Our communication with customers has evolved and expanded over time; from a reliance on traditional post to the introduction of telephones and email and ultimately real-time online chat. There’s no getting away from the fact that you need a way for customers to quickly and easily contact you, but with so many methods available, which should you choose?
In a few short years, live chat and chatbots have transitioned from revolutionary to business-as-usual, and their success is second-to-none. Over half of customers would prefer to chat to a person in real-time online over a phone call (Harris Research); what’s more, live chat has a higher customer satisfaction rating than any other channel at 73% (Econsultancy). It’s so prolific that it’s now unusual to see websites without live chat options.
Chatbots are arguably the currently the most revolutionary method of communication, removing the human element almost entirely, and according to experts they’ll be commonplace very soon. Gartner has estimated that 85% of customer interactions will involve chatbots by 2020, meaning the AI tool won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. Evidence has shown that, when utilised effectively, chatbots result in a 30% increase in conversions than other communication channels. What’s more, 61% of customers would actively choose to interact with a chatbot over a human for an immediate answer, and 21% would even buy from one (Gartner).
Forward-thinking businesses and consumers alike will gravitate to these modern technologies, but it’s important that additional channels like phone and email shouldn’t be tossed aside for them. All businesses must be available on the phone for customers who have urgent queries or for those who still prefer phone calls; or the 10% of the UK that still isn’t connected to the internet (ONS).
However, many businesses are operating on outdated telephony systems, still dependent on ISDN despite its unreliability and the news that it will be retired in 2025. In response to the ISDN deadline, a number of businesses are making the move to hosted telephony.
Hosted telephony, or VoIP (Voice over IP) is a cloud-based telephone solution that negates the need for ISDN and offers businesses a host of advantages. One of its key benefits is lower costs due to no capex and no maintenance costs thanks to built-in disaster recovery. Hosted telephony services are via ethernet internet or a converged fibre broadband service, using the same wiring as your business’ data network. Additionally, businesses can ensure that phone calls are prioritised over other network traffic (like that colleague who’s streaming cat videos…) ensuring calls are operating across a stable connection.
Hosted telephony sees a traditional method of communication brought into the 21st century with cloud hosting, making it more essential than ever. Not only does telephony communication provide customers with the opportunity to have real-time, two-way communication, it also provides a personable experience favoured by many. Whilst live chat has high customer satisfaction levels and customers are willing to buy from a chatbot, implementing these solutions shouldn’t come at the expense of telephone communications.
The simple fact is that a lot of people still like to talk to a person over the phone, and that will likely be the case for a very long time. A Google study found that 61% of consumers get in touch with a business via phone when they’re ready to purchase. Additionally, for urgent queries, a phone call is undoubtedly the quickest way to communicate; the average person types 38-40 words a minute compared to 125-175 words per minute when talking (HBR).
To provide the best possible customer service, businesses should adopt a multi-layered communication strategy to allow current and prospective customers to get in touch in their preferred method. To meet consumer demands, businesses must not only have an online presence, but be available to speak to online whether that’s via a support agent on live chat or chatbots. The concern around the latter is that chatbots are still evolving and therefore won’t be able to answer all customer queries, which could leave them frustrated.
Hosted telephony will allow businesses to save money on this traditional solution, thanks to the eradication of capex costs and built-in disaster recovery, and let customers talk to a knowledgeable human being. Digital transformation, the use of technology to improve processes, customer experience and ultimately profitability, is achievable in so many ways. By adopting a mix of traditional and modern communication tools, and particularly using cloud-based phone systems, business can respond to customers quicker and more efficiently whilst saving money rather than increasing outgoings.
Natasha Bougourd is TSG’s Lead Applications Writer, specialising in IT support, Office 365, Dynamics Nav modules, hosted telephony solutions and business intelligence.