How to Find the Right Support Channels for your Business

Customer Support is Overwhelming. That’s undeniable. Support burns out many entrepreneurs super fast. It can seem like a never-ending string of customer inquiries, questions, requests and complaints. You can find yourself switching from one support channel to another, hoping that the next one will be easier to manage.

But the secret to providing strong multichannel customer support isn’t in opening as many channels as possible. It’s in understanding why customers pick a particular channel in the first place.

Here’s a quick run through of some of the reason why customers prefer one channel to another.

I. Phone

It doesn’t matter what research you look at, phone continues to be the most used support channel.

  • According to Parature , 43% of customers prefer to call a company to seek help.
  • In M2Talk’s research, 33.5% of customers said the same.
  • Econsultancy found that 61% of customers preferred phone to other channels.

The list goes on.

picture of a hand with a mobile phone in it

The reason is simple: customers believe that calling a company is the quickest way to get their issue resolved . But is that true?

Companies often obstruct their customers’ way to speak to a real person. In 2011 alone, 67% of customers have hung up the phone frustrated because they couldn’t talk to a live person. And today, a staggering 53% of customers are afraid to call a business for a fear of not being able to speak to a real person.

Many of them then choose the second best alternative – live chat.

II. Live Chat

screenshot of Userlike page and chat widget

Live chat is the fastest growing support channel today. According to Avaya , 32% of US customers said they’d prefer to use live chat when having a problem. 55% are even interested in video live chat on a website.

Customers use live chat primarily to solve smaller issues.

Emarketer discovered that customers find live chat particularly useful for resolving smaller issues like:

  • Update on order status.
  • Seeking information on returns and refund policies.
  • Inquiring about discounts or promotions.
  • Requesting shipping.
  • Confirming basic information about products or services.

Live chat is therefore invaluable when you’re trying to overcome your customers’ final objections before buying.

It’s the only channel that’s:

  • Convenient to customers . They can request help at any stage of their shopping journey with a single click.
  • Offers practically zero waiting time . In most cases, live chats are picked up right away, unlike other channels where customers have to wait and often go past an automated help system first.
  • Helps add a real time human interaction to an online buying experience.

And it works, with data to prove it.

70% of customers claim to be more likely to purchase after having a real time conversation via live chat.
Also, according to Forrester , 44% of online consumers stated that being able to receive answers by a live person during an online purchase is “ one of the most important features a website can offer .

abstract network picture

III. Email

Email is by far the most common customer support channel. Not all companies offer customers a chance to call them or chat in real time. But virtually all provide email assistance.
And together with phone, it holds the biggest share of today’s support queries.

Customers use email for a wide variety of problems – from order issues to ask for technical help.

Unfortunately email also generates the most problems. Customers often switch channels during an interaction with a brand.They may email a company and then call next, before anyone had even a chance to reply.

Customers are also impatient.
In their research Sprout Social points that over 50% of customers will wait maximum a day for an email reply. And 50% of customers will give a brand only a week to reply before they stop doing business with them.

IV. Self Help

According to Nuance, 75% of customers consider self-service as a convenient way to address their problems. 67% of their respondents also admitted that they prefer this channel to speaking to a company’s representative.

That however doesn’t mean that other channels will become obsolete.

Dan Nordale, Nuance’s vice president for enterprise marketing explains:
“The purpose of self-service is to help people be more productive providing them easy and instant access to what they need: information, goods and services, or the exact right person.” But it’s not used to replace traditional support.

Customers use self-help to find information:

  • Shipping cost.
  • Returns and refunds.
  • Delivery options.
  • Specific product features or usage instructions.

When faced with a problem however, they turn to a company for help.

V. Social Media

One of the biggest shifts we’ve seen in customer’s service recently is the shift to social.

Often today’s customers do not use phones to call but to contact a brand via social media. This comes as no surprise though. Social networking is, after all, the no. 1 online activity in the US.

Brands also respond quickly to this trend. The adoption of social media customer service has risen from 12% in 2010 to 59% in 2013. And 55% of consumers now expect companies to provide customer service via social media sites.

But they use this channel in a different way. Customers often use social media to vent off their frustration with a brand.

picture of Facebook Post

46% of them have used social media to vent their frustrations about a poor service experience for instance. They also contact brands when having trouble shopping in their physical stores. 14% of Tweets major retail brands receive are from customers looking for help in-store. Moreover, social customers tend not to switch channels. A Conversocial Research found that only 2% of customers who were given email or other way of direct contact on social media acted on it.


Customers are demanding. They need help and expect it whenever and wherever they want. Knowing what channels they might use and why will help you anticipate their requests and serve them better.