Calls vs chat: the clash of the real-time titans

In recent years, live chat software has been battling the telephone for pride of place as the best real-time customer support channel.

But live chat software and the good old-fashioned telephone aren’t exactly chalk and cheese. Both channels, after all, offer real-time support with immediate response and a human element. These similarities have led to the clash of the real-time titans as they compete for prominence in the customer support landscape.

Here, we explore the strengths and weaknesses of each support channel. In the calls vs chat battle, which of the real-time titans will emerge as the real-time champion?

 

Champ of old

Telephone support once reigned as the supreme and uncontested real-time support option. Even with the rise of live chat software, phone calls are still a popular support channel for businesses and customers.

Unlike live chat, talking to customers over the phone enables vocal cues to be portrayed. That vocal foundation makes it much easier to understand the emotions and attitude of the customer. Agents can pick up on tone, and adjust the conversation based on these verbal cues.

Tonal cues also mean it’s easier to joke and create a light-hearted rapport with a customer. Written communication like chat can mean that jokes get lost in translation, as it’s those all-important vocal cues that tell us whether someone is joking or serious.

In the calls vs chat battle, phone calls are often better suited to high-profile customers or escalated situations. Calls require dedicated attention without promoting multitasking. Once connected on the phone, customers know that agent’s attention is entirely on their question or problem. This attention helps a customer feel more important to the company. Plus, you can’t underestimate the power of a friendly, reassuring voice at the end of a line.

 

Enter challenger: live chat software

Sparked by the 90s chat room boom, live chat software has grown to become a real-time titan to rival phone support. While it doesn’t offer the vocal cues that phone support can, live chat does bring unique features of its own to the table.

In the calls vs chat battle, live chat software boasts an unrivalled efficiency. A single agent can only take one phone call at a time, but can manage multiple chats at once. This capability enables reduced wait times for every customer reaching out to you.

Sometimes, support agents need support too. Live chat software promotes teamwork by enabling support agents to help each other with tricky chats. By ‘whispering’ helpful information to their colleague via the live chat tool, support teams improve the customer experience with efficient and helpful support without long wait times. This ‘whisper’ ability is far harder to reproduce on the phone, often resulting in the customer being forced to wait while agents try to find an answer.

Occasionally, customers connect with an agent that doesn’t have the right expertise for their problem, leading to the need for transfers. On the phone, being transferred means more waiting on hold. The customer then has to repeat themselves, leaving them feeling like they’re getting nowhere. Chat transfers, on the other hand, can often be completed seamlessly. All the information from the initial chat is available to the new agent, allowing the customer to continue a fluent conversation without wasting time.

 

Serious enough?

The amount of effort placed on the customer also factors into the calls vs chat battle. Phone support relies on customers experiencing a problem serious enough to warrant a lengthy call experience. The risk of queue times and automated phone trees puts customers off contacting your business. This results in either the customer seeking answers elsewhere, or a small problem causing increased stress before contacting you. This can lead to a tense, impatient call session.

Chat software requires much less effort from your customers. The low hassle, efficient nature of live chat makes it a quick and convenient way to ask a basic question before it becomes a big, messy problem. A customer looking for their own answer on your site can open a quick chat session and get an immediate answer, and your business seems more open and attentive as a result.

Having a chat option onsite is a great way to meet your customers where they are, instead of waiting for them to reach out to you. They get support while browsing, and answers while they are still considering a purchase. The phone simply doesn’t offer this same low-effort, low-pressure seamlessness.

 

Real-time, globally

While both real-time titans are capable of global support, live chat software is both cheaper and easier to use globally. The internet allows people from every continent to connect with each other without excess charges. Many people are not willing to pay for international calls, so a free option online is preferable.

Plus, live chat software is capable of real-time chat translation. This allows customers and agents to converse in their native or preferred language, and the software translates the messages for them. While live chat doesn’t provide vocal cues, it does provide an ease of understanding, with no issues relating to hard-to-understand accents or language barriers.

 

More than just reactive

While phone support is purely reactive, live chat software can be used to offer proactive support. A chat channel can act as the digital version of an attentive shop attendant in a bricks-and-mortar shop.

By sending triggered chat invitations – such as when a visitor lingers in the FAQ section of your site, or visits a product page multiple times – live chat software can offer support to customers that might need help, before the customer thinks to ask for it.

Used right, proactive chats can help reduce cart abandonment and create a friendly face for your brand. Proactive chat invitations also create the opportunity to connect with customers that wouldn’t have contacted you themselves, resulting in an increased conversion rate.

 

Calls vs chat: battle or truce?

In the experience era of marketing, offering an omnichannel approach to customer support is the best option. Instead of choosing between calls and chat, harness the strengths of both. Let your customers seamlessly drift between the two real-time titans.

So, will the calls vs chat battle end in a real-time champion, or a draw between the real-time titans? Try a 30-day free trial of WhosOn and decide for yourself.

 

Useful links

The Mehrabian myth, non-verbal communication, and live chat software

Telephone decline: the battle between calls and chat

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