Self-service customer support

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3 Factors Behind the Decline of Voice-Based Customer Care

Phone use for customer service is decreasing. We explain why – and help you understand what you can do about this major shift.

It’s easier than ever for consumers to take it upon themselves to solve problems. If a person has a question about Windows, for example, s/he can probably find an answer on a site like PC World, a specialist IT forum, or on Microsoft’s own user communities.

When we live so much of our lives on the web, it’s little wonder online how-tos have become so popular. When consumers are looking for support from a brand, it’s almost an expectation that online resources will be an option.

Yet does the rise of online-self service mean that voice-based support is on its way out? According to Forrester, the answer is yes. “Phone use for customer service has steadily decreased over the last six years,” analyst Kate Leggett wrote in a 2016 blog post.

3 Factors Behind the Decline of Voice-Based Customer Care

Here are three reasons why.

Shoppers prefer doing things on their own

Today’s shoppers are used to doing everything on their own – from pre-sale research, to making purchases, to getting after-sale support.

The reason is the internet, which has made it easier than ever before to conduct commerce (even on the go). E-commerce makes up only about 10 percent of total retail sales, but it’s influencing every area of business.

Nowhere is that more true than in customer service. Forrester’s Kate Leggett says 81 percent of consumers now use online FAQs, up from 67 percent in 2012.

Search engines deliver content where and when people need it

What makes the internet so user-friendly is search engines. They’ve done a great job not only ingesting and organizing all of the content on the web but making it intuitive for people to find answers in the moment.

Today, when you have any kind of question about something you’ve purchased, and no matter whether you’re on a PC or your phone, you’re probably going to start with a web search.

The upshot for a brand is, how well does your support content jive with this “search-first” consumer mentality? Is your support content designed to be indexable? Is it written in a natural style – the kind that people use when they input a phrase into search? And are you taking advantage of user-generated content in customer service? Search engines love UGC, and typically reward UGC-laden pages with higher results.

The internet provides better answers

The reason that search engines like UGC is relevance. That is, user-generated content is seen by Google and its competitors as more helpful, and more useful, than content created by brands.

This divide was reflected in a Consumer Electronics Association survey from 2015, in which about two-thirds of people said they got more value from information they found on their own than from branded marketing content.

Put simply, people tend to prefer each other’s input. After all, real people often have a better idea how to convey complicated information than brand representatives.

Think how this dynamic affects a consumer’s desire to call in for support. If they know they are going to get a support agent who may or may not understand their problem, wouldn’t they rather seek out peer advice online?

Very often, as we’re seeing, the answer is yes. Your challenge is to address this new reality – and to do so quickly. Your customers aren’t waiting.