There’s nothing I dread more these days than having to make a customer service call. Just overhearing a friend on a 53-minute service call to Air Canada for tracking down a seemingly “lost” booking was painful enough to prompt me to pen this post. In today’s Whatsapp-dominated world, why are we still stuck with long hold times with elevator music? Is there anything more annoying than having to read and correct names, addresses and credit card numbers over the phone?
I find it curious why email hasn’t become the favored medium for customer support. One thought is that the long-form nature of email makes it less than ideal for resolving user issues. It’d be great if users always wrote in with a succinct description of the issue they’re looking to resolve, along with all relevant supporting information. However, the process of resolving a customer issue often requires a back-and-forth conversation between the agent and the user to narrow the issues, identify possible solutions, and obtain the requisite information to provide a resolution. Email isn't great for conversations, as threads become unwieldy after about a dozen or so replies.
Messaging, whether by SMS or through an app, seems to be a great medium for customer support and getting resolution to edge-case issues that can't be handled by automated systems. Transmitting data like names, addresses, account and booking numbers and credit card data is much, much easier. (You’ll truly understand my pain when you note that I have a “u” and a “double-u” consecutively my first name.) You can also easily attach photos and screenshots of supporting documentation.
There’s also a certain user expectation of “synchronous, but-not-really” associated with text-messaging. It allows either party to do further reserach or collect information without tying up the other, while also allowing for rapid-fire communication when necessary. There’s also an expectation of brevity that makes messaging a better medium than email. By design of the medium, users cannot fit essays into a message — they are forced to present their issues one at a time, in short snippets.
The primary benefit to companies would, of course, be happier users. It’s also quite possible that their staff members will be able to process issues much quicker, although one might argue that their current approach reduces queue length merely through user-attrition. (But certainly, that can’t be a valid strategy?) Having conversations on-record helps companies audit and train agents much better, as well as quickly gain customer insight.
So why haven’t companies all flocked to this medium? Tools like Sendhub are becoming more widely available. Are companies simply not aware of these options? Do they need help in getting processes and systems in place to support support-by-text? Are there any weird incentives I simply failed to consider?