To Offer Phone Support or Not

A reader suggested I write a post targeted at small businesses that aren’t quite at the point of being able to offer phone support. It also applies to companies that may not have it in their business model or just aren’t setup to offer phone support. His fundamental question is what sort of message does a lack of phone support give. It is definitely a good question and most certainly a question that a lot of companies that are deciding whether or not to offer phone support end up asking themselves.

The biggest factor any company that is on the fence about phone support should consider is: does the business model call for it? If you pride yourself on quality service at an affordable price, then you most likely get away with providing support over mediums like email and live chat exclusively. However, if you are a premium provider and you are in a business where the low end companies offer phone support, it should be something you do as well. I hate to say it is a case of “keeping up with the Joneses,” but when you’re dealing with competition in business, it really is. If your competition offers phone support, then it would probably serve you well (from a competitive standpoint) to offer it. Some companies simply can’t afford to offer phone support based on what they’re charging — if you are one of those companies, then you should look elsewhere for ways to support your customers (such as considering more self-service options).

An extension of the above question is just how much phone support can help. Are you having trouble resolving complicated issues using email or live chat? Are customers asking for a way to call your company so they can talk to a person live and get clarification? If you’re seeing these sorts of trends, then it may be necessary to offer phone support. If, however, a vast majority (think: 95%) of your issues are getting resolved with absolutely no problem over email and live chat, you probably don’t need to start offering phone support tomorrow.

Another important question to ask is what are your customers’ expectations? Again, if you are in a business where phone support is norm, your customers probably have higher expectations than if you are in a business where phone support is unheard of. There are some industries where customers just expect phone support, and they may be unlikely to go with a company that doesn’t offer it.

The last question is the question of whether or not your company can actually handle phone support. If you don’t have the staffing, the money, or the time to do it, then the issue is moot. Remember, you want to have the resources in place to be able to provide a customer service experience that is as good, if not better, than the service you provide over any other medium. If the phone support you’re offering is inferior to your email support, you are wasting your time, your customers’ time, your employees’ time, and your company’s money. Before you make the commitment, ensure you’re able to do so.

So, before asking yourself whether or not phone support is for you, ask yourself these questions:

  • Does the business model call for it?
  • Are you having trouble resolving issues over email or live chat?
  • What are your customers’ expectations?
  • Can your company offer it?

For more reading on this subject, you might want to check out these two posts:

(Please pardon any technical issues — I am trying out a new desktop blog editor.)

2 Responses to “To Offer Phone Support or Not”

  1. Service Untitled » Why Phone Support? - customer service and customer service experience blog said:

    Jul 30, 08 at 1:42 pm

    […] written about whether or not companies should offer phone support in the past. It is an issue that has and still is being debated by a lot of people – from customer service […]

  2. Daw - Web Hosting Blog » Blog Archive » Goog Web Hosting, No Phone Support? said:

    Sep 29, 08 at 4:30 pm

    […] The whole article is here – “To Offer Phone Support or Not“. […]