The call center channel remains the customer’s contact channel of choice for resolving an inquiry or problem. Many people are surprised about the continued popularity of the call center channel given the expansion of contact channels available (e.g., web self-service, IVR self-service, chat, email, mobile) and that younger generations (i.e., Y and X) are the highest users of contact channels for resolving an inquiry or problem. In our recent customer contact channel usage research study, we asked the question, “If you could use any method of contact with a company to resolve your inquiry or problem, what contact method would you prefer?” The responses to that question show that customer channel preference is wide ranging. However, the call center channel has the highest customer preference at 48%. Overall, the channels that use a CSR (i.e., call center, email, and branch) are customers’ contact channels of preference for resolving an inquiry or problem. This underscores the importance of CSRs for assisting customers in resolving an inquiry or problem. Online contact channels, such as web self-service and chat, are second highest in preference at 18%. Organizations have substantially expanded functionality on self-service channels (i.e., web, mobile, and IVR) for resolving a wider variety of contact types; however, for the majority of customers the call center is still the channel of choice, especially if the inquiry or problem is complex. The online chat channel is a relatively new contact channel preference. The chat channel usage just a few years ago was extremely low; however, the chat channel is becoming more popular.

Customer Contact Channel Preference

Another key finding in our contact channel research study is that regardless of age demographics, the results for contact channel preference show that the call center channel still remains the most popular channel of choice for resolving an inquiry or problem. Not surprisingly, the Silent Generation’s and Baby Boomers’ contact channel of choice for resolving their inquiry or problem is the call center. The call center and electronic messaging (e.g., email, web self-service, and chat) are Generation X’s preferences. Generation Y has the highest preference for web self-service, chat, mobile self-service, and SMS channels out of all the generations. With the increased use of self-service contact channels handling simpler inquiries or problems, the call center is now handling ever increasing complex issues and, in many cases, is becoming a call escalation center. However, contact centers are being challenged to provide more self-service options because customers expect more contact channel options to resolve their inquiry or problem. Today’s connected customers expect to resolve their inquiry or problem on the first contact regardless of what contact channel they choose to use. In fact, SQM research shows the vast majority of customers expect that any contact channel they choose should be able to resolve their inquiry or problem.

Contact Channel Preference by Age Profile