Customer service and customer support are often interchanged. For this reason, differentiating the two can become a challenge. The biggest mistake is not making a distinction between the two. They do have similarities in that they focus on helping customers. Aside from that they use similar tools such as email, chat, and phone for communication. More importantly, both are critical to customer experience. In this article, we shall cover the following topics:
- What is Customer Service?
- What is Customer Support?
- Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Support
- How Customer Service and Customer Support Can Work Hand in Hand
- Tips On How To Improve Customer Service and Customer Support
What is Customer Service?
Customer service is an umbrella term that covers all the interactions between your business and customers. Every business has a customer service department. It is everything that you do from meeting customer expectations to improving customer experience.
The ultimate goal of customer service is to help customers get the most out of your product or service as possible. Poor customer service can be potential stumbling blocks for the success of businesses. 84% of Americans said that customer service was one of the key factors that influence their purchase decisions.
The role of customer service
The role of customer service is to engage customers and provide both reactive and proactive assistance. It also offers education, recommendations, and strategic advice in order to maximize the value of a customer’s investment in the company. It may also involve answering customer queries, following up with customers, collecting feedback, and upselling products when appropriate.
Customer service is a long-term process. It begins the moment customers show interest in what your business has to offer and can continue for years after they have made a purchase. The role of customer service is to make customers happy at every stage of the customer lifecycle.
With customer service, you need to have a broad understanding of your business, its products, and customer contact channels. It doesn’t require any specialist knowledge as long as you can answer common questions and know where to direct customers for more assistance.
Customer service is about providing for the larger and non-technical concerns of a customer. It could involve issues about billing, shipping, or a lost and found check. This is important in ensuring the happiness of your customers and encouraging them to take full advantage of your offerings. Examples of customer service activities include:
- Onboarding new customers
- Answering questions and replying to comments on social media
- Helping customers with billing and delivery issues
- Resolving non-technical account issues
- Recommending better tools or techniques
- Collecting customer reviews and feedbacks
What is Customer Support?
Customer support is actually a subset of customer service. Its aim is to help customers solve any technical issue that may arise when using your product or service. Most customer support interactions tend to be reactive and short term. In most instances, the customer reaches out looking for their problem to be resolved.
The job of the support agent is to find a solution. They will either execute the solution themselves or guide the customer through the relevant steps. Troubleshooting is usually a big part of the job of a customer support agent. They can also help customers with installation, training, maintenance, upgrading services, or ending services.
Customer support arose from the internal technical support that most companies used to have. Software as a Service (SaaS) paved the way for remote installation and operation of software more easily. As a result, tech support teams can now focus on fostering partnerships and building customer relationships.
Customer support agents are experts in the product you are offering. They should be able to provide diverse and proactive technical support while staying patient in resolving customer’s problem. The customer support process starts when a customer reaches out on their preferred channel with a problem. The process doesn’t end until the problem is resolved.
The role of customer support
Customer support involves activities such as assisting customers in planning, installation, troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrading, and disposal of your product. Customer support is common in tech companies dedicated to supporting customers with products and services requiring tech assistance.
Customer support requires an in-depth knowledge of your products and services. Customer support roles may also include creation of knowledge-based documentation, user cases, and providing product feedback. They often collaborate with product development teams to ensure improvement and optimization of end-to-end customer experience.
Customer support also requires some soft skills and people skills in order to communicate effectively with customers. Speed, technical proficiency, and product expertise are key attributes to delivering effective customer support.
Customer support interactions are not the perfect time to push products and services. Customer support provides quick and accurate solutions to user problems as and when they arise. They provide a valuable role in providing customer feedback to product development teams.
Customer Service vs Customer Support
The difference between customer service and customer support is that the former provides service to a customer while the latter supports a product. For example, a customer walks into a retail store looking for a medium sized blue t-shirt.
In customer service, the rep can help locate the t-shirt, call the customer, and pack the shirt for the customer. They can take the opportunity to upsell by recommending a sweater that goes well with the shirt. Customer support comes in when the store provides a means for providing feedback or information that goes with the experience.
As for their roles, customer support is for improvement of the customer experience while customer service is for interacting transactionally with the customer. All businesses provide customer service but not everyone is required to offer customer support.
Customer service focuses on providing efficient, helpful customer transactions. With customer support, the focus is on improving the intersection between customer experience and the product. Customer service connects to existing answers and solutions. Customer support answers technical problems, performs some troubleshooting, and finds new solutions and answers.
How Customer Service and Customer Support Can Work Hand in hand
While customer service and customer support are two different things, they can work hand in hand to improve your customer retention rate. Failure to deliver both can result in frustrated customers. When a customer is upset, you need to appease them or else they will take their business elsewhere.
70% of buying experiences are based on how the customer feels they are being treated. Customer service and customer support are crucial for maintaining ongoing customer relationships which could result in improved loyalty, retention, and recurring revenue. If you can offer both customer service and customer support through reactive response and proactive engagement, you can gain an advantage over competitors.
Slow service and customer support can kill your company’s retention rate. More than 80% of customers said that poor service can be a determining factor in driving them away from a company. On the other hand, good service and support drives free word of mouth advertising. You can expect bad reviews from customers if they have a negative experience with your company.
Here are some of the ways you can make customer service and customer support work hand in hand for the success of your business.
Go from troubleshooter to strategic partner
Every technical problem has a technical solution. This is where customer support comes in. They are there to help customers when those issues arise. What, how, and to whom help is being offered is what can set your support team apart from your competitors.
A skillful support agent should be able to help the customer resolve a problem when a support ticket has been opened. They take the time to set up the customers for success. They take the time to trace the root of the problem and explain important actions that need to be done.
Reward soft skills in “technical” customer support
Technology should support humans, not the other way around. Thus, when solving problems you need to put a human touch using your technology of choice. Providing good customer support can be challenging especially in government agencies. When hiring for customer support, you should find the right people with the necessary technical skills.
Bring empathy and “extreme rapport” to every support interaction
Empathy in a support organization can help agents read between the lines of a situation. Your agent may have already answered 700 calls and responded to the same number of chats for the week over the same issue but with empathy, they will be reminded of what it is like to be the customer whose entire day lies in the balance. Your agents don’t always know but it helps to hold space for whatever it might be.
Support agents should also practice “extreme rapport” to foster a sense of collaboration towards a common goal. You may have technical know how and intimate knowledge of a product, but if you don’t balance it with rapport, you won’t be able to help a customer in their time of need.
Evolve customer support outcomes and KPIs
Some of the tried-and-true key performance indicators (KPIs) for customer support evaluation are CSAT, net promoter score (NPS), and churn rate. However, it will greatly help if you conduct a regular review of your KPIs to determine where they can evolve. This is especially true if your support functions are integrated with other channels and business processes.
Support your customer support teams
To become proficient in technical support, you need a certain level of specialization in products and services which can eventually lead to repetitive work over time. You need to strike a balance between specialization and assigning new and different projects across the team. When boredom strikes your agents, you need to find solutions to ease their boredom such as by empowering them to take ownership of certain tasks, training others, or giving them time on live channels regularly on a weekly basis.
Answer the why, not just the how
Success in customer support can come easy to those with technical skills. However, the difficult part is understanding yourself and other people. Intimate product and process knowledge will always be in demand but adding a dash of customer service might make your agents more customer-centric.
Tips For Increasing Customer Service and Support
Here are some tips on how you can boost customer service and customer support of your company.
1. Define your philosophy and process
Typically, your approach to customer service (especially customer support) should be consistent. Without a one-size-fits-all approach, you will run into confusion and controversy throughout the customer service process.
First, define your principles and philosophy of customer service. It will contain a set of values that you want to drive every interaction with your company’s customers, such as speed, availability, and initiative.
You can also create a customer service guide that outlines general processes and best practices for your team. This will include process instructions such as reporting bugs and errors, how and when to create supporting content, and an agreement to record customer feedback.
2. Provide your agent with the necessary tools
Equipping your team with the right tools can unleash your energy to serve and support your customers.
High-quality support tools make life easier for customers and agents. They also give the impression of smooth and professional operation.
For example, providing customers with an omnichannel service means that they can connect with you through the channel that suits them best, be it chat, social media, in-app messaging, phone calls, or email.
A customer profile creates a rich image based on the interactions between each customer and your company through different channels. This way, any agent who contacts the client can immediately get an overview of the client’s history and needs.
The agent can then resolve customer issues faster while eliminating the need to repeat for different agents.
3. Clear communication
When communicating with clients, clarity is key. Inaccurate communication can lead to confusion and avoidable mistakes, which can undermine customer trust in your brand.
To minimize miscommunication, remove technical terms and industry language from your publication, use plain words where simple words can be used and don’t overwhelm clients with too much information at once.
Another important part of clear communication is transparency. If a customer asks a question but you don’t know what the answer is, let them know that you’re not sure and you can reach them as soon as you find the answer.
4. Use positive language
Not only do you want your clients to understand your explanations and instructions, but you also want them to feel supported and motivated to achieve the goals they want to achieve.
An active language should be solution oriented, not problem oriented.
For example, suppose a customer is facing an issue where they cannot access online training videos due to a technical problem.
A negative response to this complaint can be:
“Sorry! Unfortunately, we don’t know what the problem is at this time.”
A positive answer:
“Sorry! Thanks for your attention. We will investigate it immediately and let you know that it was corrected in a second.”
5. Close the dialog box as necessary
91% of dissatisfied customers simply walk away without complaining.
Therefore, your customer service and support teams must find clear solutions for all customer interactions. If you are not sure if your customers are satisfied with this interaction, you will not know if they had a good experience.
When communication with customers seems slow, you should always ask if there are other questions that can assist with. This gives the customer a signal that you are paying attention to the root cause of the problem and that you are willing to spend as much time as possible solving the customer’s problem.
Once the customer has said everything and there are no more questions, you can calmly end the conversation, knowing that the customer is happy with the interaction.
6. Give priority to first contact problem resolution
Whether they are looking for customer service or support, customers want to fix the problem once and for all. In fact, if a problem can be solved when it first appears, it can be avoided by up to 67% of customers.
This means that you must first deliver the first contact solution (or the first call solution).
7. Use response templates to save time
Creating a set of stored responses (your agent can customize them as needed) is one way to ensure fast and consistent responses to frequently asked questions.
8. Practice empathy and build rapport.
In order for customers to feel heard and understood, you must meet their needs.
It is especially important that customer service personnel take this into account. Customers who call support are often stressed and frustrated, even when their issues are easily resolved. Support agents don’t need to waste time solving technical problems, they need time to identify with a customer’s unique situation (even if it’s the eighth time they have solved the same problem today!).
Similarly, building rapport with customers — talking to customers in person, asking questions about their business, showing your admiration for the plan — goes a long way toward creating a people-centered customer experience.
9. Involve other teams in customer service.
An effective way to establish a customer-centric strategy and culture across the company is to involve all employees in customer service and support work, which is the customer service team.
This may mean that members of different teams have to listen to customer calls regularly, or it may mean having regular discussions between teams to reflect customer feedback.
The key is that everyone should know why customers complain so that they can help to improve customer experience throughout the whole interaction.