Digital vs human: Comparing customer service channels

The majority of today’s customers expect to be able to receive service through any channel and on any device, with 59% saying that they use multiple channels to get their questions answered.

Although digital methods of communication are growing in popularity, particularly amongst younger generations, it’s important to remember the many benefits that human advisors can bring to the table. For businesses to continue being accessible to all their customers, they will need to ensure that they offer multiple channels of communication, and that both human-focused and digital solutions are available. 

We’ll elaborate on the advantages your business can enjoy from using multiple customer service methods, while also looking at the pros and cons of both digital solutions and those involving real human advisors.

Digital vs human: what are the pros and cons?

Digital: The pros

Productivity is one of the biggest potential benefits of digital solutions. In fact, by 2035, AI technologies are predicted to increase business productivity by 40%.

However, that doesn’t mean that AI will replace human call centre advisors altogether. Instead, businesses should consider using AI alongside their people to alleviate them from time-consuming tasks that don’t need to be done by a person (such as answering very basic questions that a chatbot could answer). Human advisors can then focus on dealing with more complex issues that require empathy and creativity to solve.

Implementing digital channels also means organisations won’t get left behind their competitors — 67% of people expect to see or use messaging apps when talking to a business, so not using these channels will mean falling short of customer expectations. Since the pandemic has changed the economic outlook for many organisations  they can’t afford to ignore new customer service trends if they are to continue surviving and thriving.

Digital: The cons

A common issue with digital methods of customer service are the limited number of pre-programmed responses they can provide. Since a chatbot can’t learn or investigate issues like a human can, customers may get stuck in a loop and become frustrated. Artificial intelligence technology needs to be at its most advanced before a chatbot can provide investigative assistance, so it may be some time before this drawback is resolved.

Similarly, there are limitations on the level of help a digital solution can provide, as many are closer to self-service tools than a true digital assistant. For more complicated issues like a complaint, 40% of customers will seek out a real person to speak to over the phone as a digital solution may not be able to properly escalate the problem.

Digital channels of customer service are best kept for simple questions and issues that can be resolved quickly. Forcing customers to use only digital channels may result in them not getting the solutions they need in a suitable timescale, which can harm customer satisfaction and lead to a lower retention rate.

Finally, digital solutions like chabots can’t empathise or relate to a customer’s problems like a human being can. This lack of empathy means automated customer service options cannot deal with sensitive situations or vulnerable customers as effectively as human staff.

Human: The pros

There’s no denying that being able to speak to a person will always be a popular choice when it comes to customer service. Over 50% of customers across all age groups typically use the phone to reach out to a service team, making it the most-used channel for customer service. Therefore, it makes good business sense for any organisation to include a phone line.

Additionally, 73% of people say they fall in love with a brand because of friendly customer service representatives. It’s very difficult to get a high level of care and attention from a pre-programmed digital customer service channel. Companies that don’t incorporate both could be missing out on an opportunity to engage with customers and improve their loyalty.

Human: The cons

UK businesses are currently facing a number of recruitment challenges — brought on by the pandemic and Brexit — that are expected to last for at least another two years. Subsequently, it’s hard to find people with the right level of skills and experience if companies only rely on traditional recruiting methods. Recruitment challenges also make scaling rapidly as and when needed very difficult.

If businesses are understaffed or can’t keep up with the volume of calls, wait times can become extremely long and harm the company’s reputation. 60% of customers feel that long holds and wait times are the most frustrating parts of a service experience, so it’s vital that companies remain agile.

Fortunately, organisations don’t have to navigate the challenge alone. Outsourcing to a customer interactions expert means that businesses can add as many well-trained advisors to their team as they need, whenever they need them ensuring response times are kept to an optimum.

Businesses need both customer service methods to thrive

Businesses with strong omnichannel customer engagement strategies retain an average of 89% of their customers, in comparison to 33% of companies with weak strategies. Therefore, it pays to invest in both human and digital customer service methods and ensure they are fully integrated with each other.

Hiring the right advisors can be tricky in today’s recruitment landscape. Consequently, businesses should consider outsourcing to a customer interactions expert like Sigma Connected. An outsourced team acts as an extension of the business, combining their skills with your strategy, brand, and processes to deliver the best customer experiences and boost the company’s reputation.

Sigma Connected delivers customer experiences with a human touch

Sigma Connected is invested in the success of our clients. Whether they need trained advisors to expand their customer service department, or a specialised team for complaint handling, we’re here to help. Working with Sigma Connected can be far more cost-effective than in-house recruitment methods, and can help you access workers much faster.

If you’re interested in any of our services, or have any questions about what we can do for you, click here to get in touch with us.


Get in touch, we’d love to hear from you.

Get connected