Contact Us However You Please…I think

Every once in a while, a question pops into my head that appears to need an answer.  Not often.  But, occasionally.  A few weeks back was one of those times.

Over the past year, in several different venues, in conversations with clients and colleagues, this topic of “socializing” a brand’s contact us page has been percolating.  The “contact us” page, for those that have never experienced it, is typically the page on a company or brand’s website that provides all the various methods for…well…contacting the company.  Traditional information has included store locations, headquarters mailing address, hours of operation, phone number and a form that allows the visitor to enter their information and question to generate an email.  In my business, this email ends up in a queue in the contact center where an associates responds and replies with the requested information.

Pretty straight forward.

But, those of us that are more “social-leaning” think there is a better use of this real estate.  In a time when everyone is longing to, and often struggling to, create compelling, value-generating engagement with their customers, this contact us page provides a golden opportunity to do just that.

The thing I always have to challenge myself with however is this.  Is my point of view as one of those social-leaners, in line with or wildly out of touch from others?  So, I posed a quick two question survey to see if I could get a sense of where the prevailing winds were blowing on this topic.

Question 1

contactusQ1

Question 2

contactusQ2

While the sample size here is small (n=14), I was struck by a two observations.

First, to question #1, in isolation, the desire to de-emphasize email as a channel of communication was promising, while not unexpected.  The motivations, while I didn’t dive into those, are fairly easy to infer.  Email is still a human capital-based communication channel.  Or, at least it should be.  Because if you’re sending out auto-generated canned emails in response to a customer that took the time to write you with their live fingers skipping across the keyboard, we need to talk.  Every contact center continues to face ever-increasing pressure to reduce the cost of service.  The pendulum may be shifting to better balance cost and the customer experience.  But cost is, and will continue to be a variable in the service deliver equation.  So, the desire to leverage other, lower cost options is no surprise.  Also, as a socialite, my thought was that the other channels that would be promoted are more of the social variety, indicating a strong desire and emphasis to create more compelling customer engagement, between customer and brand, and among the entire customer community.

Second, I was not at all surprise to see that few would choose to totally eliminate email.  In an omni-channel world, there continues to be customer demand for this channel.

When I looked at the two questions together, this is where I was a bit confounded.  In question 1, the majority of respondents (57%) indicated a desire to minimize the prominence of email and promote other channels.  While, in question 2, 21% of respondents indicated they would promote email most predominantly on their new contact us page.  The identical number that indicated they would feature social channels as the predominant methods of communication.  And in this instance, live chat was the channel that would be promoted most.  Interesting that, while live chat can have some cost benefits from skilled agents handling multiple simultaneous interactions, it is still a one to one communication.  And, while an email can actually be shared among customers, in a quasi-social manner, chat logs do not lend themselves to this.

So, what am I do conclude from this highly unscientific poll?  Is the conclusion that the pendulum hasn’t swung far enough?  Is cost containment still the overarching focus of customer service and contact centers in general?

What would you conclude?

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