A few months ago I ordered a rather expensive collar for my Golden Retriever on Amazon. Unfortunately, as with many deliveries in San Francisco, the package mysteriously vanished from my porch. I immediately went to Amazon’s Support and went through the process of requesting a missing-package refund. No stranger to such dilemmas, Amazon offers a simple two-step process to request a refund—no need to talk to anyone or type out a bunch of details.

After a few days, I got the refund and a new package was mailed out. Whoops—while the package was in transit, I realized they’d gotten the color wrong. So I went to the site and landed on the contact page with an option to email, chat, or call. I used the chat option and the helpful customer service representative was able to recall the incorrect collar and send out a new one.

Soon after, my phone buzzed—an SMS announcing the long-awaited collar. Success!

In the past, even the best companies offered support on their own terms—usually by simply listing a phone number or email address on their website. Today, businesses are realizing that the best experience for the customer can often greatly benefit the bottom line.

When it comes to customer support, 76% of consumers prefer to find a self-service solution for their issue, and over 74% of customers use three or more devices. Amazon has clearly embraced both these stats, providing a unique and differentiated support offering. According to Gartner, self-service can reduce an organization’s customer support costs by 25% or more. So, it makes sense that in the stolen-dog-collar scenario, Amazon’s first touch would be a simple self-service option.

Next, customers are able to get service faster through live chat, which is 25% more efficient for the company. So, by offering a chat option for a time-sensitive matter, Amazon is able to again meet both the needs of the customer and keep their cost low. Finally, SMS is a great way to cut through the clutter of an email inbox and so it’s the ideal way for a customer to receive a notification that the elusive and much-anticipated dog collar has arrived.

Too many options can be detrimental—customers wind up less likely to choose anything at all, or choose something but ultimately not love it. This is the paradox of channel choice. One way to skirt that issue to is to deftly offer the right channel at the right moment for the customer. The customer is not overwhelmed or bombarded by choices, and at the same time they are never left hanging, trying to figure out how to reach out on the channel that they prefer.

“Offer the right channel at the right moment.”
– Abhiroop Basu

How can your business build a similar customer support offering? First, consider your audience. Although this isn’t set in stone, a younger audience generally prefers social media and live chat, while an older one prefers phone and email. Next, understand the complexity of your product and the customer request. If you are selling expensive machinery and hardware, a discussion over phone might be warranted. On the other hand if you are processing a refund, a self-service option might save your organization a lot of time and money.

Finally, aim to offer all channels depending on the level of severity. For example, try and solve the simple, less urgent queries with a well-stocked help center. If a customer has a time-sensitive request then offer a live chat option and should the customer require special assistance, offer to call them back.

Ultimately, building an effective customer service offering comes down to two things: being there for your customer and helping them when they need it.