In the IT world, it’s tempting to scrap phone support in favor of online-only customer service. After all, online methods of support, including interactive knowledge bases and chat features, are more cost-efficient. They might also be preferred by some of your target demographics. Up to 91 percent of customers would use a knowledge base if it met their needs.
However, even in an age where the majority of the population can and does use the internet to solve most of their problems, it’s important for your IT department to offer phone support. So why is phone support still so important, and how can you succeed at it?
Why phone support is relevant in the digital age
First, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why phone support is important in an age where online interactions are more common.
Some people simply prefer talking to people over reading answers. That personal connection makes them feel more satisfied with the service they receive and might help them forge a closer relationship with your brand.
Email can be an incredibly productive medium for communication, but it isn’t always the best for conveying emotion. Caps and exclamation marks can tell you a customer is angry, but over the phone, you’ll get a much more nuanced sense of their feelings — and you’ll be able to empathize much easier as well.
Ironic though it is, some people seeking IT help don’t like technology. They don’t want to use their device for anything more than they have to, and a phone call represents a viable alternative for them.
For some people, talking on the phone is just easier. Their device might be currently out of commission, or they might be on their way to a meeting.
Millennials tend to prefer writing over talking, but many people from older generations find it much easier to express themselves with spoken sentences than written ones — especially if their typing speed isn’t very fast. They’ll have an easier time articulating their problem and understanding the solution if it involves a verbal conversation.
Yes, there will be challenges
Offering phone support is important, but it doesn’t come without its obstacles. Develop a plan to overcome these three common stumbling blocks.
Understanding the problem
When talking over the phone with no visual, it can be hard to figure out the exact problem. Similarly, it might be difficult to verbally describe the actions a customer must take to resolve the issue.
If you get a high call volume, your support staff will find it hard to keep up. There might be dropped calls, long wait times and high stress levels among your staff.
It’s more difficult to gauge customer satisfaction at the end of a phone call, and following up via phone takes extra time you might not be willing to spend.
7 tips for successful phone support
So how can you make the most of your phone support? Follow these seven smart tips.
Use multiple methods.
Prominently display your phone number.
Have reinforcements at the ready.
Use basic language.
Have a follow-up strategy.
Ready to dial-in and up the ante on your phone support? Then keep reading.
1. Use multiple methods
Phone support should be a part of your support network, but it shouldn’t be the only channel customers have to contact you. Ideally, you’ll have multiple support methods available, including chat, email and phone. This will ensure that you provide convenient solutions for the largest percentage of your customers and mitigate the risk of high call volume.
2. Prominently display your phone number
People aren’t going to call you if it’s difficult to find your phone number. You might be tempted to bury your number a few pages into your online support, forcing customers to try and solve their problems before they contact you. But for those who strongly prefer a phone conversation, this will only serve to frustrate them.
Pro tip: It’s better to offer the option to call from the beginning. Customers who prefer self-service will ignore it.
3. Have reinforcements at the ready
Your front-line staff can handle the majority of calls during normal-volume periods. But when call volume spikes, plan to have a backup staff who can step in to help. Make sure all your customer support reps are trained in the art of handling inbound calls, just in case you need them.
4. Prioritize empathy
Empathy is one of the most powerful ingredients in a successful customer support experience, and phone calls are one of the few mediums that give you the chance to display it. Train your employees to mirror customers’ emotions and relate to their experiences as much as possible. It will lead to better results, and ultimately, higher customer satisfaction.
5. Use basic language
You might need to talk through some complex tech problems over the phone, so try to keep your vocabulary as basic as possible. Learn to describe onscreen features in straightforward, relatable terms — even if it means forgoing the technically appropriate name for the feature. You might even need to invent new ways to describe things on the fly if your customers aren’t getting it. This will lead to faster, more accurate understanding and will help you resolve problems more efficiently.
6. Be patient
Some tech problems will be difficult to solve over the phone, and some customers might be poor conversationalists. All your phone support staff members need to be trained in the art of patience. They should understand that some calls might be slow, difficult and unpredictable, and that this is part of the job.
7. Have a follow-up strategy
Finally, put together a follow-up strategy that makes it convenient and efficient to gauge customer satisfaction. You might ask the customer for an email address, and then send a survey to them in a day or two to ask how they felt about the experience. This will allow you to gather customer feedback and use it to improve your customer support services.
Hopefully, these seven tips will help your better understand how to effectively use phone support for your IT business, even in the face of today’s digital age. Just remember to empathize with your customers and speak plainly about issues — they’ll appreciate your willingness to comprehend their situation.
Editor’s note: Want to add a business phone number to encourage good phone support? Check out SmartLine from GoDaddy, the second phone number app. Now, you can have an official business number separate from your personal information, right on your mobile device.