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These Are the Digital Customer Service Channels Every Contact Center Needs

Digital customer service channels like online chat, messenger apps, and video support saw double-digit adoption gains in 2020. Is your organization keeping up?

A man with a baby calling for digital customer service on his mobile phone

Digital customer service channels help service teams meet customer expectations for fast and flexible support. When call volumes reached unprecedented heights during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, organizations with digital channels in place helped more customers more quickly through FAQ pages, chatbots, mobile, and web chat while reducing call volumes. 

Customer service is now all-digital, all the time. Channels such as online chat, messenger apps, and video support saw double-digit adoption gains in 2020 compared to 2018, according to the Salesforce State of Service report. Based on research from 7,000 global decision makers, agents, mobile workers, and dispatchers at service organizations, we’ve gathered insight on the most popular channels today and what you can do to bring your contact center up to speed. 

The top digital customer service channels you need now

Eighty-seven percent of service professionals say customers have increased their use of digital channels during the pandemic. This shift in customer service engagement means that organizations need to rethink their channel mix — or risk falling behind.

87% of service professionals say customers have increased their use of digital channels during the pandemic.

State of Service, Salesforce, December 2020

Consider these digital customer service channels for your business.

Mobile options to keep the conversation going

Mobile is an asynchronous service option that keeps the customer conversation going. During high-stress moments, customers love these options because they are convenient and provide a record of past interactions to streamline the entire service experience. 

For a more personalized experience, agents can work with multiple customers at one time and refer back to past interactions using mobile options. Service organizations increased using messenger apps by 29%, and 21% have been using mobile apps since 2018.  

Give customers the option to add a preferred mobile number to their account before they complete a transaction. Use chatbots to automate routine customer requests on SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

Social customer service can help nip any potential problems in the bud

Seventy-one percent of service organizations use social media channels, and for good reason. Certain customers may express their frustrations with your company on your social media pages or as a comment on your posts. You need to get in front of these issues before they snowball — especially if they could lead to reputation damage.

Connecting your marketing and service teams with social customer service gives you a complete view of the customer to consult before responding to a social media request. When a customer replies to a post with a complaint or issue, your team can immediately work to resolve it. Social media channels can also help you monitor keywords and language – and create, manage, and monitor cases from your social feeds.

Self-service channels work for quick questions

Seventy-eight percent of service professionals say that customers have increased their use of self-service during the pandemic. Self-service channels include your help center, FAQ page, knowledge base, and an authenticated customer portal, where customers log in to access their information, such as past purchases, and initiate easy step-by-step processes, like initiating a return. Sixty-five percent of customers prefer self-service for simple matters. These channels proved instrumental in helping customers navigate uncertainty during the pandemic.

65% of customers prefer self-service for simple matters.

State of Service, Salesforce, December 2020

To keep your self-service channels up-to-date, regularly review your case information. What are customers routinely asking? Are new trends emerging? Use these insights to create content that addresses common requests. Infuse target SEO keywords so that your content is easily accessible on your site and through search engines.

Chatbots provide personalized digital support

We saw a 67% increase in organizations that use chatbots to scale service since 2018. Chatbots are an extension of your self-service. They analyze data with artificial intelligence (AI) to resolve common issues by recommending relevant knowledge articles and answering simple yes or no questions. Customers use them for simple questions, like their order status. The contact center benefits from chatbots because they reduce the amount of calls for lower-tiered, routine requests. As a result, agents are able to stay focused on more complex cases and strategic work.

Chatbots offer a personal touch to your digital customer service channel offering. Program them with natural language. Have them introduce themselves to customers. Ensure that they use the customer’s name. If a case is more complex, chatbots gather qualifying information and route the case to an agent.

Video for face-to-face interaction

Service organizations have increased their use of video by 42%. It makes sense: Video is the next best thing to in-person support when you factor in social distancing requirements and regional stay-at-home orders. Visual Remote Assistant delivers one-on-one support for routine requests – anything from how to reset your home TV to a system reboot for equipment at an industrial site. When a customer reaches out, they have the option to connect with an agent through video. If they opt in, the customer receives a link to join a video call, and the agent walks them through steps to resolve their issue.

Voice capabilities create a connected service experience

Voice still holds the top spot as the most-used channel. When you combine your CRM with cloud telephony using Service Cloud Voice, voice becomes a digital channel. The technology puts all call information on the agent’s screen and transcribes the interaction so that agents don’t have to scribble notes. Digital voice can also trigger AI to surface relevant knowledge articles and next steps to help the agent reach a resolution faster – while staying focused on the customer.

The path to all-digital customer service channels

It’s not enough to just be available. Service organizations must have all of their service channels connected with the right data and automation. For example, if a customer reaches out by web chat about a purchase order, help the customer by pushing the right data to the chatbot. Or, if a customer reports a lost credit card, you need to provide the right knowledge article with guidance on the process.

Make sure your contact center is connected to field requests across channels. Give your teams a complete view of data and the ability to manage cases across channels without having to toggle between different systems. With a single platform, more informed agents can manage phone calls and ongoing cases on chat, SMS, and other digital customer service channels to help multiple customers at once.

Take a step further by connecting service to your broader organization. Companies that connect service with their CRM platform are better equipped to deliver a personalized customer experience. Today, just 71% of agents say they have a complete and accessible view into sales, 69% into ecommerce, and 65% into marketing. 

Once you have the right technology in place, you can reimagine your digital customer service strategy to prioritize digital customer service. Try out these tasks: 

  • Embed case management workflows to ensure cases are assigned to the next available agent with the best skill set to resolve the issue.  
  • Give customers and agents greater flexibility with asynchronous service options.
  • Rethink how you measure success. In an all-digital world, first-time resolutions are more important than case handle time. Some interactions can last hours or days with asynchronous service.

The last word on digital customer service

Your channel selection depends entirely on your business. What works for a retailer may not work for a manufacturer. Test out channels to see what resonates with your customers. Keep an eye on customer service trends and regularly review your data to ensure your teams always meet expectations for fast, flexible, and quality service.

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