Don’t hide your customer service channels — fix them

Josh Snider, Senior Product Marketing Manager

If your customer service or customer support contact center is getting flooded with high call volume, you may be thinking about hiding your 1-800 number, to make it harder for customers to find.

Plenty of brands do it. Every consumer has probably had the same experience: clicking aimlessly around websites to find contact numbers that aren’t there, or, if they’re lucky enough to find one, spending forever pressing “1” to navigate interactive voice response (IVR) phone trees. This withholding practice is so common that companies like ContactHelp and GetHuman have built business models around helping consumers find support numbers and chat. There are countless forums of customers commiserating about this experience, complete with dramatic takedowns of the whole process.

The most bizarre thing about this practice? It’s not helpful. Here’s why.

Creating hassle doesn’t save money — it hurts revenue

In a study that quantifies the benefits of making it difficult for customers to get support, researchers discovered that there is “hassle cost” associated with the practice. Surprisingly, this cost isn’t just to the customer, but to the brand as well. These “hassles” in getting customer service can prevent service escalations and keep operational costs low, but they invariably — indeed, intentionally — create poor customer experiences.

This can easily damage brand loyalty and revenue. Customer experience author Shep Hyken summarizes the flawed approach, calling it a “dangerous game for a brand to play.” He continues: “The moment a customer feels a brand is intentionally making it difficult to get issues resolved could spell the beginning of the end for that relationship.”

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Introducing hassle in a short term bid to save money almost always backfires. Forrester reports that 62% of consumers have stopped doing business with a brand due to poor customer service, and Hyken reports that as many as 96% of customers are willing to leave due to bad service — costing businesses over $75 billion a year. The science is in, and the comment section of this RetailWire post on the study is a “who’s who” of CX consultants decrying the practice of creating hassle.

Don’t hide expensive channels — just promote better ones

High inquiry volumes and cost-per-contact are the most common reasons that customer service operations want to create hassle. In some cases brands hide 1-800 numbers to encourage customers to use digital messaging channels or self-service tools. But as well-meaning as this strategy may be, restricting customers’ choices for how they get support or contact you will frustrate them and create a bad experience.

Consumer preference for digital messaging channels like web chat and SMS are growing, but McKinsey reports that phone remains the most popular channel. Brands must meet customers in their preferred channels, regardless of cost or difficulty, in order to provide the best possible experience. Eventually, texting a customer service number will become more common than calling one, but it’s a slow paradigm shift that customers need to be invited and led into, not forced.

Here are the best ways to guide your customers to more convenient, efficient customer service channels and reduce the expensive call volume without hiding your 1-800 number.

1. Make your messaging channels easy to find

    Give messaging channels like SMS and Facebook Messenger prominent placement alongside or above your 1-800 number, both on your homepage and contact pages. Make it clear that your customers have multiple options, and that you’ll provide them with excellent service no matter which they choose. Making your messaging channels highly visible will help to educate customers that they can engage your brand on the same channels they use to talk to their friends and family. You can even use QR codes in stores, on billboards, and on physical collateral to make it easy for customers to scan and reach out without placing a call.

    2. Convert calls to messages before they start

      New channels like Apple Messages for Business and Google’s Business Messages give brands the ability to intercept customer behaviors that are about to become calls, and offer them a convenient messaging option instead. Chat Suggest with Apple Messages for Business detects that a customer on an iOS device is about to place a call, then shows a pop up inviting them to message. Google’s Business Messages places messaging buttons in Search and Maps, ensuring that customers looking for your contact info see the option to message — all in the most popular place they go to find information: Google.

      It can also help to give customers who call your 1-800 number the option to continue the conversation in messaging. This deflection offer reduces the hassle that IVR phone trees impose on customers with tedious menu options and long hold times, and helps further educate customers on the availability of new channels.

      3. Deliver fast, rich experiences that keep customers coming back

        McKinsey reports that 75% of people using digital channels for the first time indicate they will continue to use them when things return to “normal.” If you deliver high quality experiences that meet customer expectations for speed and helpfulness, customers will continue to use those channels knowing they can get the help they need without picking up the phone. Plus, when customers engage you in WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Apple Messages for Business, and Google’s Business Messages, your conversation and branded profile live in their inbox where they can easily return to engage with new inquiries.

        Khoros is an industry leader in creating digital-first customer experiences that reduce contact center costs while increasing customer satisfaction. For more information on reducing calls, getting the most out of your digital channels, and increasing operational efficiency, request a demo with our Khoros Care experts.

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