There’s an old saying – “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” – that sometimes rings all too true for customer support teams. When prioritizing support inquiries, there’s a hierarchy of channels. Email sits at the bottom, with response times ranging into hours or even days. Chat is somewhere in the middle, with customers expecting a response in a few minutes. Phone support sits at the very top. It’s common for customers to call in and expect to speak with a real person right away. If they’re left on hold, it’s a frustrating experience that contributes to driving customers away from a business.
To counteract the negatives of offering phone support, more companies are dropping it altogether as communication increasingly shifts to digital channels. But is this a good idea? Let’s take a closer look at the cases being made for and against phone customer support in the modern workplace.
Reasons why you should ditch phone support
Lower technology costs – While some standard phone trees have been replaced by VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) networks, there are still technology costs involved. Companies still need to supply headsets for agents and either employ network admins or directly outsource their phone networks.
Fewer unpredictable support scenarios – Companies often want to ditch phone support because of its high volatility. You never know what to expect when you pick up the phone and it can create negative situations where less experienced agents are “out of their league” with complex issues.
Full text logs of every customer conversation – This can be an important reason to stop phone support if you work in an industry that regularly works with extremely sensitive information. With all support conversations documented in text, it’s easy to identify if certain agents are not handling information in a secure manner.
Reasons you need to KEEP phone support
Removing phone support doesn’t look good, especially for business customers – Companies that don’t provide phone support come off as unapproachable, especially in the B2B (business-to-business) industry where relationships matter. If a customer can’t call you when something urgent happens, they may question doing business with you.
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Fewer customers will let you know how they feel – On the surface, fewer customer conversations seems like a good thing. They all must be happy, right? Not exactly. By not offering phone support, you are pushing customers to other channels where they may not prefer to communicate with your business. This can lead to situations where customers put off reporting a small issue because they can’t call you and it turns into a major problem over time.
Can’t quickly solve complex issues (higher payroll costs) – Trying to solve complex customer issues over email and live chat can be a painful and time-consuming experience. A problem that could have been solved in a half hour over the phone could take weeks over email. Not having phone support may save technology costs, but unless your company deals exclusively with simple issues, these savings often don’t outweigh the increase in payroll costs.
Increased probability of customer churn – Another major drawback of having long issue resolution times without phone support is the drastic increase in customer frustration. While customers leaving your business over poor support may be an expectation in the B2C (business-to-consumer) world, it’s unacceptable in B2B where losing a single customer can make or break a company’s fiscal year.
Automation and AI will reduce phone support efforts – It’s already started, but over the next ten years many companies will be deploying advanced automation and AI capabilities that will be able to resolve many traditional phone support issues with minimal effort. Why abandon phone support and get your customers used to not calling you when you’ll want them to call again in the near future?
In summary, while there are some reasons why ditching phone customer support is a smart decision, there are also many drawbacks. At the end of the day, it really depends on the needs of your business. For example, if your team is working with order requests via a form that provides all the information they need, phone support probably isn’t necessary. However, if you’re a B2B software or IT company working through complex issues, you'll want to keep those phone lines open!