The Benefits of Offering Email Support vs. Phone Support

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In an increasingly automated world, the art of voice to voice customer service has been lost. The frustration and desire to interact with a real person is more acute than ever. And yet, some companies–including ours–only offer support via ticketing system, rather than over the phone. Why not offer phone support when that seems the best way to quell anxieties about technological miscommunication? Let’s take a look at the benefits of email support vs. phone support, and why we’ve chosen the former.

Remember playing telephone?

When I was a kid, we used to play the telephone game. A group of kids would line up (or stand in a circle), and one kid would whisper something like, “Pineapple butts,” into the next kid’s ear. That kid would whisper what they thought they heard into the next kid’s ear, and so on and so forth down the line. The last kid would announce to the group what they thought they heard, which would end up being something like, “Purple burps.” We’d all giggle at how what was originally said got miscommunicated, and how something that already started off as silly became, somehow, even sillier.

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When you’re dealing with multiple people on one team, phone support can end up looking like this too. Things can be lost in translation in between just two people. The more people added to the chain of communication, the more likely that miscommunication will be. While the telephone game may be fun to play for kids, it’s not very funny when it comes to your business.

We want to make sure that our customers never have to deal with this issue. Having everything written out provides documentation that helps us prevent the telephone game’s eventual outcome.

Support tickets serve several purposes.

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Support tickets allow everyone on the team to have a common reference point.

“Using a ticketing system allows each team member to see what work is being done/has been done. It also gives us a way to archive each ticket. This way we can refer to work we did in the past and solve problems with more efficiency.”
Russell Aaron

Let’s say that Russell is handling your support ticket on a Tuesday, but (goodness forbid) falls ill on the following Wednesday, and needs to be out for the rest of the week.

What happens then?

With a support ticket, Michael can step in, see where Russell left off, and proceed forward from there. Without a support ticket, they’ll have to coordinate a call, hope that nothing gets lost in translation, or, if for some reason Russell can’t catch Michael up, Michael will have to forge forward without any context.

That could mean:

  • …Having to backtrack with the client, which is a waste of time and frustrating for everyone.
  • …Trying to guess where Russell was at and making a misstep in the process.
  • …Putting work on hold until Russell is back.

All of those options are inefficient, poor customer service, and frankly, not the quality of care we want to provide.

Support tickets support accountability.

When talking to Russell about this, he also pointed out that support tickets have time and date stamps on them, which let us know exactly when the last conversation was had. This is great, because if there’s a lapse in communication, there is easy-to-access documentation stating when the last exchange happened and who was the last to reply.

What does this mean in real time? This means accountability.

If a support ticket gets lost in the shuffle, we can track down exactly where it got lost–and who lost it. If a client gets upset about things not moving forward, but we find they never replied to our last missive, we can re-send it to them, and reiterate the importance of that information we need from them.

It forces all parties to step it up, and allows for overall more open, accountable communication between developers and clients.

Support tickets provide historical documentation.

Jim, our Project Manager, pointed out that historical documentation is a key benefit of email support ticketing.

If someone has been a long-term client, support tickets allow us to track down what happened with their site years ago. The written documentation is an antidote to the fallibility of human memory and perception. This allows us to find detailed information that informs what is going on behind the scenes of the site today, and move forward with the appropriate context.

Support tickets allow developers to manage their time and focus on the task at hand.

Despite what you may have heard, multitasking does not make you more productive. Development requires attention to detail and focus.

Think about it: Do you want a distracted dev digging around the inside of your website?

Do you want a surgeon answering the phone while he’s taking a scalpel to your skin and digging around delicate organs?

I don’t think so.

Support tickets allow the developers to be focused on each task at a time, which means that your site gets greater attention and focus when they’re working on it.

Support ticketing doesn’t have to be slow.

One of the complaints about support ticketing (and I know, as I’ve made this complaint myself) is that it doesn’t provide the immediate gratification that talking to someone over the phone does. It requires a little bit of a patience and explanation upfront.

However, if you submit your ticket with good information and respond to further inquiries in a timely manner, you can help expedite the process exponentially. Need help writing a great support ticket? Michael has some advice on how to help us help you.

No, the phone is not obsolete.

Yes, despite all of the many benefits of email support, there is a time and a place for the phone.

“Phone calls can offer benefits for sure. [It offers a] dedicated time where we have everyone’s attention, and communication done in a small span of time.”
-Michael Beckwith

“[You should move to phone support] when the request begins to evolve outside the normal support plans and you need to discuss other options (i.e. custom development hours). Or, when there is a security concern with detail that should not be transferred electronically (i. e. customer account/credit card information).”
-Jim Byrom

“Phone calls are useful when one team member leaves and another takes over their role. It’s about discussing a lot of information quickly, without costing both sides a lot of time.”
-Russell Aaron

So there you have it. Have questions?

Get in touch, but please, don’t call us. 😉

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4 thoughts on “The Benefits of Offering Email Support vs. Phone Support”

  1. Great article! I agree whole-heartedly. But I think moving from tickets to live chat or even a Hangout would be more beneficial than phone support. Phone support — to me — really is obsolete. I’d much rather solve issues with a customer over screenshare than phone. Plus, once they have a number to call, they might never return to tickets again.

    1. Elizabeth Ehrenpreis

      Matt, thank you! And yeah, live chat is ideal–a nice middle ground of support ticketing and phone, assuming you have the staff for it. I think some folks still like to have that human interaction over the phone, and sometimes that still can be faster, especially if someone isn’t sure how to describe their issue in writing (which still is an issue with live chat).

  2. No phone support, no business from me. Support tickets are generated all of the time in many big businesses via the phone; I can’t think of any I deal with that don’t and the ability to read the notes, etc. from prior service reps., thus all that has taken place is fully available. You have your reasons for what you do, which i suspect has less to do with truly serving your customer’s needs best, but you are entitled to have it your way. As one comment above clearly points out: “once they have a number to call, they might never return to tickets again.” My dollars are going elsewhere. Phone support exists, people.

    1. Hi, Charles. Thank you for taking the time to read this article and comment on it. You make some valid points, and even the author of this post stated that the phone is not obsolete and cited examples when phone support is useful. Our current system continues to work for us and our clients. Thanks again.

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