Synchronous Communication

Understanding Asynchronous & Synchronous Communication in Customer Service and Call Centres

If you’ve been to a call centre or customer service conference recently, you may have heard some of the presenters talk about Synchronous Communication and Asynchronous communication but has anyone ever explained to you what it means?

At ACXPA, our mission is to be the leading resource for contact centre, customer service and CX professionals in Australia (and across the world) by providing real, practical tools and resources to assist people no matter what stage their career is at.

With the rise of digital channels, understanding the nuances between synchronous and asynchronous communication has become crucial for delivering exceptional customer experiences.

This glossary term provides a comprehensive overview of these communication modes, their definitions, differences, and how they impact customer service operations.

What is Synchronous Communication?

Synchronous communication occurs in real time, with participants engaging in a direct and immediate exchange of information.

This type of communication is characterised by instant feedback and interaction, making it ideal for situations that require quick resolution and real-time engagement.

Examples of Synchronous Communication in Customer Service

  1. Phone Calls: Direct verbal communication allows for immediate back-and-forth dialogue.
  2. Live Chat: Real-time text communication through chat interfaces on websites or apps.
  3. Video Conferencing: Face-to-face interaction through platforms like Zoom or Microsoft Teams.
  4. In-Person Meetings: Physical face-to-face conversations.

What is Asynchronous Communication?

Asynchronous communication, on the other hand, does not require participants to be engaged simultaneously.

Messages are sent and received at different times, allowing individuals to respond at their convenience.

This type of communication is beneficial for managing workload flexibility and providing thoughtful, detailed responses.

Examples of Asynchronous Communication

  1. Email: Messages are sent and responded to over time without the need for simultaneous interaction.
  2. Messaging Apps: Platforms like WhatsApp or Slack, where messages can be read and replied to later.
  3. Social Media: Interactions through comments or direct messages that don’t require immediate responses.
  4. Help Desk Tickets: Customers submit issues that are addressed by support teams over time.
Examples of Synchronous Commmunication in Customer Service
Examples of Synchronous & Asynchronous Commmunication in Customer Service

Differences Between Synchronous and Asynchronous Communication

We have outlined some key differences between synchronous and asynchronous communication below to help you understand.

Response Time

  • Synchronous: Immediate response and interaction.
  • Asynchronous: Delayed response, allowing time for consideration.

Flexibility

  • Synchronous: Requires both parties to be available at the same time.
  • Asynchronous: Participants can engage at their own convenience.

Use Cases

  • Synchronous: Ideal for urgent issues, complex problem-solving, and situations requiring quick feedback.
  • Asynchronous: Suitable for less urgent matters, detailed inquiries, and when participants are in different time zones.

Efficiency

  • Synchronous: Can be more efficient for resolving issues quickly but may be constrained by the availability of parties.
  • Asynchronous: Offers flexibility but can lead to longer resolution times due to delayed responses.

Impact on Customer Service and Call Centres

There really are pros and cons for both approaches, and we’ve outlined some key considerations for you below.

Synchronous Communication

  • Pros:
    • Immediate problem resolution.
    • Enhanced customer satisfaction through real-time interaction.
    • Ability to convey tone and emotion more effectively.
  • Cons:
    • Requires agents to be available, potentially increasing staffing costs.
    • Can be stressful for agents due to the need for instant responses.

Asynchronous Communication

  • Pros:
    • Flexibility for both customers and agents.
    • Allows agents to manage multiple inquiries simultaneously.
    • Provides time for agents to research and provide thorough responses.
  • Cons:
    • Longer wait times for customers.
    • Potential for miscommunication without real-time clarification.

Example of Poor CX Using Asynchronous Communication

One of the risks when using asynchronous communication such as messaging apps is that it can, on appearance, be very similar to live chat.

This can provide customers with the impression that they can expect a near-immediate response.

In the example below, with a well-known health insurance provider in Australia, the customer was given the impression that they were being placed in a queue for a live agent.

However, as you will note, it took three days from the moment they were told they were being connected to an agent to the first reply!

There were also a series of poor UX, such as the customer being required to validate themselves (even though it had already been done via the app), the inability to process DOB except in an exact format, and no empathy from the agent.

Example of Asynchronous Chat fail
An example of Asynchronous Communication fail with a large Health Insurance Provider in Australia.

Implementing a Balanced Approach

To optimise customer service, many call centres and support teams adopt a hybrid approach, leveraging both synchronous and asynchronous communication based on the nature of the customer inquiry.

There are some great CX statistics that can provide some insights into preferences by age group, demographics etc but ultimately, what is right for your business will be a balance between cost and the level of service you’d like to provide for your customers.

Best Practices

  1. Evaluate the Inquiry: Assess whether the issue requires immediate attention or can be handled over time.
  2. Set Clear Expectations: Inform customers about expected response times for asynchronous channels.
  3. Utilise Technology: Implement CRM systems and AI tools to streamline both synchronous and asynchronous interactions.
  4. Train Agents: Equip customer service representatives with skills to effectively manage both communication modes.

Conclusion

Understanding the differences between synchronous and asynchronous communication is essential for delivering effective customer service.

By leveraging the strengths of both methods, call centres can enhance customer satisfaction, improve efficiency, and provide flexible support that meets the needs of today’s diverse customer base.

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Upcoming ACXPA Contact Centre Roundtable July 2024 - John Stavrakis

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