It’s human nature to pick a side. In the world of sport, seeing your favourite football team do battle with their arch-rival can be entertaining, if your team wins!  

But in the world of customer service, is it right to pitch one support channel versus another?

Over the past year, digital and other non-voice channels have played a key role in customer service, with many businesses relying on them more than usual during lockdown when voice calls were not fully available. As a result, a resurgence in the ongoing debate pitching voice and digital support services against each other has been seen.

The digital vs voice debate is nothing new.

When chat first came along, there were claims that voice would soon be dead because customers found chat more convenient and efficient. That never happened. When social media for customer service started to emerge, it was confidently predicted again that the contact centre and voice were doomed, yet the majority of one to one support interactions are still voice calls.

If digital support and non-voice channels saved your customer experience in 2020, perhaps the real debate should be whether you had a robust work-at-home voice solution for customers? “Real” human contact is essential, so it’s time to move away from viewing voice and digital support as opposing solutions battling each other to gain prominence.

Digital Channels unite with the agent to deliver CX support.

Most digital channels still require some form of agent-assisted support to be available. When a chat or social media conversation commences, it could be with a Bot, which then hands over to an agent for completion. Of course, certain enquiries can be resolved without the customer speaking with an agent, however, these channels work with and not against agent-assisted support.

Automation, for example, helps by speeding up issue resolution, eliminating repetitive tasks, and improving process flows. And Self Service supports both the customer and agent by providing up to date product and service information that’s easy to find, digest and follow.

And then we come to cost.

Voice is often regarded as expensive support because there’s a human on the end of the phone. But, in fact, this may not be the case. For technical support, for example, email can be the most expensive option because so many email exchanges are needed to resolve the issue, each one occupying customer and agent time. It’s also the most dissatisfying for this reason. And many digital channels might be inadequate for the kind of support needed, leading to higher than expected cost and poor customer experience.

In response to the debate “voice vs digital”, there shouldn’t be a winner. It’s not a battle but a marriage of compatible options. Brands might prefer certain channels, just as customers like some channels over others, but we must move past this debate and look, instead, at how these channels can, and do, work together to deliver a customer experience to be proud of.

The challenge isn’t deciding which is the victorious channel, but is about establishing the level of digitalisation that’s good for the customer and your Brand.

SYKES has been helping companies to help their customers for over forty years. If your customer service strategy needs experience and resources for success, please get in touch!

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