I had the opportunity and luxury of working as an email and phone customer service representative and there are significant differences aside from the obvious diversity in handling customer inquiries. Let me share my observations based on different points of view.
As a representative, the workload is much easier if you’re handling email inquiries. There is less pressure to answer the customer immediately since you’re doing a turn-based conversation on email. You can ask questions and do some further research before answering back. But on the phone, you have to respond as quickly as you can because the customer is on the other line. Handling emails is usually more relaxing than phone customer service since you don’t have to speak and you’re working at your own pace. You just have to think and type most of the time.
Phone customer service has its own set of advantages over email. The most important is probably the efficiency when it comes to communication. If you need something from the customer or vice versa, you can ask for it immediately. You don’t have to wait for hours or even days for a response. With that in mind, if you have emails that take a long time to resolve, it’s going to be incredibly hard to manage them if they pile up. Some emails take more than a day to resolve especially if you require assistance from other departments. Unlike in phone customer service, once you and the customer are done, that’s usually it. You can just go home afterwards knowing that you did not leave any pending work in the office.
Also, from what I have observed, salaries of email customer service representatives are usually much lower than phone customer service representatives. This doesn’t apply to all since there may be some companies with email reps earning more than the phone representatives. It all boils down to the expected amount of work to be done and it depends on the line of business, the number of customers, the range or scope of support and the competition.
On a business financial perspective, email customer service is much cheaper to maintain since all you need to acquire and maintain are computers and internet connections. Phone customer service, obviously, would require voice data lines.
With email support, your business will be able to support more people. Why is that? If you have a wide range of products or services, not all of your customers may live in the same area. Some are out of state or even international and some could be on vacation or something and may need your help anytime. Using email, that distance barrier is totally disregarded since emails are sent in an instant and can be accessed almost anywhere. If you only have phone customer support and you have different service locations, your customers from far away places may have a hard time or won’t be able to contact you through the phone at all.
On a customer’s perspective, most would want to use phone customer service since they are more assured that their concerns can be answered immediately since a representative is immediately available. If you send an email, you are not certain when you will get a reply. Even if they say it will take 24 hours, there’s a possibility that it will take more time especially if you have a lot of concerns.
The last point I made, the customer’s preference, is usually the reason why companies prefer to have more phone representatives than email support. But regardless of what type of customer support you have, it is important that you take care of your customers. Having different modes of communication will make the customers feel that you really want to support them in any way you can and that you are accessible to them if they need you. Remember, after sales support can make or break a company. How would you feel if you’ve bought a product or service and then you don’t hear from the company anymore? It would just sound like they just took your money and left you in the dark.