As the world slowly begins to return to normal thanks to the arrival of the COVID-19 vaccination, customer expectations are increasing too.
Clients may have been willing to forgive some customer service problems at the height of the pandemic, but now that many of COVID’s most intense restrictions have started to ease up, customers expect businesses to return to high-quality assistance and service.
And the numbers say companies have a long way to go to meet those expectations.
Close to 60% of consumers will stop doing business with a brand after a poor experience, over 50% of today’s customers have higher expectations of customer service and support than they did a year ago, and roughly 70% of customers that cut ties with a company did so because they felt the business didn’t care about them.
Whether you’re looking to hire more customer service agents to avoid excessive customer churn or want to revamp your entire approach to customer support, you need to ensure that whatever changes you make will solve more problems than they create.
One way to do that?
Be sure you know the difference between customer service vs. customer support.
Table of Contents
- Customer Service vs. Customer Support: An Overview
- What is Customer Service?
- What is Customer Support?
- What is Customer Success?
- SaaS Solutions To Optimize Customer Service And Customer Support
- Customer Support vs. Customer Service: FAQs
The below table outlines the major basic differences between customer service vs customer support.
|Customer Service||Customer Support|
|Deals with the overall customer relationship||Deals with a specific/singular issue|
|Based on personal relationships, product recommendations, responding to customer reviews/feedback, maintaining customer satisfaction||Based on teaching customers how to use products, troubleshooting technical issues, connects customers to documentation|
|Relies heavily on soft skills||Relies heavily on hard skills|
|Doesn’t always require customer support||Exists as a function of customer service|
|Answers the question, “Why?”||Answers the question, “How?”|
|Reactive and Proactive||Reactive|
Customer service refers to every aspect of the assistance and you provide to customers from the first time they start doing business with you to the day their relationship with your company ends.
In short, customer service covers everything under the umbrella term of customer experience and customer care – from new client onboarding to responding to customer reviews.
It’s not about managing a single issue or completing a lone transaction.
Instead, customer service is all about optimizing the long-term relationship between businesses and clients. It focuses on ensuring not only that customers see the value of the products and services your business offers them, but also that they feel valued and prioritized by your company.
Quality customer-centric service isn’t stagnant. It constantly evolves with the needs of your customers, often relying on their feedback to remain successful throughout the entire customer lifecycle.
Examples of Customer Service
It’s important to understand that while every business, regardless of size or industry, needs a customer service department, not all companies require the more technical skills of a customer support department.
For example, think of a public transit system. They offer customer service in that they establish bus routes, provide maps, set fares, and make schedules easily accessible. They’re not, however, going to teach everyday commuters how to drive the bus or operate the subway system (thankfully.)
Examples of customer interactions and assistance that fall under the umbrella of customer service include:
- Making product and/or service recommendations
- Drawing up SLA contracts
- Providing customer references
- Responding to social media reviews and comments
- Providing online forums and manuals for customer self-service
- Allowing clients to opt for automated customer callbacks as opposed to staying on hold
- Answering billing, shipping, and delivery customer queries
- Upselling or offering discounts
- Providing answers to common non-technical customer questions
- Writing and deploying customer satisfaction surveys
The Skills Your Customer Service Team Needs
Though both customer service and customer support require agents to have both soft and hard skills, customer service relies much more heavily on soft skills to ensure the interaction goes smoothly.
Soft skills refer to the ways in which your customer service agents communicate on a personal level with clients. They can’t quite be measured by specific metrics, taught, or memorized in the way that hard skills can, but they can easily be developed and improved upon. They’re also more general than hard skills, and can generally be applied in any business or even personal situation – not a company or position-specific customer issue.
Soft skills are all about someone’s talent with managing difficult or stressful situations, their ability to make customers feel valued and at ease, and how easily they’re able to build and maintain customer relationships.
Great customer service support skills include:
- Communication skills for dealing with difficult customers
- Active listening
- Empathy and emotional intelligence
- The ability to express oneself clearly, simply, and with brevity
- Being perceptive to the needs of the customer in order to make helpful and realistic product/service suggestions
- Patience and ability to not take things personally
- Teamwork (willingness to assist a customer that another agent failed to, etc.)
- Delegation (“I can’t help you with this problem, but let me connect you to someone who can”)
- Ability to show appreciation for the customer
- Problem-solving (Offering several potential solutions and letting the customer choose their preferred option)
- Knowledge of not only specific products but also of company culture/mission to show how the way the company operates is in line with the customer’s views
- Adaptability and flexibility (Desired product is not in stock, no available upcoming appointments, etc.)
- Organization and time management
- Self-motivation, decision-making capabilities, and self-direction
- Ability to prioritize clients and problems
- Stress management
While customer service refers more to “big picture” assistance, customer support is a much more specific type of customer service that is focused on providing specialized technical assistance to existing clients and new customers.
Usually, customer support interactions are more short-term than customer service interactions are, and are more reactive than proactive. (After all, customers aren’t likely to call a support agent before they have a technical problem.)
In customer support, and there is no “dedicated customer success manager” or singular support agent that customers speak to every time they call in. Instead, clients are connected to the individual support agent with the technical knowledge and experience that is most relevant to the issue at hand.
This means that, over the course of the customer lifetime, they’ll likely speak to many different support agents, even if they only speak to their dedicated account manager in the customer service department.
Customer support satisfaction is also much easier to quantify with KPIs and metrics like the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and CSAT (Customer Satisfaction) levels.
Examples of Customer Support
Remember that customer support falls under the umbrella of customer service – but that not every type of business will need customer support.
Companies working within the SaaS, hardware, eCommerce, application development, manufacturing, cybersecurity, web hosting, and engineering industries will need to provide extensive customer support (usually of a technical nature) in addition to traditional, good customer service.
Common examples of customer support include:
- Helping to get a customer’s website back online
- Walking customers through the installation/update process
- Helping customers to add on new services or upgrade accounts
- Creating customer support documentation
- Categorizing customer support conversations to highlight common product/service issues
- Real-time troubleshooting with screen sharing and remote screen control to offer a hands-on approach to helping a customer fix a tech issue
- Assisting with third-party integrations
- Calculating NPS, CSAT, and Customer Effort Scores
- Responding to security breaches/suspicious activity
- Helping customers to reset passwords or recover account data
- Attention to current customer engagement levels
- Running speed tests, real-time site monitoring, ensuring a high uptime
- Offering insight into product development
- A/B testing
The Skills Your Customer Support Team Needs
While customer support agents also need to have a basic mastery of soft skills, given that their primary job is to offer tech support and specific solutions related to fixing faulty products, hard skills and technical knowledge are even more important for them.
The customer service team directs more complicated support requests that they don’t have the technical knowledge to solve to the customer support team. Customers aren’t really looking for empathy and apologies when they connect to customer support.
They’re looking for solutions.
So what skills do customer support agents need to succeed?
- Professional Development Certifications/Education
- Hands-on technical support knowledge (For example: Coding languages, network security, CRM systems, business software and hardware, etc.)
- How to fix common IT issues
- The ability to understand when a support request needs to be escalated or transferred to an agent with a more relevant technical skillset
- The ability to provide clear, step-by-step instructions for how to resolve technical issues that people of all levels of “tech-savviness” can understand and follow
- Experience with monitoring systems that allow them to proactively identify and prevent issues
- Expert knowledge of the ways in which company products/services work, were built, and can be fixed
- The ability to understand which tools/software/systems are the most appropriate way to solve the issue at hand
- The knowledge and ability to train other support representatives
- The ability to correctly diagnose a problem and provide the best possible solution
- Workflow management and issue prioritization
- Ability to run software updates
- Ability to properly track, update, and manage support tickets
When researching customer service, you’ll likely come upon another term: customer success.
Customer service is often seen as more of a “reactive” tactic designed to maintain customer retention rates and ensure customer satisfaction isn’t compromised when there is a problem.
Customer success is generally much more proactive in nature. It’s focused on anticipating the needs of customers, keeping an eye out for potential pitfalls, providing solutions to problems before they happen, and ideally preventing potential problems from happening at all.
However, we think it’s best to see customer service and customer success in much the same way. A truly strong customer service strategy doesn’t just react — it also anticipates.
Now that you know the differences between customer service vs. customer support, it’s time to start thinking about how to optimize both of these essential tactics in your workplace.
Fortunately, it’s not something you have to do on your own. ‘
Even though creating strong company policies, support knowledge bases, help desks, and implementing ongoing employee training programs is key, there are also several different types of business software solutions that will help to keep customer service and customer support agents operating at the highest level.
- Call recording tools
- CRM software
- VoIP business phone systems with automated customer service
- Live chat software
To learn more about each of the above tools, click on the link to access our interactive table of top features, providers, user reviews, and more.
Below, we’ve answered some of the most common FAQs when it comes to both customer service and customer support.
Frequently asked questions
In addition to customer surveys (more on that in a moment) there are lots of different analytics you can use to measure the quality of your customer support and service.
These analytics can include:
- First contact resolution rate
- Customer retention rate
- Average phone call duration
- Number of inbound calls vs. number of outbound calls
- Average agent talk time
- Average answer rate
- Average resolution time
- Percent of messages that go to voicemail
- Net promoter score (NPS)
- Conversion rate
There are several factors that will influence the number of agents you need, including:
- Current and projected customer base
- Number of total monthly sales
- Number of total monthly support tickets
- The number of support tickets or customer service requests the average agent can reasonably handle
In order to get an accurate perception of the customer experience, your customer survey should include both rating numbers or stars as well as open-ended questions.
Some essential questions include:
- How likely are you to recommend our products/services to a friend?
- How likely are you to do business with us again in the future?
- How does our product/service improve your life?
- Do you feel like you got good value for your money?
- What can we do better?
- Describe your overall satisfaction with our products/services
- How knowledgeable was the support agent/customer service representative you dealt with?
- What are three words you’d use to describe our company?
- What products or services would you like to see us offer that we do not currently?
Though costs will of course vary based on the features, product, and subscription chosen, you can generally expect popular customer support software to cost:
- CRM Software: $12.00-20.00/user per month
- Business VoIP: $20.00=$25.00/user per month
- Call Center Software With Call Recording: $65.00-$125.00/agent per month
- Live Chat Software: From $15.00/user per month
Some of the top customer complaints are:
- Being kept on hold for too long
- Agents with a lack of product or service knowledge
- Overly long or complicated IVR menus without the ability to speak to a live agent
- Automatic payment or billing confusion
- Outdated online knowledge base
- Lack of follow-up
- Having to explain the same issue and repeat themselves to multiple customer service agents
- Impersonal support
- Aggressive sales tactics