Comparing Modes of Customer Service Communication

Topic(s): job performance

Topic: Job Performance
Publication: Computers in Human Behavior
Article: Human communication in customer-agent-computer interaction: Face-to-face versus over telephone
.Author: A. Kira, D.M. Nichols, M. Apperley
Featured by: Benjamin Granger

Regarding consumer service, organizations strive for several outcomes: 1) The customer receives quality service, 2) the service is delivered in a timely manner, and 3) customers are served at their convenience.

Taking these goals into account, Kira, Nichols, and Apperley (2009) investigated the differences  between customer service interactions via telephone vs. face-to-face interaction in a series of experiments.

The findings of Kira et al.’s studies suggest that although customers slightly prefer face-to-face  interaction, telephone conversations were more task-focused. In other words, verbal communication  between parties over the phone remained predominantly on the task at hand, whereas small talk and more informal interaction occurred in the face-to-face condition. A related outcome was that telephone interactions were less time consuming (lasting about 19 minutes on average) than face-to-face interactions (lasting 32 minutes on average).  Overall, while customers felt only slightly more satisfied with the face-to-face interactions, telephone interactions may allow for customer service representatives to serve more customers in a shorter period of time.

A major weakness of Kira and colleagues’ series of studies is that they employed untrained college students as opposed to trained customer service agents. Thus, it is somewhat unclear how these findings will hold in actual customer service settings.

Nevertheless, Kira et al.’s findings suggest in some ways telephone communication can be a more efficient way for organizations to provide customer service. This is good news since face-to-face interaction is often not possible.

Kira, A. Nichols, D.M., Apperley, M. (2009). Human communication in customer-agent-computer interaction: Face-to-face versus over telephone. Computers in Human Behavior, 25, 8-20.