I recently read an incredible blog post by Lauren McDonald at HeyWire. (And I would recommend that you take a few minutes and read her comments on comparing support channels to the Olympics and awarding the text channel the "gold medal." I'll wait.)
As the text channel continues to receive a lot of attention – and it should – it presents a great opportunity to review an important strategic topic: "guiding customers" to the most efficient channel.
Psychology Over Survey Questions
I have dogged survey questions in the past, as we can always frame questions to drive an expected outcome. While I generally agree with all the current surveys pointing to texting as the preferred communication channel, I do think one topic trumps a survey on agent versus IVR versus website versus chat.
Best practice insight and technology company CEB pitted customer behavior against survey questions and found something five years ago that still applies today. While customers do want channel choice (mobile app, texting, agent, IVR, social), they prefer a problem to go away the fastest way regardless of channel by a wide margin of 84 percent to 16 percent.
I have spoken on the paradox of choice many times and recommend the book by Barry Schwartz on the topic for the readers in the crowd.
How to Guide Customers
When we work with our clients on implementing self-service, one of the things we focus on is guiding customers to the fastest channel to make the problem go away. It is likely that the channel will change based on the specific question or problem that might exist. We approach guiding customers two ways.
First, where applicable, we simply time transactions and then offer the channel that on average takes the least amount of time. Second, we list the number of steps involved to complete a transaction and guide customers to the channel that requires the fewest steps.
Whether you are looking at implementing texting or social self-service – or perhaps upgrading existing channels like web chat, IVR or mobile – consider the concept of guiding customers to the fastest channel. If you have ever used Amazon support, they do an excellent job of asking a few questions to determine the problem and then guiding you to the best channel.
Here is a screenshot of a case I opened about a battery not working on a Kindle Fire device:
Amazon guided me to use the phone – because it is the fastest method to resolve the problem. They even disabled email as an option – as it would not have resolved the problem.
Does Texting Deserve a Gold Medal?
I do agree that texting deserves the "gold medal" of service channels and enjoyed the Olympic comparison authored by Lauren. However, to maximize the value to any company, we also need a "gold medal" strategy. I award the gold to "guiding customers" as the item atop the list of strategic considers.
After all, why invest all the time, money and energy to implement texting if under a certain scenario it takes twice the effort to resolve the issue?