How do you let your customers know about your new products and services? How do they reach you when they need help? Everyone knows that effective communication is the foundation of good customer service. However, what isn’t widely known are the steps to effective communication, and one key element to this is the communication channels that you use and make available to customers.
With the right communication channels, you’ll not only reach broader audiences and target high-value customers, but you’ll also build strong and lasting relationships with them.
What Are Communication Channels?
In all walks of life, communication channels are ways that we keep information flowing as efficiently and effectively as possible. Text messaging, video conferencing or video calls, and online messaging are some of the most common examples that we use every day. Radio and television are also commonly used types of communication channels.
How to Use Communication Channels
Here are some ways to use communication channels when talking to customers:
- Make announcements, such as changes in policies and launching of new products
- Share materials, such as discount codes and event invitations
- Answer customer inquiries in real-time
- Prompt conversations to encourage engagement and build customer relationships
Communication channels can be verbal (phone call, video call), nonverbal (like video, which incorporates body language and facial expressions), and written (SMS messaging, email). The way in which you communicate can also be formal or informal.
The type of communication channel you use will depend on your message, target audience, and brand value proposition.
When you don’t choose your communication channels wisely, however, your customers can get the wrong idea or not receive any information at all.
Imagine your customer’s frustration when they have to apply for a loyalty card via phone call when they could have more easily accomplished it through an online form. When you get your channels wrong like this, you’ll have an angry customer and experience increased churn rates.
This is why it’s so important to choose the right communication channel and have more than one option (because different people will prefer different contact methods).
Types of Communication Channels
Although there are multiple types of communication channels available today, we’ll tackle the seven most important and most frequently used for customer service. That way you can customize your channel offerings to work best for your customers.
Face-to-face is the most information-rich type of communication channel. It allows both speaker and listener to more clearly convey their message through their body language, tone, and facial expressions. When you meet face-to-face, you can also securely share sensitive documents and information.
Most customer service teams today never meet the people they’re serving face-to-face. However, sales teams and customer relationship managers do, and the information they learn about customers during these one-on-one interactions can be incredibly valuable to service reps.
For example, if you’re a B2B company and your sales teams learn about specific client pain points and nonnegotiables during the closing phase, they can pass these notes along to customer service agents. This way, any representative who deals with them can quickly access this information and personalize the conversation accordingly.
2. Video Call
Video calls are the second-most information-rich type of communication channel. They allow speakers to convey messages through tone, body language, and facial expressions—similar to face-to-face interactions. However, there’s a limit to what can be gleaned through video calls. Interestingly, it’s the communication channel least favored by e-commerce consumers, according to our latest industry surveys.
Video calls are still valuable, though, especially when your customer service teams can’t meet with clients in person. Modern-day video calling software has multiple tools and features that make sharing information easier. Top features include screen sharing (for presentations) and on-screen collaboration (for documents).
One drawback of video calls is that they require both parties to use the same platform or application. So if your customer persona isn’t technologically adept, it might be difficult to get them to adopt this communication channel.
3. Phone Call
If you don’t require visual aids, phone calls are the next best form of communication. Although not as information-rich as video calls and face-to-face meetings, phone calls allow customers to get quick answers, especially when it comes to urgent matters.
It’s also the main type of communication channel that people use to get in touch with customer service representatives across all age groups and countries.
A major disadvantage for phone calls is that they can be quite expensive to manage at scale, especially if you’re a global company that will need to take international calls.
The best way to solve this is to have a calling software that allows you to place and receive calls using the internet. This way, customers can easily reach you, even if they’re in a different country, without worrying about phone bills (and vice versa).
Cloud calling software is also integrated with tools like call monitoring and customer data sharing, allowing you to better train your team and personalize calls for each interaction.
4. SMS Texting
With a 98% open rate, short message service (SMS) is a highly effective type of communication channel for relaying immediate, concise, and informative messages. Plus, you can now attach images and documents or include links in your SMS messages, giving your customer service teams a lot of flexibility in the way they interact with consumers.
One great way to use SMS texting is to follow up on details and information after a phone call—such as clarifying a customer’s full name and address or the time of their next appointment. By doing this, you show customers that you pay attention to even the smallest details and you can maintain continued interactions with them over time. This also helps confirm that records are correct and up-to-date.
However, you need to be careful when using SMS texting because some customers consider their phones a personal space. So you should ask their permission first before you send messages and use it very sparingly to send promotional content. You must also be mindful of the frequency in which you send messages, as sending too many and too often may be considered spam and result in blocking.
Read our article to find out more best practices for SMS texting.
Though often overlooked, email has a lot to give as a type of communication channel for customer service. It has an ROI of up to 4,200% and is an efficient way to send messages to mass audiences while still keeping it personal.
It’s also useful when you need to trace back your conversation with customers and share sensitive information and documents.
However, with a total of 293.6 billion emails sent daily, your messages can easily get buried or not seen at all. The best way to ensure your customers are actually reading your emails is to personalize them, and doing so makes for a better customer service experience.
You can use email messaging to update customers on your new policies and products, remind customers of actions they need to take, and send surveys after customer service interactions. The data you gather from feedback like this is crucial for improving your customer service performance. It can also help you tailor your service to individual consumers’ needs.
6. Instant Messaging
Instant messaging (IM) has recently become a popular type of communication channel. Businesses now have the option to create a community or group to send out mass targeted messages. Common instant messaging platforms include Viber, WhatsApp, and Telegram.
By using IM, you can more easily and immediately send updates and announcements to a lot of people at once. Since customers willingly joined the group via chat invite or invitation link, you can be assured that they’re interested in your brand and product, making it easier to communicate with them and spark discussions.
You can also use IM to have one-on-one conversations with customers, giving agents the chance to chat for free with consumers on their mobiles, no matter where in the world they’re located. You can also easily share documents, images, and links. This can be incredibly useful if your customers need to send a screenshot of the problem they’re experiencing on a mobile device, for example.
One drawback of using IM is that most IM platforms don’t integrate with other types of communication channels, which results in customer data loss. This can be a big problem, especially when customers find themselves repeating their complaints to representatives. One solution is to have a third-party application that allows for integration across all types of communication channels.
7. Social Media
Although social media has a lot in common as a type of communication channel with IM, you mustn’t confuse the two. While both are informal and immediate types of communication channels that you can also use to connect with individual consumers, they differ considerably when it comes to group messaging.
Group messaging by business or brand pages is sometimes looked down on by your customers and is often perceived as spam. Instead, you can use social media to deliver public announcements to a wide group of customers—such as information about maintenance work that may interrupt your services for a short period of time.
In addition to making announcements on your page, social media can also be used as a communication channel for customers to directly contact service representatives. But because your customers spend a lot of time on social media, they expect to reach customer service agents 24/7 and still get a reply.
If you can’t have live agents responding to direct messages on Facebook around the clock, you can also set auto-responses that direct customers to the right communication channel for their inquiry or informs them that you’ll answer their queries during office hours (e.g., Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.).
How to Choose the Right Communication Channel
With the wealth of communication channels available today, it can be pretty overwhelming (and maybe impossible) for your team to cover all types of communication channels, particularly if you’re a small business or startup operating with limited resources.
So how do you choose the most effective type of communication to prioritize for your customer service team?
It all boils down to three key elements: your message, your audience, and your brand values.
1. Your Message
The goal of your message heavily dictates the most appropriate and effective type of communication channel.
Do you often need to send your message to as many people as possible? If so, then you might consider social media and email as key communication channels.
Are you trying to gather detailed feedback about a product or service? Then you might want to set up a face-to-face meeting or video call with them.
Here are some questions that will help you better establish your message goals:
- Is your message informal or formal?
- Do you need to send or receive visual aids or documents?
- How urgent is your message? Does it need to be answered within a few minutes, or can you wait until the end of the day?
- Do you want to gather and record customer data from this interaction?
- Does your message contain sensitive or confidential information?
- Is your message directed toward a group or individual?
- Does your message require a response?
By knowing your message objectives, you can narrow down the type of communication channel that will work best for you in each customer interaction scenario.
2. Your Audience
Communication is a two-way street. The type of communication channel your audience prefers is crucial to consider when selecting which to prioritize.
Simply put, if you choose a communication channel that they rarely or never use, you’ll frustrate customers or make it difficult for them to reach you. This is a disaster for good customer service delivery.
It’s also important to remember that the type of communication channel can vary widely depending on the nationality of your audience. For example, American customers prefer phone calls as the type of communication channel and don’t particularly enjoy social media and online self-service. Meanwhile, Japanese customers are okay with online self-service and email. So consider tailoring your communication channel mix for different international markets.
You can conduct engagement surveys or use automated monitoring applications to track engagement rates so you can identify the best type of communication to reach your audiences. You can also study the communication channels that your competitors use to know which ones are most effective.
3. Your Brand Values
Brand values shape the tone and form of your messages. It also plays an important part in choosing the communication channels you’ll use to provide customer service.
For example, suppose you’re a formal, no-nonsense B2B company. In that case, you’ll be looking for more formal ways to communicate with your customers. This could look like using email, face-to-face meetings, and video and telephone calls. For social media, you’ll focus on using platforms like LinkedIn over Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We recommend using the latter for B2C interactions instead.
If your brand persona is informal, approachable, and geared toward younger audiences, you’ll be heavily relying on social media channels. Your tech-savvy consumers may prefer instant messaging and text support, rather than getting on the phone.
How You Can Employ Customer Service in Your Communication Channels
72% of customers will only engage with messages when they’re personalized, while 42% are frustrated when they’re not.
These statistics show that personalized customer service is no longer an additional feature that improves customer service. It’s now a requirement for offering satisfactory customer experiences.
The good news is that personalized customer service is something you can use across a variety of communication channels and train your staff to embody when facing customers.
So what exactly is personalized customer service?
What Is Personalized Customer Service?
Personalized customer service means going above and beyond satisfying your customer. It’s tailoring every experience they have with you to meet their specific expectations and underlying aspirations.
Take Starbucks as an example. Just by including its customers’ names on their coffee cups, it quickly rose to fame and built a steady base of loyal customers. At that point, the company no longer just sold coffee—it also provided a personalized customer service experience.
Steps to Creating a Personalized Customer Service
The smallest changes in your personalization strategies can go a long way. Here are the top four most effective ways to ensure you’re offering personalized customer service across your communication channels.
1. Use Their First Name
Addressing customers by their first name breaks down the walls between your customer and the agent. Customers feel valued when they’re called by their name. It shows that your company sees them as humans rather than numbers or statistics.
By doing this one simple thing, you’re already winning over up to 84% of your customers.
2. Be Human
If you’ve ever encountered a customer support agent who’s been using a script, then you know how frustrated your customers will feel if your agents do the same.
In addition to treating your customers as humans, you and your team must also act like human beings. You can do this by practicing active listening, training your team to have guidelines (but not follow them word for word), and engaging in small talk with your customers.
By approaching customers as fellow human beings, you make them feel heard and valued. This makes for memorable customer service experiences and forms the basis for building strong, long-term customer relationships.
3. Keep and Share Customer Records
Collecting customer data and sharing it with your employees is essential for maintaining a continuous personalized customer experience. For example, if your customer complains about one of their shirt orders, having a record can help your representatives quickly resolve the issue.
It also helps you create smooth transfers between agents so representatives can easily pick up the conversation.
4. Leverage Digital Programs and Tools
AI and big data are more available now in customer service programs and tools. That means it’s easier to include them in your personalized customer strategies (and it will positively impact your CSAT ratings).
For example, you can connect your loyalty program to your online communication channels. From there, you can easily collect customer data and use it for email segmentation and personalization.
You can also connect a customer relationship management (CRM) tool to your cloud-based calling software. Doing this makes relevant data more accessible across teams. It also allows for better collection and analysis of customer data, even if they interact with different communication channels and departments.
Having the Right Tool for Communication for a Holistic and Personalized Experience
Communication channels are the bridge between you and your customer. Without the right mix, you won’t have the means to interact effectively with your customer. As a result, you won’t have a relationship.
With the right communication channels, you’ll be able to reach broader audiences and target high-value customers. In addition, you’ll also build strong and lasting relationships with them.
However, with dozens of communication channels and customers expecting a personalized experience, fulfilling this demand can be a challenge.
This is why at Aircall, we don’t provide just any calling software. We provide a calling software that has a built-in CRM platform and can integrate with several types of communication channels, including help desk solutions and other apps.
Our software helps you track and collect data throughout the customer journey. From there, it shares relevant details with your teams.
We also allow you to monitor the individual members of your team in real-time. This enables you to offer the right training and support agents need to deliver a more personalized and memorable experience.
Want to find the perfect mix of channels to meet your customers’ needs? Schedule a call with us today to get started.