Shep Hyken's Customer Service Blog

Guest Blog: Voice – Still The Most Important Customer Service Channel

This week we feature an article by Felix Winstone who says that while technology has impacted our approach to customer service, the oldest channel of communication, voice, is the most important. – Shep Hyken

We live in a digital world. Approaches to customer service are continually shifting to keep up with how people adopt new technology. Self-service, web chat and chat bots gain in popularity. But which customer service medium is the most effective?

Most customers will visit an organization’s website as their first point of interaction. While web chat is suited to simple information exchange, and self-service is ideal for transactional commerce, not all customer interactions are so straightforward. Complex websites and high priced products often require a more tailored, personal service. Things need to be explained. As consumers, we can all relate to that point in your customer journey where you just need to talk to a real person. Since face-to-face is often inconvenient, the most powerful form of communication is to talk over a voice call.

Businesses can better inform, empathize, and connect with customers by speaking on the phone. Voice, the oldest channel of communication, is still the most important for customer experience.

While automation and chat bots may solve trivial issues, by definition any issues they do not solve are non-trivial. Such issues usually involve complexity, persuasion, and irrationality. Humans are better at handling these issues by speaking about them with customers.

Voice reaches a fundamentally different part of the brain than reading text, which allows for far more meaningful interactions than is possible with a chat message, regardless of whether written by a bot or human.

A smile is more powerful than even the slickest website, and your customers can detect if you are smiling during a voice call.

Some organizations purposefully do not offer web self-service, instead encouraging customers to call them. This is driven by the fact that these voice-based interactions allow deeper human-to-human engagement, which is vital for increasing order values, driving brand recognition, and delivering great customer experiences.

While organizations have greater reach than ever in this digital age, in many ways our human connection is being lost. As many brands shut down retail locations, voice interactions are their only real form left of connecting with customers as fellow human beings, not merely as a commercial digital presence.

Will artificial intelligence (AI) change this?

There is no doubt that AI will automate many customer service interactions. However, even with the inevitable rise of chat bots, there will always be a place for real human voice interactions.

Humans have fundamentally different attributes to machines. Machines are infinitely more efficient than humans in many aspects. Deep learning gives systems narrow expertise. However, machines lack softer skills. Humans are still better at making emotional connections with other humans.

As AI increases in sophistication, the customer service industry will see more and more tasks fall into the domain of automation, with human tasks reserved for more personalized interactions. Chat bots and AI are likely to be the ‘front line’ customer service tools, with only the most complex requests being filtered through to a specialist human supervisor.

Even with human-level AI, there will still be a place for human-to-human phone interactions. Would you rather take holiday recommendations from the smartest bot in the world or a human tour guide who has lived in your planned destination? Travel is just one industry that will always use voice for customer interactions.

As Amazon’s Alexa service is showing, there are many opportunities for voice to be leveraged with new technology. While we can look forward to innovative methods of delivery in the future, voice is surely here to stay as the most powerful form of customer service communication.

Felix Winstone is a co-founder at Talkative, a company that brings face-to-face customer service back into websites and allows companies to communicate with customers in an engaging and personal manner.

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to customerserviceblog.com.

Read Shep’s latest Forbes Article: Half Of People Who Encounter Artificial Intelligence Don’t Even Realize It

 

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