The nature of your business is such that customers need frequent access to you and your team. You have had a business telephone number since you first opened. But now you are considering eliminating the business phone in favor of online chat or an automated chatbot. Should you?
We would never recommend that companies offer only one means of getting in touch with them. The more contact options, the better. But if we compare telephone numbers with live chat and chatbots, we think there are clear advantages of going the telephone route.
The Telephone Line Is Not Dead
Landlines may be all but dead in the residential space, but the telephone line is alive and well in business. Being a company that specializes in live answering services, we can testify to the value of having an actual phone number customers can call if they have problems or questions.
Despite our collective love of technology, customers appreciate being able to speak with a real, live human being when they contact a business. They appreciate having conversations with human representatives rather than simply typing things into a chat box.
While online chat does have an advantage in that it can be automated for 24-hour service, telephone lines can also be staffed around-the-clock. Even if a company does not want to hire overnight staff, a live answering service can take care of things after hours.
Online Chat Is Okay
A lot of companies have opted to supplement their telephone lines with online chat. It is probably a good idea. There is a certain segment of the population that really doesn’t like using the telephone. They would rather “chat” than make a call.
A chat conversation is the next best thing to a phone conversation. However, the one downside is speed. Even with the fastest internet connection, there is always a delay between the two sides of the conversation. You type something in and send it, then wait for a response. Online chat isn’t nearly as fast or seamless as a phone conversation.
Something else to consider – it is not unusual for customer service reps to be engaged in multiple chats at the same time. That leaves customers waiting for several minutes between responses. What could take 15 to 20 minutes to accomplish via chat could be accomplished in under five over the phone.
Forget About Chatbots
From our perspective, chatbots are not a particularly good customer service tool. They are fine for answering FAQs or guiding a customer through a company’s online documentation, but for real problems requiring real solutions, chatbots just don’t cut it.
A chatbot is a piece of AI software designed to carry on the digital equivalent of a conversation. However, no amount of conversational realism changes the fact that a chatbot can only respond based on information it has access to. So, if that information is not up to date, accuracy cannot be guaranteed. And if a question is asked for which the chatbot cannot find an answer, the conversation is dead in the water.
Telephones and Answering Services
We get the fact that a lot of companies have turned to online chat and chatbots to provide 24-hour customer service access. But from where we sit, the best way to keep customers happy seems to be the old-fashioned telephone line along with an after-hours answering service.
All three forms of communication have a legitimate place at the table. If you can use all three, go for it. But when push comes to shove, your customers should be able to reach you by phone.