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5 Best Customer Service Channels

Written by:

Victoria Yu is a Business Writer with expertise in Business Organization, Marketing, and Sales, holding a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration from the University of California, Irvine’s Paul Merage School of Business.

Edited by:

Sallie, holding a Ph.D. from Walden University, is an experienced writing coach and editor with a background in marketing. She has served roles in corporate communications and taught at institutions like the University of Florida.

5 Best Customer Service Channels

5 Best Customer Service Channels

With more and more companies saturating more and more markets, one way to distinguish yourself from competitors while boosting your brand image is by providing exemplary customer service, where your customer’s questions and concerns are addressed by an employee, and their issues are resolved. 

A large part of good customer service is accessibility–that is, offering support using the channels your customers will contact first. Good customer service is a vital part of ensuring customer satisfaction. Therefore, it is a wise business decision for companies to ensure that their customer service channels are being used to help and engage customers. To do that, let’s take a look at the top five customer service channels your business should offer and how you can provide high-quality support for customers by using each of them.

Key Takeaways

  • Customer service channels are the platforms and methods by which consumers can contact your business with questions, comments, and concerns.

  • Customers expect quick and accessible support for their issues, and are more loyal to businesses that offer easy support.

  • In the digital age, there is a wide range of channels through which companies can provide customer service support. Five of the best service channels include: phone, social media, chatbot, email, and self-service.

Why Do Customer Service Channels Matter?

Now, I know what you may be thinking: What’s the big deal about customer service channels? Why can’t you just post your phone or email on your website and handle questions or issues as they come? 

With the recent growth of e-commerce platforms and always-on-demand shopping through several devices and channels, it’s only logical that customers expect equally fast and seamless customer service through every channel they use to interact with companies. 

A reliable indicator of customer satisfaction is a business’s Customer Effort Score (CES), which measures how much effort a customer needs to get an issue resolved, a question answered, or a request fulfilled by a company. According to the Harvard Business Review, reducing customer effort is the best way to build customer loyalty. 

In other words, by offering robust, omnichannel customer service through several channels and meeting customers halfway when they reach out to your company, you can reduce your customer effort score, meet customer expectations, and build a base of loyal and satisfied customers.

Top Five Customer Service Channels

According to a 2020 survey, the top three communication channels customers preferred when resolving customer service issues were phone (42%), digital channels (38%), and email (20%). 

While phone and email are easy enough to understand, “digital channels” include a myriad of other formats: social media, chatbots, text messaging, and more. So how can we determine which of these digital channels are the most effective?

Well, in a survey of more than 120 consumers, 64% said they regularly use social media messaging such as Instagram Messenger, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or X (formerly Twitter) DMs to contact service teams. Another survey of business leaders reported that 57% felt that conversational chatbots delivered a large ROI for minimal investment. 

It may come as a surprise, however, that, according to the Harvard Business Review, eight out of ten (81%) customers attempt to solve their own problems before contacting a live service representative. In other words, self-service channels are a great way to empower your customers to help themselves.

Keeping all of these survey findings in mind, our final list for the top five customer service channels includes: phone, social media, chatbot, email, and self-service. So, let’s take a closer look at each of these channels while examining best practices for using them as support vehicles for your customers.

1. Phone

Let’s look first at the “classic,” when it comes to support channels, the telephone. The telephone call has long been relied upon by customers when they have questions because it enables them to speak directly to a company employee. As a rich media that conveys tone of voice, the phone deserves its top spot in this list for easily allowing customers and employees to explain problems and offer solutions by way of a simple conversation while allowing the service employee to convey empathy to customers. 

As a company starts out, they might have an employee (or even the business owner) manning the phone during business hours. However, this person’s time might be better spent performing other tasks. Plus, if the person who mans the phone happens to be on break or away when the phone rings, it reflects poorly on the company and leaves customers feeling frustrated when no one answers.

That’s why businesses attempting to offer more comprehensive phone support often outsource these services to third-party call centers, who, equipped with a call script and trained in the company’s practices, answer and respond to inbound calls for the company. Such call centers are able to provide 24/7 customer support in multiple languages, thereby boosting your business’s connection and accessibility to customers.

Businesses offering phone support can also invest in VoIP software to make calls over the internet, or to utilize interactive voice response (IVR) systems. This software enables companies to extend customer support by creating an automated phone tree to collect information about calls and callers, connecting customers with services and providing 24/7 accessibility.

2. Social Media

Next is social media, which gains prominence on this list because just about everyone in the world is using it. In other words, since consumers and customers are already gathering on social media platforms, as a business owner, you need to establish your business’s presence and offer support on these same platforms. Social media provides multiple ways for customers to find you quickly and easily when they need help, on the channel they’re most comfortable with when it comes to social interaction.

Plus, using social media gives your customers a bit more accessibility and media richness: they can message your company through their computer or phone, use the messaging system to send reps pictures or videos of their issue, or even start a video call with a support rep to show the problem they’re having. For more complex troubleshooting, the media sharing capacity of social media is invaluable for conveying the issue easily and getting a quick fix.

However, HubSpot reports that of businesses that offer customer service through social media DMs, only 43% provide a live customer service rep to respond to the messages. Forty-one percent ask the account marketer to handle messaging and to escalate major issues, 13% use an automated chatbot, and 3% use something else. 

Though your marketer might be able to answer simple questions about the company’s hours of operations or such, they’re not trained to offer concise, empathetic, and helpful support for more complex situations. In other words, to improve your business’s social media support channels, it would be better to assign a true support agent to monitor and answer customer questions from social media.

To that end, there is designated customer service software that can integrate natively with all of the different social media platforms and collect inbound DMs to display in one system as service tickets. When using such software, there is no need to keep dozens of social media tabs open.

3. Chatbots

Love them or hate them, chatbots are here to stay: Gartner reports that by 2027, chatbots are expected to become the primary customer service channel for roughly a quarter of organizations. 

And it’s no wonder: as an automated system, chatbots are fast, offer support at any time of day, and are inherently less stressful to consumers than making a phone call. Using either a pre-programmed dialogue tree or generative AI, a chatbot can easily provide answers to simple FAQs, saving your employees from the monotony of doing it themselves. 

On top of integrating into your company website, some customer support software chatbots can also integrate with your social media platform’s messaging system or phone app, providing omnichannel support with a single tool and collecting tickets in a single platform.

However, it’s true that customers may feel slighted by having their questions answered by a robot instead of a person. Where’s the love? The empathy? And, should you choose to deploy an AI-powered chatbot, where’s the product expertise? 

Though a chatbot saves the company time and money, it certainly deprives customers of a satisfying human experience. In a survey by PwC, seven out of ten (71%) of consumers expressed that they think companies have lost their human touch and that they would rather interact with a human than with a chatbot or other automated process.

In other words, should you decide to deploy a chatbot to answer simple questions and queries, it’s also best to ensure that a real person is ready to step in and provide expert and empathetic support should the customer’s issue surpass the AI’s technical or emotional needs.

4. Email

Another classic, email is the support channel of choice for one out of five customers. It’s no surprise: Statista reports that there were 4.26 billion email users in 2022, a number expected to grow to 4.73 billion by 2026. As the main identifier people use to sign up for online services and newsletters, it’s safe to say that nearly everyone online has at least one email address and knows how to use it to send a question to a company.

For companies, email support is also very convenient, as there’s no need to man the channel 24/7, unlike a phone line. Service agents can attend to the inbox on their own schedule, prioritize emails, and take their time composing a knowledgeable and empathetic response.

Some companies also set up email auto-response systems, which tell the emailing customer that their message has been received and when they can expect a response. These auto-response emails could even offer some answers to FAQs, preemptively satisfying the customer’s simpler queries before the support agent responds.

However, it’s true that with the advent of instantaneous communications, customers are expecting faster and faster turnaround times for their emails. Thus, if your business offers support through email, we’d recommend checking and clearing your inbox at least once a day to keep customers happy.

5. Self-Service

Finally, our last support channel is self-service, where customers are given the tools and knowledge to help themselves. In a 2022 consumer survey, 81% said that they want more self-service options, despite businesses believing this number to be closer to 60%. In other words, by providing self-service options better and faster than other companies, you could beat out competitors in customer satisfaction with less work overall. 

For a small business that sells goods, self-service might be as simple as having a designated page on your website with answers to FAQs such as:

  • Product details
  • Store hours
  • Pricing and tax details
  • Warranties
  • Cancellation and refund policies
  • Return policy
  • Shipping times
  • The best channels to contact a live agent for product support

One way to gain access to more self-service tools is to offer your products through an e-commerce retail platform such as Amazon, which automatically provides processes for things like requesting returns, support, or repurchases.

On the other hand, self-service for personalized service-based businesses is a little more complex, as customers will be looking to make changes to their pre-existing accounts. Though small businesses might not yet be able to offer full-service portals, at the very least, you could create a website form customers could submit to:

  • Start and stop services
  • Change their service plan
  • Pay their bill
  • Request service support

It may also help to have an FAQ section with the same sort of information that we covered above for product-based companies. If you operate in a complex field such as medicine or law, an education center on your website with articles about your industry and services may also be useful.

Whether you’re selling products or services, it’s best to ensure that your self-service tools are compatible with both desktop and mobile devices, so that your customers can access the information and tools whenever and wherever they may need them.


High-quality customer support takes your company from acceptable to outstanding, impressing curious visitors and one-time customers, supporting and helping them become loyal patrons of your business. A major part of providing good customer service is offering support on the appropriate channels, ensuring that customers can find help where and when they need it in the way most convenient to them.

Though there are dozens of channels through which you can offer customer service, five of the best options you have are phone, social media, chatbot, email, and self-service support. Though you don’t need to offer all of them from the start, strategically choosing and investing in the most appropriate customer service channels and deploying them as needed, will only improve your customer satisfaction scores, and eventually, your bottom line.


Which customer service channel should I offer support on first?

If you’re just starting your company, customer service through phone and email are the standard two channels customers will expect you to offer support through. With so many more higher-level service channels available online, these two traditional service channels have almost become hygiene attributes – if you don’t offer support through them, customers may consider your company untrustworthy or a scam.

Once you begin organically developing your social media strategy, you could then offer moderate support through the direct messaging feature of each platform, training the account manager or marketer to answer basic support queries. Once your company gains a sizable following per platform, it would then be a worthwhile investment to hire a designated support agent for digital channels or invest in a chatbot.

What is right-channeling?

Though customers might expect you to offer quality omnichannel service and support, let’s be honest: the more communication channels your business maintains, the more effort and resources it takes to maintain those channels. Even medium to large enterprises are struggling to keep a high level of service through all channels.

In response to this, a recent trend in the customer service field is right-channeling, where customers are redirected to the most efficient channel for their specific need, whether that be the channel with the most support for their unique situation, the channel with the shortest wait time, or the channel with the lowest cost. According to a 2023 Deloitte report, 55% of leaders said their organizations have implemented some form of right-channeling.

For example, if a customer consults the company’s website chatbot with a difficult-to-explain question, the chatbot or service attendant on hand might direct them to the company’s social media or video conferencing tools. These are richer forms of communication that would help the customer send photos or videos of their issue and receive more immersive support.

How can I scale up my customer service?

As your business grows more and more popular, you may reach the natural limits of what your in-house customer service agents or support software can handle. At that point, you can scale up your customer service operations by outsourcing them to a contact center, which is a third-party company that will handle your customer service interactions for you. 

Another recent trend in scaling customer service is moving customer service software to the cloud. This reduces strain on company servers, improves storage capacity and flexibility, and shortens response time. Deloitte reports that in the past two years, the number of organizations that have moved analytics, customer relationship management (CRM), knowledge management, interaction recording, and workforce management systems to the cloud has increased by approximately 50%.