Live chat, video conferencing, phone, email… Choosing the best communication channel is not an easy task, but it pays off in the end.

In the past, the question didn’t even arise. It was clear: first, you offer telephone support, and then you might add email. But now, people use devices that can do much more. Therefore, companies are trying to find out how to provide the best customer experience without investing in too many, possibly unnecessary, channels.

If you have limited resources, things get even trickier. Here we present the most important customer channels to decide which service channel suits your needs.

The 12 most important digital communication channels for customers

  1. Phone
  2. Email
  3. Face-to-face communication
  4. Live chat
  5. Mobile messaging
  6. Video call
  7. Social Media
  8. Knowledge base
  9. Online communities
  10. Corporate blog
  11. Workshops
  12. Trade fair appearances

1. Phone

There’s no denying it; telephone support is the top dog in customer service. Many customers expect to be contacted by phone, even though there are now more practical channels. That’s because this communication channel satisfies a few basic human needs: direct, personal contact where you can express yourself in your own words.

  • Scalable: 1:1
  • Communication mode: synchronous
  • Barrier to use: high

Telephoning has become an antiquated solution, so it is not surprising that it is mainly used by older people. One advantage: you are usually guaranteed to reach someone as long as you call within service hours.

However, if your business caters to a younger demographic, phone support can be too much of a hassle and inconvenience. Being forwarded and having to keep repeating yourself takes a toll on your nerves. Some companies, therefore, no longer offer phone support as a communications channel.

Because it is a voice-based mode of communication, conversations are not directly documented. This makes it harder to respond to follow-up questions in later sessions and ensures the quality of service. Once the customer has resolved their issue, they are unlikely to stay on the line to rate the call.

Service agents can also only take one call at a time, forcing your customers into queues. If you have a high volume of support calls, your service costs will be correspondingly increased. Many companies are switching to more flexible, asynchronous channels to reduce service costs.

ADVANTAGES
  1. Direct, human communication
  2. Less miscommunication
  3. Easier to read customer emotions
  4. Familiar channel
  5. Easily accessible
  6. Lower expectations due to experience
DISADVANTAGES
  1. Disruptive in an office environment
  2. Making or answering phone calls can be inconvenient
  3. Long waiting times
  4. Requires professional training
  5. Often needs additional equipment
  6. Needs larger service teams
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2. Email

Customer service requires commitment from all parties involved, but email takes some pressure off as a communication channel. It is the perfect medium for customers who do not want to engage in a face-to-face conversation. On the other hand, the response time is much longer. Customers and service staff sometimes have to wait a few days before they receive a reply to solve the problem.

  • Scalable: 1:1
  • Communication mode: asynchronous
  • Barrier to use: medium

Email forwarding and status tracking can also be challenging to manage, even if you use message templates. Even though many of your customers may appreciate the lower effort (compared to phone calls), they still expect a quick response. According to a benchmark study by SuperOffice, the average response time to service emails is over 12 hours.

This channel lacks the direct exchange given with telephone and chat communication. In addition, the companies in the study were only able to answer 20% of customer inquiries directly with the first email.

ADVANTAGES
  1. Allows longer, personal responses
  2. (Mostly) a direct form of communication
  3. Immediate documentation
  4. Flexible for clients
  5. No waiting time
  6. Accessible to international clients
DISADVANTAGES
  1. High barrier
  2. Time required for drafting template texts
  3. Extended response and clarification times
  4. Prone to misunderstandings
  5. Need for organized delegation and monitoring
  6. Slow approach to building client relationships

3. Face-to-face communication

Meeting customers face-to-face is not just reserved for companies with physical offices. Face-to-face customer meetings are just as crucial for online businesses. This is a formal communication channel that allows for clear verbal communication.

  • Scalable: 1:1
  • Communication mode: synchronous
  • Barrier to use: high

Meeting customers in person allows you to create a human connection and puts a face to your brand. You can read the customer’s body language and see how they react to you and your business. Interactive product demos are also possible to assist with the selection process.

However, the personal service of such communication channels can also be more stressful, especially when customers are angry or disoriented. Long waiting times, unavailable products, and misunderstandings can quickly escalate. This is not entirely avoidable and therefore important to consider before opening your doors in this personal way.

ADVANTAGES
  1. Close, human interaction
  2. Complete focus on the customer by all team members
  3. Guided, face-to-face shopping
  4. Humanises the company
  5. Accessible
DISADVANTAGES
  1. Queues
  2. High-performance pressure for service staff
  3. Increased risk of escalation
  4. Limited product availability
  5. Limited to local customers

4. Website chat

More and more businesses are switching to live chat to help their customers. It’s a direct channel that allows quick, personal support on your website. Whether you’re working from home or in an office, live chat is quick to access, familiar, and has a lower barrier to use than phone and email.

  • Scalable: about 1:3, theoretically up to 10 simultaneous chats are possible
  • Communication mode: synchronous
  • Barrier to use: low

Live chat is also one of the most cost-effective channels on the list, which suits businesses of all sizes. It lives on your website, so no extra equipment is needed. Staff can handle multiple customers at once; a smaller team can carry the same work.

A chat agent can talk to 5 people at once, whereas a call center agent can only make one call at a time.

Businesses tend to notice a higher conversion rate after switching to live chat. This is because it is the only channel that allows you to walk the website visitor through the customer journey step by step.

For customers, the channel is relatively easy to use. Nothing has to be downloaded; chatting is uncomplicated. Communication runs across national borders at no extra cost, and integrated translation software enables multilingual service with one click.

ADVANTAGES
  1. Fast response times
  2. Practical and quiet to use
  3. Direct documentation of conversations
  4. Budget-friendly, efficient
  5. Reduces shopping cart abandonment
  6. Personalized support
DISADVANTAGES
  1. Generally less used by older age groups
  2. High expectations of quick responses
  3. Susceptible to internet trolls due to its low contact barrier

5. Mobile messaging

Messenger apps like WhatsApp and Facebook allow more flexible private and direct communication. This communication channel works both synchronously and asynchronously. Customers can continue the conversation whenever they have time.

  • Scalable: about 1:3, as more than three simultaneous chats can be overwhelming.
  • Communication mode: asynchronous and synchronous
  • Barrier to use: low

Being part of your customers’ Messenger contact list makes it easier for them to contact your business in the future. The channel is easily accessible and has a low barrier to use.

Messaging even helps to remove the distance that initially exists between businesses and customers with most other contact channels. Since the channel is part of the customer’s end device, contacting it is an easy, almost fun endeavor.

ADVANTAGES
  1. Informal, low effort
  2. Less pressure to be online
  3. Familiar and easy to use
  4. Allows image and audio support
  5. Budget-friendly
  6. Private and available 24/7 for customers
DISADVANTAGES
  1. Asynchronous communication can lead to longer resolution times
  2. It may not appeal to all customers, such as older people or those who are afraid of spam
  3. May require persuasion and marketing to establish the new contact channel
  4. Messaging apps like WhatsApp are not accessible to all businesses as a professional customer platform

6. Video calls

Even online-only businesses are not excluded from face-to-face, in-person conversations. Our mobile phones make it easy to get in touch with anyone anywhere in the world via video chat. Why not use that for customer communication?

Companies like N26 use video calls when opening accounts as an extra security measure. Other companies like SightCall, help insurance customers demonstrate their damage and get compensation faster. It also reduces on-site visits.

  • Scalable: 1:1
  • Communication mode: synchronous
  • Barrier to use: high

It’s a modern way to replace in-store chat and put names to faces. However, privacy concerns and awkward moments cannot be ruled out. Video calls demand your full attention, and customers may feel uncomfortable putting their face to the camera.

In the end, you should decide if video calling fits your business. In the automotive, technology, and fashion industries, video calls can be used for product demos and style consultations.

ADVANTAGES
  1. Can be used anywhere
  2. Allows to show rather than just explain
  3. Provides a personal in-store feel for international clients
  4. Allows you to read the customer’s facial expressions
DISADVANTAGES
  1. Can be disruptive in the office
  2. Customers may have an unstable internet connection
  3. Less privacy
  4. Multitasking is out of the question
  5. Can be expensive

7. Social Media

Even though it is a relatively new channel for entertaining friends and family, people of all ages are now active on social media. Social media has become a profitable contact channel, with the major platforms now offering business accounts.

Communication channels such as Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn are becoming increasingly popular in the B2B world. Their advantage lies in the very low costs and the high communication speed. However, precisely this speed carries a certain risk for you. Communication in social media cannot be controlled in the same way as other media. You do not control such communication. You only participate.

Responses are public, so your customer service is a poster child for your brand. This can be great publicity, but also bad: many people use social media to complain to companies, which leads to stimulating discussions and solutions and damaging debates and arguments.

Furthermore, you should carefully consider whether your specific B2B target group is present in the social network used – at least in relation to professional matters. In terms of importance for communication, LinkedIn is in the lead in the USA, followed by Twitter and Facebook.

  • Scalable: 1:∞
  • Communication mode: asynchronous
  • Barrier to use: medium

You don’t need to have a massive following on social media channels upfront to start with customer service via social media management software. Nevertheless, you should think carefully about whether it makes sense. Retail companies can take advantage of social media shopping features, such as Instagram’s “Swipe Up” profile shop.

ADVANTAGES
  1. Makes it easy to share impulsive opinions and thoughts publicly
  2. More room for humor and personality
  3. Direct messaging allows private communication
  4. Marketing and communication tool in one
  5. Chance to connect with your customers in a casual way
DISADVANTAGES
  1. Messages accumulate quickly so that customer concerns may go unseen or unanswered
  2. Poor management can damage corporate image

8. Knowledge database

Clients love it when they can simply help themselves. It gives a good feeling of self-empowerment and is a way to learn.

Many websites have a FAQ page hidden away somewhere on their site, but that’s not being used as an effective communication channel. Yet today, it is possible to create an interactive knowledge base that effectively helps customers through various troubleshooting articles.

  • Scalable: 1:∞
  • Communication mode: asynchronous
  • Barrier to use: low

A searchable database, like Adobe’s and Dropbox’s help centers with articles covering everything from billing problems to product errors, takes the pressure off your service staff. Even if customers don’t search for the items themselves, service reps can direct them to the right place to help them faster.

This draws attention to the existence of your knowledge base and prevents service staff from constantly having to repeat themselves.

ADVANTAGES
  1. Reduces agent workload
  2. Prevents the spread of false information
  3. Helps customers understand the product better
  4. Customers feel more autonomous
  5. Helps service staff respond faster to queries
DISADVANTAGES
  1. Takes a lot of energy and time to create
  2. Can be afflicted by the curse of knowledge if explanations are too complex
  3. Impersonal approach

9. Online communities

Online forums and communities specific to your offering are collaborative types of communication channels.

Creating a place for customers to share issues, concerns, and use cases is a great community approach to customer service. For example, look at the Moz community or the WordPress support forum, where customers regularly post and answer questions.

  • Scalable: 1:∞
  • Communication mode: asynchronous
  • Barrier to use: low

Solved problems, especially if they contain easily searchable terms, perform similar to helpdesk articles. However, these solutions may come from other customers, which means that your service staff will have to monitor the responses and intervene themselves if necessary.

Over time, your community page or forum becomes an interactive guide where customers can turn to learn, teach and share their thoughts.

ADVANTAGES
  1. Takes workload away from service agents
  2. Public platform for customers and service staff to help other customers and themselves
  3. Strengthens relationship with a company and its offerings
  4. Informal opportunity to ask for help, tips, and tricks
DISADVANTAGES
  1. Dissemination of misinformation
  2. Requires close monitoring
  3. Different knowledge levels lead to inadequate or complicated answers
  4. Little contact with customers

10. Corporate blog

A corporate blog can be an essential part of a company’s website. Companies with well-written communication channels like blogs have up to 97% more visitors to their websites. Blogging thrives on continuously updated content. Therefore, you should only set up a blog if you can guarantee that you will maintain it. A company blog offers excellent opportunities for your B2B corporate communication.

A significant advantage is a high topicality and the individual approach. A blog post has a recognizable author and addresses the individual reader, not the anonymous masses. You can give your customers an insight into your daily business, report on new developments, trade fair experiences, and provide interesting industry information or tips & tricks.

Your blog should not be an advertising platform. With a good company blog, your customers get to know your company more personally; at the same time, you can offer interested parties added value in terms of content.

11. Trade fair appearances

Trade fair appearances are informal communication channels and are an important forum for establishing and maintaining personal contacts. A well-planned trade fair appearance integrates existing communication channels and connects them with personal conversations. At a trade fair, you will meet an audience interested and ready to talk. Here you make contacts that you can deepen into valuable business contacts in the follow-up to the trade fair.

A trade fair is also always an opportunity to deepen your relationships with regular customers and inform them about current company developments and products. Your small presentations and trade fair events, to which you specifically invite customers, convey appreciation and increase the chance of repeat purchases or an expansion of business relationships.

12. Workshops

Especially if you sell products that require explanation, workshops with customers and prospects can be an excellent communication channel. Workshops provide successful external communication. With workshops, you show your customers how they can get the best out of your products through informal communication. You increase the value of your company’s offer through professional training and the transfer of valuable practical knowledge. Customers will thank you with loyalty and recommendations.

Finding the proper communication channels – always a question of quality vs. quantity

Choosing the proper business communication channels is a strategic decision. Your company probably does not need more than two or three of the communication channels described above. Offering too many channels, especially for smaller companies, carries the risk of miscommunication, unanswered messages, and inconsistent service quality. Then there is the balancing act between the different applications their staff has to manage.

If your budget allows, try to offer a mix of personalized and self-help solutions—for example, telephone, live chat, and a knowledge base. Adding email would be redundant in this case, as written communication is already covered. We recommend using a live chat solution because it gives you website chat and mobile messaging. The integration with more live chats only takes five minutes, and then you can get started.

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