When The Wrong Idea SOUNDS Like a Great Idea

Right after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, Frontier Airlines announced it is no longer accepting phone calls from customers. That’s right, they are disconnecting their phone number, closing the doors on what used to be their call center and instead moving to an all-digital service model—meaning they will only interact through chat. Frontier is the biggest airline to do so.

And, at some level that might sound like a great idea, right? (after all, Glia CEO Dan Michaeli and I are the co-authors of “Digital Customer Service“). As we describe, over the past few years almost all of us have become digital-first people, and we generally prefer to communicate via messaging (chat, text, email). As a result, the vast majority of us digital-first people have grown to hate having to call companies on the phone. And yes, many customer issues can be resolved more quickly and conveniently via chat. But not all. 

And that’s why what might sound like a fresh, new, economical text-only approach to serving customers is—at least for most companies–a terrible idea.

The most important issues customers experience—complex, critically important, time-sensitive, emotionally-impactful situations, often called “moments of truth”—are almost always best resolved by interacting with another human being. These are the issues that are most likely to impact a customer’s future loyalty to that company.

But these live, human interactions do NOT have to take place via a phone call that is completely disconnected from that company’s website or mobile app—where 84% of all customers begin a service journey.

With the increasing emergence of Glia’s Digital Customer Service platform, any time a customer is online and they want/need to speak to a company rep, all they have to do is push a button and they can speak with a live agent who pops up right on the customer’s own screen, within the context of the digital journey they are already immersed in.

Here’s the thing: Chat is great for what chat is great for—simple answers to simple questions–but not the most important issues. This is the mistake more and more companies are making. No matter how much our behaviors and expectations have changed in the digital-first world, it is WRONG to assume that customers never want to talk to another human being when they need help. Not always, but when it really matters. They just don’t want to have to terminate their on-screen session to do so. And who can blame them? 

As for Frontier—let’s give them the benefit of the doubt. They’re an airline, a low-fare airline no less that is always lured by new approaches to cutting costs. And, in reality, the vast majority of airline customer interactions are in fact, simple transactions—booking a flight, changing a reservation, redeeming frequent flier miles. Perhaps airlines don’t consider those types of issues to be complex, critically important or emotionally-impactful for their customers (of course, try telling that to someone whose flight just got canceled and now they’re stuck at O’Hare or LaGuardia!).

But for financial services organizations—banks, credit unions, insurance companies—it is still critically important to enable customers to be able to speak to an actual person when they are having a “moment of truth.”  These are the interactions that will determine their loyalty and, so goes the economic success of the organization.

Luckily, there is now a way to enable those live, human interactions when they matter most, without forcing customers to abandon their digital journey, and start all over again. OnScreen Voice puts a live human just a click away.

And for companies that are in the relationship business, that is a game-changer.