Market musings

Your Small-Business Phone System and the Customer Experience

by Nina Quasebarth
November 22, 2017

How important is the telephone to your business? Undoubtedly, your team uses the office phone system to talk to vendors and suppliers, but what about customer support? Is your phone system an important component of customer support? Can customers get answers to their questions by phone when they want them? How important is phone service to customer experience? Do you know how much business you may be losing due to poor customer phone service?

Customer Experience Has Moved Online

Today’s business lives online. Self-service is taking the lead for customer support as research shows that the majority of consumers prefer to find answers to their questions themselves. According to Zendesk, 91 percent of consumers say they would prefer to use a knowledge base if it met their needs. Seventy-five percent say that self-service is a convenient way to handle customer service, and 67 percent say they would rather use self-service than talk to a customer service representative.

This isn’t surprising, because research shows that Millennials are spending more time on their smartphones but have an aversion to actually making phone calls. Using the phone function on the iPhone ranks fifth as the most used smartphone app. Texting is starting to dominate as the primary means of communication, and more than 205 billion email messages are sent each day; that’s more than 29 messages for every man, woman, and child on the planet. More consumers are using their smartphones for customer self-service.

So why do businesses still need a phone system if consumers would rather use self-service? The answer is simple; not all questions can be easily answered using self-service. The same Zendesk research shows that 40 percent of customers pick up the phone when they can’t find the answers they want. If you don’t have phone support, you can’t handle problem calls.

The Telephone Lifeline

More companies are investing in multichannel and omnichannel service to enhance the customer experience, and the telephone continues to be an important customer communications channel.

Forrester research shows that 72 percent of businesses are making customer experience a top priority. A study from NewVoiceMedia also shows that companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service. According to Genesys, for those companies that do invest in customer service, the top three reasons why are: to improve customer retention (42 percent of surveyed companies listed this as the top reason), improve customer satisfaction (33 percent of surveyed companies listed this as the top reason), and increase cross-selling and upselling (32 percent of surveyed companies listed this as the top reason).

With more demand for self-service, the need for seamless, omnichannel customer support to drive the customer experience is growing.

An Aberdeen Group study finds that companies with strong omnichannel strategies retain an average of 89 percent of their customers, as opposed to 33 percent of companies with a weak omnichannel experience. That requires the customer self-service approach to be able to migrate to more personalized service at any moment, either through chat or telephone support.

Web, mobile, and self-service channels are continuing to grow in popularity, but when things become complex or need to be escalated, the phone is still the primary fallback. Frustrated customers reach for the phone.

The “Always On” Expectation

One of the consequences of the migration to self-service is consumers expect around-the-clock service. While chatbots and artificial intelligence are transforming customer self-service, most small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) can’t afford a 24-hour call center to offer the necessary phone support. What’s more, poorly trained call centers can have a negative impact on customer experience.

To be effective, telephone support has to be fast and efficient. Calls should have a minimum wait time, and when a customer service representative does answer, he or she needs to be able to actually address the problem. Nothing is more frustrating than having calls routed to multiple agents so that callers have to explain their issue again and hope that, this time, they will get the answer they need. No matter how good the training, third-party call centers can’t offer the same quality of service, especially if you are dealing with frustrated customers.

To improve customer service, to optimize the customer experience, and to save money, more SMBs are finding ways to automate customer service and provide qualified expert telephone customer service when it’s needed. Spoke has proven to be a great tool for SMB phone systems to enhance customer support.

Spoke turns any smartphone into a virtual office phone extension so that employees can be reached anytime, anywhere. Consider the possibilities for 24/7 customer support. Individual team members can manage customer support from home or any other location, because incoming customer service or help-desk calls can be routed automatically. And Spoke supports hunt groups, so customer support calls roll over from one line to another until an available service representative answers. Spoke also has other features that can help with customer service, such as auto attendant, searchable directories, call forwarding, and group calling.

Enhancing the customer experience is a matter of meeting customer needs quickly and efficiently.

Although more customers are relying on online FAQs, searchable knowledge bases, email, chat, and other self-service tools, they still expect phone service to be available when they want it. In fact, 66 percent of U.S. consumers are willing to pay more to a company that provides excellent customer service. Having reliable and timely phone support is part of customer experience excellence.

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