This is part one of a two-part series. Read part two here.

Today’s customer service climate is different from any that have come before.

With customers being able to reach businesses through a multitude of channels, it can be difficult to know exactly which modes of contact are best to increase customer happiness and build stronger emotional ties. Mobile devices lack a personal touch, but email and telephone communications are still popular choices for many companies.

The Essence of Good Customer Service

The Harvard Business Review recently ran an article about how customer emotions play into customer service.

The writer argued that customers are largely driven by their emotions when deciding where to buy and what companies they choose to recommend. Some businesses obviously elicit stronger emotional responses than others, especially when customers feel like they lack control or understanding of the situation at hand. An automotive repair shop or legal office would be a good example of businesses that leave customers feeling especially fragile.

The trick, then, would be to anticipate those emotional responses and prepare your customer service people to handle them. But exactly who and how are the big questions in today’s shifting customer service environment. Email can get straight to the heart of the matter, but it can be difficult for customers to get emotional feedback from potentially delayed words on a screen.

Telephone service, on the other hand, has the benefit of being direct and immediate. A 2011 survey by Forrester found that 80 percent of customers prefer to use the telephone to reach customer service. American Express found similar love for the phone in their 2014 Global Customer Service Barometer. Overwhelmingly, customers continue to want to speak to customer service directly, rather than using email when they have anything beyond a simple question.

It can be difficult and expensive to raise a well-trained telephone staff from scratch, but that’s where telephone answering service companies come into play. There’s absolutely no way your business can stretch to cover every aspect of modern customer service, but you can handle the parts you do best and then outsource the rest on a per-call basis. The value of one customer over a lifetime can be significant, earning their business earlier and forming a strong relationship means an even greater ROI over the lifetime of your business.

Customer Service on Shifting Sands

As what it means to provide good customer service changes, it’s vital that your business keep up.

Many of your customers will need and want an emotional connection and immediate answers from a human operator, but they won’t all have the same needs. Millennials, especially, look for fast answers and don’t seem to want as much of a person-to-person touch to feel that they’ve been properly helped. Even with self-service through apps and your website, this huge demographic will still sometimes need to reach you with questions.

Email is another vital tool in your arsenal, though it’s going to be important in a massively different way. Find out more about how to use email to enhance and support your telephone answering service or in-house customer support team in part two of this two part series.