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6 Key Customer Service Channels That Improve Customer Experience

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?

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]

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 customer conversation going. 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. More service organizations were using messenger apps (up 29%), and more were 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. Use chatbots to automate routine customer requests on SMS, WhatsApp, and Facebook Messenger.

2. Social customer service nips potential problems in the bud

Seventy-one percent of service organizations use social media channels, and for good reason. Some 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 damage your company’s reputation.

Connect your marketing and service teams with social customer service to give 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 also help you monitor keywords and language – and create, manage, and monitor cases from your social feeds.

3. Self-service channels work for quick questions

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.

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. 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.

5. Video for face-to-face interaction

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.

6. 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. This helps   agents stay 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. That way, agents can 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. 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 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

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

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

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