For many years, telephone has been the dominant means through which organisations communicate with their customers. However, according to Aspect Software, the growth in choice when it comes to interaction – as well as the changing preferences of younger generations – means that traditional channels such as telephone are now becoming more of a last resort rather than a first port of call.
This underlines the need for a more agile, nuanced approach to customer engagement in the long term, while maintaining traditional channels for when they are most needed.
According to Dimension Data’s Global Contact Centre Benchmarking Report, telephone is the most popular communication channel amongst those born before 1945 (cited by 90 per cent). However, this drops to 64 per cent for baby boomers, 29 per cent for Generation X and just 12 per cent for millennials.
This decrease is accompanied by a rise in preference for newer channels such as webchat or social media, which are both cited as a favoured channel by 24 per cent of millennials. At the same time, telephone has become the least popular amongst younger consumers.
For Colin Whelan, Principle WFO Solutions Consultant at Aspect, this shows that there is a clear need for businesses to think long and hard about the choice they offer their customers when it comes to interaction, and how they can continue to provide a cohesive, unified service across a range of different channels.
Whelan says: “The humble telephone once held something of a monopoly in the world of customer service, and it’s still a popular choice for older consumers. That said, the evolution in preferences has been swift, and it has become clear that younger generations prefer to use automated self-service or online-based options first and foremost, before turning to telephone as a last resort when their favoured channels are unable to answer their queries sufficiently. Given the tech-native characteristics of millennials and the younger Generation Z, this trend is only likely to continue in the coming years.
“All of this points to a need for organisations to offer as wide a choice as possible when it comes to customer engagement, especially with regard to self-service or online and mobile-based options. By adapting in this way, businesses will be able to keep their fingers on the pulse as far as customer behaviour is concerned.”
According to Whelan, making a success of an omni-channel approach is not simply about introducing new channels and leaving them to operate completely independently from one another. Instead, linking these channels together will provide the best possible chance of ensuring customers have their queries answered in a way that best suits them.
He concludes: “This demand for new channels is indicative of the wider consumer demand for greater efficiency in the customer engagement process, but this efficiency can only be guaranteed if organisations have the technology platforms in place that enable all interactions across all channels to be managed from a single location. In this way, the customer experience becomes truly omni-channel, as a query could initially be made through a webchat service for example, before then being seamlessly transferred to telephone as and when required. If businesses are willing to adapt to these changes, they’ll be in a position to thrive.”