Despite the fact that customers have multiple ways to interact with companies, they still prefer the phone. At least that's the finding of a new study by NICE Systems, which rated contact centers as the most important customer channel.

It's worth noting that NICE is a provider of contact center solutions. Even so, there does seem to be some validity in the research: It confirms another study by CX Act, a customer experience improvement firm, which showed the most frequently used and most effective customer touch point is personal contact by phone.

Call Me - Definitely

"Connecting with a customer service representative over the phone is the most used channel at 88 percent" of users, NICE Director of Innovation and Solutions Matthew Storm told CMSWire. While self-service over the web is employed by 83 percent, Storm said that, "regardless of what channel they are using, customers want the option of turning to a live phone representative as their next choice."

If it's a simple issue, he told us, "they find self-service quicker and easier, particularly when they've experienced excessive wait times or transfers to several reps during past calls."

Usage of channels other than a live rep on the phone at the contact center is nevertheless growing dramatically, according to NICE's stats. This includes twenty percent more usage of smartphone apps in 2013 compared to 2011, 16 percent more for text messaging, 21 percent more for social media and 16 percent more for sponsored online communities/forums.

Learning Opportunities

NICE has created an infographic to illustrate this idea that, as the company says, "all roads led to the contact center," where a live rep with a phone resides. That's the most expensive channel to maintain, of course, so optimizing such channels as mobile apps, phone self-service and online forums can help to satisfy customer demand while trying to keeping traffic to a live rep at a minimum.

Storm pointed out that there are some instances where it's worthwhile to steer customers toward the most expensive channels, such as "cross-sell opportunities and high value customer segments." 


From the NICE Systems' infographic