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The Value of Talking to a Real Person in the Age of the Internet

Because of smartphones, tablets, laptops, and PCs, consumers always have search engines at their fingertips 24/7. It’s no surprise then that many people perform a Google search before calling a customer service representative. Many exhaust all their internet resources before they even consider dialing for help.

Why do so many customers prefer the internet to talking to a real person? And do consumers short-change their customer service experience when they fail to pick up a phone? In this blog post, we’ll examine the needs of customers and businesses with regard to customer service and discover why customer service call centers are still vital in an internet-driven world.

What Happens When a Consumer Needs Customer Service

Let’s imagine Jane Doe has a problem with a flat-screen TV she received as a gift more than a year ago. She gets out her smartphone and Googles a description of her issue. She looks through the search results and attempts a few quick troubleshooting techniques that seem applicable, but her TV still won’t work. With each failed attempt, Jane becomes more frustrated.

At this point, Jane wants the issue resolved, so she decides to contact the TV manufacturer. She figures the maker will be her best source for a comprehensive and reliable answer to her questions.

When Jane visits the manufacturer’s website, she realizes she has several options for contacting the customer service. She can send an email, ask about her problem on social media, or call customer service.

Let’s say Jane decides to tweet about her problem instead of calling. Time is of the essence, so what could be faster than a message that has fit within 141 characters? Jane locates the TV company’s customer service Twitter handle right away and types a short request for help. But an hour later, she’s still waiting for a reply. Finally, she’s so frustrated that she looks up the customer service phone number and dials it.

What Customers Want from a Customer Service Call

The situation described here happens quite frequently in the modern world. By the time many people call customer service nowadays, they already feel frustrated and want answers right away. If they encounter long hold times or a complicated automated menu, those problems only add to their frustration.

Consider why Jane and others like her don’t call customer service first. The convenience of the internet, a desire for independence, and time constraints only begin the list. Some people feel shy or uncomfortable speaking with customer service representatives over the phone. Others worry about keeping private information safe. The list goes on and on.

One major concern for many consumers is talking to someone on the other end of the line who’s pushy or unhelpful. An infamous example of this occurred in July 2014:

Ryan Block, a journalist and then Comcast customer, posted a segment of a customer service call he made to the company online. In the 8-minute recording, Block asks the rep to disconnect his Comcast service, and the representative keeps asking why Block wants to leave Comcast, all the time offering him different deals.

Block’s method of critiquing customer service gives new meaning to a phrase often used in customer service calls: “Your call may be monitored for quality purposes.” Block’s recording went viral and sparked a firestorm of similar complaints from other consumers. Clearly consumers worry about hitting a dead end when they call for help. Has this worry doomed customer service calls to go the way of the dinosaur?

What Over-the-Phone Customer Service Offers That Online Help Doesn’t

While internet customer service options have a place, they can never entirely replace person-to-person customer service calls. Consumers who default to online customer service options often fail to realize the numerous advantages of calling customer service.

When customer support teams have the correct training, customers can make one phone call and benefit from the following:

1. They receive clear answers to complex issues and unique situations.

Company websites and online troubleshooting forums are great resources for answering simple questions—and a well-designed, up-to-date website can relieve some pressure from customer service phone lines.

But when a customer has multiple questions or encounters an exception to the norm, he or she wants to speak to a real person. Only a trained customer service representative can listen to the customer’s situation and resolve it in a thorough, timely, and professional manner.

2. They minimize total time spent thinking about the problem or need.

Customers worry about being put on hold when they call customer service for help. It’s a valid concern, but most people don’t consider how long they put themselves on hold when they use other customer service options. If they tweet, Facebook message, or email about a customer service inquiry, consumers have to check back, sometimes repeatedly, for a response.

Sure, many people check their inbox and social media profiles multiple times a day anyway, but the longer they wait for a response, the more they start to feel ignored by a company—and they’ll use the opportunity to look elsewhere for service.

3. The resolve the issue in a single customer service interaction.

Even when customers get a quick response to their online request for service, they’ll probably have to send several more emails or messages back and forth to completely resolve the problem. Contrast that with having a customer service representative on the line. The customer can ask as many questions as necessary and receive answers immediately. When they hang up, they should feel like their problem was taken seriously and resolved effectively.

This blog has only listed a few reasons why over-the-phone customer service remains relevant in the internet age. Ultimately, phone and online customer service options should work together. When they do, customers remain loyal because they felt taken care of when they needed help.

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