The Challenge: Major Internet companies like Google, Facebook, and Twitter have decided that customer service call centers are obsolete. Many customers disagree.
Last week, The New York Times reported on the fact that nearly all major Internet and social media sites, including Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, have done away with call centers altogether. "The companies argue that with millions of users every day, they cannot possibly pick up the phone."
Facebook's automatic phone message explains that they cannot provide phone support because they are an "Internet-based company." This claim neglects a crucial fact: there are no "Internet" companies. All companies must be multichannel.
The key to successful multichannel service and marketing is not just to deliver "the right message to the right person at the right time," but to do it per that customer's media preferences. As we've repeatedly emphasized, "If you focus on a single channel at the expense of others, you're neglecting a significant portion of your customer base."
Single channel service and support is based on the assumption that most customers prefer email. As The Times wrote, " Voice calls have been falling out of fashion with teenagers and people in their 20s for some time (text only, please)." This assumption neglects a huge percentage of customers -- and it's false.
As ExactTarget reported in their 2012 Channel Preference Survey, "consumers still do prefer the phone under certain circumstances. ... 37 percent of U.S. online consumers told us that they'll call a company when they have an issue with its product or service."
If Facebook, Twitter, Google, and LinkedIn keep their phones off the hook, they'll be neglecting over a third of their customers.
These companies were brilliant enough to create transformational services. If they cared enough, they would figure out how to provide high quality, affordable, live customer service.
KEY TAKEAWAYS FOR MARKETERS
» Multichannel businesses provide value to all customers.
Effective businesses serve all their customers, and that's not possible without multichannel service. Give customers a full range of options, including email, live chat, social media, F.A.Q.'s -- and phone support.
» Phone support is an investment, not a sunk cost.
American Express has repeatedly demonstrated the tremendous value of engaging customers on the phone. For businesses to argue that they cannot "afford" to speak with millions of customers is to miss an opportunity to grow engagement and revenue.
» Support quality directly impacts customer perceptions and brand equity.
Studies and statistics aside, one customer The New York Times spoke with made the essential point. After failing to reach Twitter via phone for two days, he said, "The plain and simple fact is that they're too busy or too important to talk to us." Brand perception doesn't get much worse.
Ernan Roman is President of the marketing consultancy, Ernan Roman Direct Marketing.
Recognized as the industry pioneer who created three transformational methodologies: Integrated Direct Marketing, Opt-In Marketing, and Voice of Customer Relationship Research.
Ernan was recently inducted into the Marketing Hall of Fame.
Clients include Microsoft, NBC Universal, Disney, Hewlett-Packard and IBM.
Ernan was named to "B to B's Who's Who" as one of the "100 most influential people" in Business Marketing by Crain's B to B Magazine. His fourth and latest book on marketing best practices is titled: Voice of the Customer Marketing: A Proven 5-Step Process to Create Customers Who Care, Spend, and Stay.
Ernan is also the co-author of "Opt-In Marketing: Increase Sales Exponentially with Consensual Marketing" and author of "Integrated Direct Marketing: The Cutting Edge Strategy for Synchronizing Advertising, Direct Mail, Telemarketing and Field Sales."