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Most small businesses start out with a very limited customer support channels. At first it might be the owner and maybe one or two other employees responding to emails. On the other end of the spectrum are larger companies that are balancing phone, text, social media, chat, and email channels and they have entire teams of customer support staff. Moving from one end of the spectrum to the other is challenging as business owners must decide when and how quickly to adopt new channels and how to integrate them into the existing customer support strategy. The following tips can help your business find balance in managing multiple customer support channels at once.

Add one channel at a time

It’s difficult enough to add just one customer support channel to your existing channel (or channels) so resist the temptation to add multiple support channels all at once. If business is doing well and existing channels are getting overwhelmed, it might be tempting to add several new channels all at once. But with the addition of each new channel comes unanticipated setbacks and trying to correct all of them at once with multiple channels simultaneously is a recipe for disaster.

Group channels by expected response time

Customers have different expectations for different channels when it comes to response time. Customers who submit a support ticket through a website or email typically expect to wait at least an hour and perhaps several more while those who use traditionally faster channels like SMS or live chat are expecting a response in minutes. It would be a mistake to link a slower channel with a faster one. For instance, some companies notify support staff of a live chat support ticket via email. That means that the live chat customers end up in the same queue as the email customers and are more likely to be dissatisfied with the slower response time.

Don’t ask customer support staff to manage multiple live channels at once

Any channel where support staff are expected to provide responses in real time are considered live channels. Live chat and phone are two live channels that support staff are often asked to handle simultaneously. This is a mistake. The human brain is actually not built for multitasking and your support staff’s performance at all tasks will be lower the more they try to take on. Customer support staff can manage multiple live chat sessions or SMS sessions simultaneously. Email support staff can also take on one live channel whether that’s chat, phone, or SMS since they can respond to emails between chat sessions or phone calls.

Try to get customers to deflect to less expensive channels

Phone support tends to be the most expensive and resource-intensive channel while email and chat-based channels are considerably cheaper. As you add channels, look for ways to get customers to deflect to less expensive channels. A good way to do this is to have your automated response system direct callers to hang up and use a different channel during especially long wait times.

You have a social media customer support channel whether you want it or not

The moment you create a social media profile of any kind for your business, you open the door to receive requests for customer assistance through that social media platform. So whether you want to have a social media customer support channel or not, you have to have one if you plan on having a social media presence. If you don’t dedicate some of your support staff to this channel, customers might go several hours or even days without a response and they may turn to public forums to vent their frustrations with your brand.

Chatbots can help

Chatbots are a relatively new and exciting trend in customer service. If you’re thinking of adding social media, SMS, or live chat to your list of customer support channels, a chatbot has a lot to offer. Chatbots can ease the burden on your support staff by automating some of the easier customer service interactions for you. They can respond to frequently asked questions, ask preliminary questions to determine the nature of the customer’s problem, pull up customer records, and transfer customers to a live agent when necessary.

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