Skip to Content

6 Key Customer Service Channels That Improve Customer Experience

woman at a desk using a laptop and talking on the phone
Research from 7,000 global service decision makers, agents, mobile workers, and dispatchers points to these six most effective customer service channels. [BONNINSTUDIO / Stocksy]

These are the most effective customer service channels based on research from 7,000 global decision makers, agents, and dispatchers. Is your organization keeping up? Or falling behind?

Digital customer service channels help service teams meet customer expectations for fast and flexible support. When call volumes reached unprecedented heights in 2020, organizations with digital channels in place helped more customers more quickly. Having FAQ pages, chatbots, mobile, and web chat in place also helped reduce call volumes. 

Customer support is now all-digital, all the time. Customer contact 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. Read on to learn how to bring your contact center up to speed. 

The top digital customer service channels you need now

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

87% of service professionals said customers have increased their use of digital channels.

 Salesforce State of Service report, December 2020

Consider these digital customer service channels for your business.

1. Mobile keeps the conversation going

Mobile is an asynchronous service option that keeps the conversation going with customers. Mobile is convenient and provides a record of past interactions, streamlining the entire service experience. 

For a more personalized experience, agents can work with multiple customers at one time and refer back to past interactions on mobile options. That means more efficiency. More service organizations are using messenger apps (up 29%), and more are also using mobile apps (up 21%) in 2020 compared with two years before.  

Give customers the option to add a preferred mobile number to their account before they complete a transaction. Contact centers that use chatbots to automate routine customer requests on SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger are more productive and can use that time to do what they do best — help customers.

2. Solving customer service problems with social

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

Connect your marketing and service teams with social customer service to give you a complete view of the customer 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 also help you monitor keywords and language – and create, manage, and monitor cases from your social feeds. This helps you build a better social plan for service that is founded on previous customer data.

3. Self-service channels work for quick fixes

Seventy-eight percent of service professionals said that customers have increased their use of self-service. Self-service channels include your help center, FAQ page, knowledge base, and an authenticated customer portal. With portals, customers log in to access their information, such as past purchases. They initiate easy step-by-step processes, like requesting a return. Sixty-five percent of customers prefer self-service for simple matters.

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

Salesforce State of Service report, 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. These strategies will empower contact center teams to be more productive which saves on costs.

4. Chatbots provide personalized digital support

Our research 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. They recommend relevant knowledge articles and answer 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.

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 channels. Program them with natural language, like enabling them to introduce themselves to customers and use the customer’s name. If a case is more complex, chatbots gather qualifying information and route the case to an agent. With automation like a chatbot, you can save time on remedial tasks and still personalize and deliver on the customer experience.

5. Video for face-to-face connection

The State of Service report also found that service organizations have increased their use of video by 42%. It makes sense: Video is the next best thing to in-person support.

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. 

In addition, video support is very easy to use. 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. The agent is then able to walk them through steps to resolve their issue face to face. This provides an efficient way to solve problems face to face, virtually.

6. Voice capabilities create a connected service experience

Voice still holds the top spot as the most-used channel for customer service. 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 help utilize AI to surface relevant knowledge articles and next steps to help the agent reach a resolution faster. This helps agents be more productive and stay focused on the customer.

The path to all-digital customer service channels

It’s not enough to just be available for customers. 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 relevant data to the chatbot. Or, if a customer reports a lost credit card, provide the right knowledge article with guidance on the process. 

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

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. Just 71% of agents said 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 automating 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 by using the right metrics like a customer effort score.

Last thoughts on digital customer service

Regularly review your data to ensure your teams always meet expectations for fast, flexible, and quality service. Your channel selection depends entirely on the services you offer; what works well for a retailer may not work for a manufacturer. Test out different channels to see what resonates with your customers. And above all, keep an eye on customer service trends, so you can stay ahead of the game.

Scale your service

We asked 7,000 global service decision makers, agents, mobile workers, and dispatchers to share what works and what doesn’t. Here’s what they said.

We invite you to dive into our Heart of Service series:

Rekha Srivatsan Vice President, Service Cloud

Rekha is the VP of Product Marketing for Salesforce Service Cloud, leading product marketing for all Service Cloud solutions and driving Salesforce’s overall success in transforming the customer support industry. Rekha has spent her career building and growing products that help companies connect with their customers — from small businesses to enterprise organizations.

More by Rekha

Get the latest articles in your inbox.