Who ya gonna call?

Support Channels: “who ya gonna call?”

Old but gold, phone support is now considered a “safe channel” by the most, but.. is it? Why do people and companies want phone support?

When thinking about phone support we have to consider the following:
– When do companies and customers want it?

– What are the downsides?

When and Why

The common denominator for companies usually lies in the kind of information handled: if you want to talk about money, phone is usually the only or the premium support channel.

The reason for this is both cultural and technological.
People believe that phone calls are more secure than other means of communication, such as chat or e-mail, because hiding somewhere or lowering the tone of the voice makes them feel “safe”.

This is only partially true, since phone calls can still be tapped as other communications, especially since more telecommunication companies are gradually moving from the classic phone lines (POTS/PSTN) to internet telephony (VoIP) in a seamless, transparent way.
Phone calls are “safer” mostly because fewer people is equipped and interested in spying on them.

Anyway, what does the phone support really mean for the customer and for the companies?
Customers usually consider phone support valuable according to two factors:

– How urgent the matter is
– How technologically skilled they are

If you care about settling a matter immediately, especially when money at stake, you want the communication to be as fast and clear as possible: technology must stop being on your way.

This is especially true when the customer wants you to know how pissed off (s)he is, maybe threatening lawsuits. Customers can sometimes be interested and focused only on what they do NOT want (like those “unauthorized charges” on the bank account) and deliberately ignore what happened and why (like the parents of the previous article on in-app purchases).
Ironically, this is what makes phone support both valuable and potentially useless at the same time.

What are the downsides?

Support calls usually implicate an high level of distress both for the customer and the agents, who are automatically considered “the culprit”.

Companies can easily ditch phone support even because the issue resolution rate dramatically fluctuates according to the nature of the product or service (flight ticketing VS troubleshooting that annoying buzz that comes from your PC).

One of the most negative aspects of phone support, however, is the waiting time: one agent can only serve one customer at the time, and customers need to focus exclusively on the call if they want to have any hope of solving their issue.

The average waiting time spent on hold will skyrocket every time there is an outage or a problem that is affecting a significant part of the customer base.

This increases the stress on both sides, and with emerging issues, a solution might just not be available yet. Lack of solutions is exactly what drives customer satisfaction down, failing completely the only purpose of every support channel.

Problems, however, are not over yet.
Two side effects of globalization jeopardize phone supports badly: the audio quality and the cultural and linguistic barriers.

I recently had a chat with one of those rare “enlightened” customers, and he made references to an American banking institution: there was a really high chance that another agent would have never understood what he was talking about just because it is not fair to assume that whoever is picking our call is from our home state.

Among the biggest fears scattering from phone support, we can still mention costs and the risk of the dropped calls. Not every company offers a toll-free number and what can you possibly do if the call drops? The answer is “start again from scratch”, also called “frustration at its best”.

There is, finally, one good thing about phone support if you compare it with the front desk, and it is the fact that you deal with trained support agents, not salesmen.

The agents that answer your calls should sometimes be vetted for a degree in psychology honoris causa, and they are constantly trained to solve your problem in the most efficient way while keeping your personal information safe. Something that, fortunately, is true also for other support channels, as we will see soon. 

Talking about you, what do you think is the worst aspect of phone support?
Share your thoughts, and gift yourself with a smile by reading the 23 secrets call centre employees won’t tell you!







2 thoughts on “Support Channels: “who ya gonna call?””

  1. I would like to give some ideas about it:
    1st: you describe the situation that bring to the creation of call center.

    But once they are created they become a center of cost, and so treated like one.

    This bring to the common outsourcing effect seeing in English coutries toward india, Or in Italy to Romania or Albania.
    Being a cost center the selection is often chosen on price more then a very difficult ability to value the competence and quality of the service they provide.

    this also bring to the problem of automatic answearing machine (known as “press 1 for this presss 2 for that”.
    Their own reason of exist is to avoid people to reach a paid operator and so reduce the average cost of a call.

    Call center are needed a LOT, especially when dealing with specific fields (call center for a repair car center, or for DHL)
    And made customer very happy to be able to talk with someone.


    1. Sadly, your skill-related consideration, cannot be more accurate and it is not going to disappear anytime soon.

      It is quite true, all service channels represent a cost.
      Technology can absorb part of this cost, especially when it is meant to improve efficiency instead that merely cutting a capital expenditure (think about a phone based call centre and a chat based one).

      Nonetheless, I think that there is more than meets the eye, as Customer Service and Technical Support operations are deeply intertwined with all the other departments.
      They are necessary and, if you look at them as isolated activities, they operate at a loss.
      However, were we able to define the “M-Theory” of corporate operations, I think that they have a lot of weight in the generation of leads, revenues and customer loyalty: costs are on the front page, benefits are in small print on the last page.


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