71% of customers expect businesses to provide personalized experiences, and 76% of customers get frustrated when they don’t get it.

This service channel offers real-time, back-and-forth communication allowing customer service representatives to share their screens, personalize the chat with emojis and friendly language, and more to quickly resolve issues and build rapport with the customer. Live chat software can easily be embedded in your customer contact center, but it can be challenging for agents to keep up with multiple customer service channels alongside live chat as it requires immediate responses. 

With Khoros Service, you can supercharge your customer service agents with an all-in-one digital contact center and the support of AI to create consistent customer experiences across all of your support channels.

4. Self-service

A self-service customer service channel is exactly what it sounds like – it allows your customers to find the answers to their questions without reaching out to your support team. Brands can offer self-service in a variety of ways:

Take Australian Gas Light Company (AGL) for example. With Khoros, the energy company built a contextual FAQ integration on its website and an online community to help customers quickly find answers to commonly asked questions.

Example of AGL's self-service customer support channel

The addition of self-service customer support resulted in monthly support cost savings of AUD 133K with 72% of inquiries receiving a response within an hour. 

Self-service frees up your customer support agents to focus on more strategic tasks and keeps customers satisfied. Many people prefer to find answers on their own than wait on a response from an agent, with 81% of customers attempting to solve their own issues before contacting an agent.

5. Video Chat

Video chat can be a good option for more technical support calls or where sharing screens can help with solving the issue at hand. While this can be a more time-consuming option, it can make solving certain problems easier. An additional bonus of video chat is that agents can see non-verbal cues from customers.

However, agents can only manage one video call at a time, which may stretch your team too thin if they are also covering other service channels.

6. Social Media

According to Statista, 47% of customers have a more favorable view of brands that provide customer support over social media. If your business is on social media, you likely already provide social media customer support, whether it’s solving an issue in DMs or responding to a public complaint or inquiry.

However, with so many social media platforms, it can be difficult to manage all of these channels all at once and in a timely manner. Omnichannel customer service platforms are a solution that can consolidate all of your social media networks into one place for your agents. For example, Khoros Service offers an always-on omnichannel customer experience that combines your social media platforms and any other service channels your business uses into a single location. With interaction data from all of your channels in a single place, agents can operate more efficiently without having to switch between tools to monitor and respond to requests.

7. SMS

Similar to live chat, short message service (SMS) is a text-based customer service channel. Customers can use their mobile phones to send a text to a dedicated number to reach your support team or use messenger apps such as Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger.

SMS is convenient and typically provides a quick response time. Some customers may feel more comfortable with this option, but in some scenarios, it may not be the most secure or appropriate for handling complex requests.

8. Community forums

We’ve briefly mentioned community forums throughout this article, but we’re giving it its own dedicated section because it's truly that beneficial. Building an online community is a great way to offer more resounding support and give customers access to the shared knowledge of the entire community, reducing the burden on your support staff. Community forums also encourage members to learn more about your product or service so they can share it with others, creating a sense of brand loyalty

With more customers opting for digital customer service channels, HP — a technology company — created an online support community to meet the needs of its customers utilizing Khoros Communities. This enabled its customers to engage in peer-to-peer discussions while simultaneously reducing the burden on agents to handle requests.

Example of HP's online community as a customer service channel

Online forums can help deflect the number of support requests, solve customer questions through their preferred channel, and reveal common customer issues that can be utilized to improve your product or services.

How to choose the best customer service channel for your business

Now that you know the most essential customer service channels, it’s time to determine which ones make the most sense for your business. While it can be tempting to cover every single channel, it can be expensive and time-consuming to do so. Here are some tips for how to prioritize your support channels:

Ask your customers what they prefer

It’s important to offer support on the channels your customers choose to communicate and collaborate on. If you aren’t sure which customer service channels your customers prefer, you can simply ask by sending out a survey or review the data on which channels are used the most.

Research industry trends

Another way to decide which channels are best is by checking out what other competitors are doing in your industry. For example, if you’re in the technology industry, your customers might lean toward community forums to seek out other users with the same issue and what they did to fix it. If you notice other companies in your industry with online forums, it may be time to also consider creating one.

Analyze employee performance

When considering which service channels to utilize, it’s crucial to evaluate the capacity of your support team. Specifically, check if your agents are capable of managing multiple channels and their average response time. It’s also worth considering budget and if you have the right tools in place to support your employees.

Take an omnichannel approach

While covering every support channel is unrealistic, you’ll likely need to offer more than one. For customer service agents, managing more than one channel can become difficult and may not result in the best customer experience. Using an omnichannel customer service solution is a cost-effective way to handle multiple customer support channels whether it’s a text message, a DM on social media, or a live chat.

Khoros Service: All your customer service channels all in one place

It’s common for businesses to manage multiple customer service channels but without the right tools in place, support teams might not be able to keep up. With Khoros Service, there are no trade-offs. Our digital-first, all-in-one contact center features an intuitive, omnichannel agent desktop, IVR deflection to reduce calls, AI-powered self-service and AI-driven quick responses to supercharge your agents, unified analytics to get the insights you need, and so much more. 

To learn more about our digital contact center’s capabilities and how it can increase your support team’s efficiency, request a demo today.

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