A friend of mine is a personal trainer. He is successful enough that he opened up his own gym in my neighbourhood. He trains all types of people, from those who want to get in shape to athletes who want to get better, faster and stronger in their sports.

One of his keys to his success is his obsessive focus on customer service. When his clients need to reach him, he is available either by phone, text, email and social media. He makes sure that he can answer all his client comments and new prospect questions in as real time as possible.

Even if he doesn’t have an answer immediately, he makes sure to let the client know that he will get back with an answer soon.

Of course, you’re not a small business. As an enterprise-level company, you have much bigger things to worry about.. such as how to scale up your customer support operations to handle hundreds of inquiries per day. And the biggest question in your mind is: what’s the most effective channel for customer support?

It’s a question that needs to be asked. However, the answer to that question is incredibly complex. The simple explanation is that you have to be where your customer is. A multi-channel support strategy aims to provide excellent support to customers via the channel of their choosing.

If they like to use email then it may be the best method for you to connect with your customers. Companies that deliver excellent customer support do so in the channels where their customers are.

But, are all channels created equal? Let’s look at how support channels match up against customer preferences.

Managing Customer Expectations With a Smile

Customers have high expectations when it comes to finding solutions to their problems. And if the support does not meet those expectations, your customers are either going to the competition or even worse, talk badly about your company on social media.

This begs the question, where do your customers start their search when they have support questions?

Research shows that 75% of customers want to solve their issues on their own. A further third of those say that they would prefer cleaning a toilet than having to call to a support line.

With a very low tolerance for errors, delays and jumping through bureaucratic hoops, they use Google as their unofficial help desk. And our data confirms this, looking at Vanilla’s own customer service, a whopping 60% of traffic came by way of search engines, 98% of traffic came from Google specifically.

And many of the brands relying on our community solution show very similar numbers. If you consider that the purpose of a customer service department is to find a solution to a problem that the customer is facing, then this workflow makes sense.

Google is Your Friend

Lowered buyer confidence based on peer reviews results in a drastic reduction in quality leads and sales. As the internet matures, buyers are engaging much later in the sales cycles with companies – in fact, 70%-90% of the buying decision is made by the time they connect with your organization.

This means that prospects have compiled information, starting with Google, about your company from multiple sources, especially from their peers on industry forums or review sites. It equates completely missed opportunities for your organization as they may go to an alternative solution provider.

All solutions offer a less than perfect experience. However, it doesn’t mean that they can’t be combined to meet the needs and expectations of your customers. We propose an integrated approach.

Below, you will find our recommendation of the customer support channels available and how to choose which one of them would be the most effective based on your limited resources.


Email is one of the most commonly used communication tools for online businesses. 2.6 billion people use email daily and shows a steady growth of 6% per year. However, customers expect a response within 60 minutes of any customer interaction, but with email response times slowing down to 8 hours per email, it’s a cause of frustration for many.

Unfortunately, for a lot of customer support organizations, redundancy is a big issue. A large amount of product knowledge isn’t captured and cannot be used again for another client, thereby wasting agent time and effort.


As much as the phone is considered old school, it’s still a convenient tool for many customers. As customer queries have gotten more complex, it’s been found that voice interactions are preferred. The only issue is that if call traffic works in peaks and valleys. And if a customer happens to call during peak times, being on hold is inevitable with no clear ETA.


Having a knowledge-base support is a cost effective and convenient option for companies. And with the opportunity to make this self-serve option to provide you with a 24hour support, it’s easy to fall into the publish and forget cycle. Unfortunately, knowledge base doesn’t work well with complex products and cannot replace personalized support.


Chat can be very similar to a phone call and the speed of chat (especially when majority of users use a web browser) makes it an extremely convenient tool. However, as many users are migrating to mobile, the functionality of chat becomes limited and is not as natural.


Social media networks has become a great tool for marketing and advertising. However, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn are becoming channels where customers are looking for getting their product or service problems solved. In many instances, due to the instantaneous nature of social media creates problems as expectations on response times can be unrealistic.

In fact, 42% of social media users who reach out to a company, expect a response within 60 minutes. But more importantly, the content that is published through social media platforms are not necessarily searchable by Google.

As Google is the first place customers go to for their answers, it’s important that the content found in the social media platforms is visible. However, as platforms like Facebook are closed, content published within is not public.


Forums are best utilized to connect people around shared values, interests, and brands. Having customers who help each other around your product or service (especially branded forums on your domain) helps deflect tickets from your customer service operations.

With answers being crowdsourced to problems, you’re saving on agent time. Finally, long-form complex questions can get long-form answers which are available to be indexed by Google – great for SEO juice! The format of the forum allows a brand to provide a self-serve, mobile-friendly, personalized customer service on scale.

What’s the most effective customer service channel?

With the dozens of channels available to engage with your customers, the question is which channel gives you the best bang for your buck?

The best news is that it’s an easy answer. Go where your customer is.

Your customer wants to be able to find a solution to their problems immediately. You, as a company, want a solution that can provide a self-serve option that is scalable and personalized. Having a community platform helps you deliver great service and is a great addition to your existing solution.