What channels are customer service leaders using?

24 Apr 2023

6 min read

Girl looking at her phone
Girl looking at her phone
Girl looking at her phone

There’s a lot of channels you can use to talk to your customers so which should you choose to invest in? Even though it might be tempting to try and have a finger in all the pies, most companies simply don’t have the resources to provide great customer service satisfaction through every single channel - nor should they try to.

When Thomas Staudte joined Air Up in 2020 the company was still very new - as was the concept it champions of using scent to add flavour to water. One of his first challenges as the company’s new Head of Customer Engagement was to pick the channels the company should focus on to grow its customer base and share knowledge on its innovative products.

“When I joined, email was really the only thing [used to communicate with customers], so coming up with a clear strategy was the most important part for us to set a structure in place. We evaluated saying like, okay, which channels are needed to make our customers happy, which was the ultimate mission, of course”, Staudte told us.

As there were a lot of questions about how the product worked, the company started building a self service journey implementing FAQs and a contact form. “We went further with implementing a chat… and then it was really [about] finding a smart spot in terms of connecting the customer with us in the company, meaning, having the right channels in place for our target audience, Instagram, Facebook, chat as I mentioned already, this has been essential’, explained Air Up’s Head of Customer Engagement.

Adding more communication channels allows customers to reach you in the way that is most convenient to them, but it also adds complexity to your business. To understand how retailers balance customer experience with managing their team’s workload we created a survey and sent it to 200 Senior CX leaders in eCommerce. First, we  asked them to choose which channels they used to handle customer queries, then, from all the options selected - they could pick as many as they wanted - they were asked to pinpoint the channel they handled the most queries through.

The preferred channels

Most customers seem to be resistant to using social media to getting in touch with a business - or is it that companies just aren’t investing a lot in these channels? Social media channels like WhatsApp (23.5%), Facebook (22.5%) and Instagram (21%) were among the least-preferred channel choices.  In particular, they were little used by smaller businesses, while particularly big companies did offer them as options. 

The most common channels used by Customer Service Leaders

For those companies that do receive queries through these channels, there is a good chance that it might be the number one channel. For each of these social media channel, there is around a one-in-three probability that it is the number one channel for customer queries. 

However, this is low compared to some of the more popular channels. 17% of all respondents said that onsite chatbots or chat widgets (as opposed to in-app) was the number one channel, but if we exclude those who don’t offer it, 51.5% of those that offer on-site chat say it is their most popular channel. This compares to 44.7% for email and 50% for Telephone, for those that actually offer it.

If retailers offer a specific channel, what % have it as their top channel for customer queries

Number of agents & company size

On average the respondents selected 2.4 channels that they use to handle customer queries, but this number was higher when we broke it down by turnover and number of agents. This is not surprising – bigger teams mean more resources that can be distributed and assigned much more equally through a wider range of channels to handle customer queries. 

Customer service leaders of teams of up to nine agents overwhelmingly stated their preference for Email to handle customer queries (63.64%). The results of our survey show that as the number of agents grows, so does the diversity of channels used for customer service purposes. 

What % of companies use email by number of customer service agents

On the opposite side of the size spectrum, half of the companies with 5,000 or more employees stated that they dealt with customer queries in Person (50%) and through WhatsApp (50%) and Facebook (50%). Even though they have the manpower to do so, Telephone is not used very much (12.5%) whilst Instagram is king with 75% of customer service leaders ticking that box.


Most companies we surveyed with the lowest turnover (between £10 and 49.99 million) use Onsite chatbots or chat widgets (43.33%) to deal with customer queries, while most companies turning over £100 million ticked the Email (42.25%) box. 

This is a trend that only gets more evident as the figures go up. About half of the companies making a turnover of £500 million or more (48.57%) stated that they used Email to handle their customer queries. 

Food for thought:

  • Email is the top channel for companies with the smallest amount of agents, fair, but also for the top earners? Companies with a turnover of £500 million or more handle most of their customer queries through Email (48.57%). Every company is its own universe but here’s an idea, email is the least immediate of customer channels, it has a much longer response time than any chat or social media message. So big and small companies could profit from taking advantage of this extra wiggle room.

  • Again, Telephone is not used very much (12.5%) by companies of 5,000 or more employees. Yet, of those that offer telephone support, half say it is their number one channel. Customers would rather call, but companies would rather not. It’s one of those “don’t call us, we’ll call you. I mean, email you”.

  • The expectation around response times is probably an important clue to crack the code to picking the best channels to communicate with your customers. A phone call demands an immediate reply. It also puts the agent on the spot in terms of the necessary knowledge to deal with the query. An email, for example, does not have such pressure in terms of response time and its contents can be discussed internally before sending. If an agent does not know how to reply, they can ask someone who does before getting back to the customers

  • Another strong reason for companies to privilege email is automation. Slower channels like email are prime areas for automation, securing a quick and meaningful first response that takes the pressure off the agents and potentially reduces the amount of queries coming through. Voice is much harder to automate effectively (though it’s getting more realistic!).

  • Speaking of automation, one way for retailers to more easily offer extra channels to their customers is to connect text-based platforms like chat, WhatsApp, SMS, Facebook and Instagram through an automation platform. Rather than having to carve out specialist teams and hire people to deal with these channels specifically, many of the queries can be automated, freeing up agents’ time to switch between channels. 

To find out how automation can help you improve your performance in customer service channels, get in touch with our team today.