Customer service, customer support, customer care
Today’s consumers are highly demanding, communicating with a company through all the possible channels and carefully choosing reliable brands only after a detailed analysis of their social networks and reviews other clients leave. This altogether makes the goal of satisfying them very challenging. Fortunately, with enough effort and a professional team of experienced specialists, it is possible to accomplish.
When running a business, customer service and support are both essential for dealing with clients. These two concepts (if provided properly) help to build a loyal clientele that trusts your brand and is ready to invest in your business. People tend to use them interchangeably, but customer service should not be confused with customer support. Being aware of that difference, you’ll be able to manage your support team more effectively, make better hiring decisions, and minimize client frustration by providing them with the help they actually need.
But what about customer care?
Let’s explain each of these concepts to understand the distinction between them.
What is the customer service?
Every business wants to be successful, outpace its competitors, and expand the client base. Without quality customer service, it’s impossible to do. According to research conducted by Microsoft, 96% of respondents from all across the globe say customer service plays a significant role in their choice of brand loyalty.
This term is a common name for all interactions between a company and its clientele from answering calls to fixing problems they encounter.
Based on the definition of its concept, we can conclude that every business provides customer service because each interacts with clients in various ways: sells goods and services, provides various kinds of information, organizes learning processes, and offers many other activities.
Customer service covers a long period of time. It starts when a buyer comes to your company with a certain aim and can continue as long as this person remains your client.
What stages it basically includes:
- Showing interest: visiting a company’s website, social networks; reading reviews; asking other people for feedback; searching for information about an organization.
- Direct contact: making a call; coming to the company’s store; dealing with its representatives.
- Purchasing: buying something; subscribing.
- Post-purchasing: leaving feedback or reviews; assessing results - whether clients got what they wanted; was the experience positive or negative.
- Subsequent contacts: making other purchases; requesting additional information; spreading the word about the brand; controlling customer retention.
What are common customer service activities?
- Providing personalized service
- Sharing necessary information and answering questions
- Monitoring social networks: replying to comments, posting news and updates
- Onboarding new customers
- Helping with payments and delivery
- Resolving various kinds of issues
- Providing customer support
- Gathering reviews and feedback from consumers
What is a good customer service agent?
Usually, such an agent is a person well-informed of all business processes, services, and products the company offers. They don’t have to possess any specific customer service skills. Their main goals are to answer common questions and guide clients to proper specialists for further support. Customer service agents should be empathetic, resilient to stress, patient, and supportive.
What is customer support?
As you can see, customer support is just a part of customer service. This term describes the set of actions aimed at fixing specific issues a client faces while dealing with a company’s product or service. It’s widely used in the IT-sphere, eCommerce, and Saas, where a specific department using particular platforms offers users comprehensive technical assistance with any problems with the software.
It can be provided in different forms:
- Emails with tips or advice
- Support tickets
- Phone calls
- Texting in messengers
- Chatbot support
What concerns its term, support is often quick and reactive. Most often, customers demand their problems be solved as fast as possible. They contact support agents who simply find a solution. Then the specialists either fix the problem themselves or guide the users through certain steps they should accomplish.
So the whole process can be divided into three stages:
- Encountering a problem
- Contacting an agent
- Finding resolution
What are common customer support activities?
- Assisting users with installation, maintenance, upgrades, and disposal of software
- Real-time problem-solving via live chat, chatbots, or email
- Undertaking product research and documentation
- Creating supporting resources: FAQs and help manuals
- Taking part in product development
- Organizing usability testing
What is a good support agent?
In comparison with customer service professionals, support specialists should be experts in their sphere. Their key characteristics are fast speed, technical professionalism, product expertise, high emotional intelligence, flexibility, and adaptability. To provide good customer service and increase customer satisfaction, agents should also be empathetic, caring, and quick-thinking.
What is customer care?
The major difference between customer care and the other two terms is that it represents another part of customer service that is more personalized and related to forming an emotional connection with a client.
Its primary goal is to establish rapport and friendly relationships with consumers built on trust, respect, and loyalty.
Its term lasts not as long as the entire buyer lifecycle and comprises of the following stages:
- Initial contact: a person reaches an agent to ask for assistance.
- Interaction with a specialist: search for a proper solution; guidance for fixing a problem; answering questions.
- Post-interaction activities: a person decides whether to continue using the service or not.
It may seem that customer care is very similar to customer support but that’s not true. It’s more than just a short period of time when a client asks for help and receives a quick response. It’s about building an emotional connection and going beyond a company’s needs. Customer care is all about clients, their wishes, emotions, thoughts, and needs. It helps to grow really strong customer loyalty, making them see a human behind a support agent, who they can trust.
What are common customer service team activities?
- Providing kind and helpful assistance and amazing customer experience
- Active listening and trying to do everything possible to increase customer satisfaction
- Offering products and services at beneficial for a client price
- Granting discounts and benefits
- Personalized approach to each client
What is a good customer care agent?
Not every support specialist can be good at customer care. It requires strong communication skills, being resilient to stress, and being able to find common ground with different personalities. The person must be attentive, caring, extremely empathic, and be willing to sacrifice the needs of the client and the company in favor of the client. It’s a really hard task because working with people, agents often have to deal with problematic situations and angry visitors that require a special approach.
Customer service vs. customer support vs. customer care: a comparison table
Serves to assist clients on their customer journey.
Serves to provide technical assistance with products and services.
Assists clients to get a more positive experience and build an emotional connection with a brand.
Involves long-term interactions
Involves only short-term interactions
Involves both short and long interactions
Proactive and reactive responses
Applies to every company
Applies to some companies
Applies to every company
Only soft skills
Tech and soft skills
Mostly soft skills
Tips for excellent customer service/support
Hire experienced professionals
When forming your customer support team, it’s essential to employ the right people. How to understand that they are the “right ones?”
- Pay great attention to their soft skills: positive communication, empathy, active listening, understanding, problem-solving, effective stress management, the ability to find common ground, etc.
- Look through their employment history: have they had any problems with conflict management and communication with other people?
- Organize a stress test
Provide the right tools for your team
Along with having a team of skilled specialists, you should provide them with all the necessary tools and equipment for effective and productive work with clients. Such tools are going to make their work much easier and help serve customers much faster.
What they are:
- Various communication channels: phone, email, messengers, etc.
- Modern technical equipment
- Apps for good customer service and support: services for online meetings, cooperative platforms to keep in touch with colleagues and clients, chatbots assistance.
Listen to clients’ feedback
No one can be a better source of information about your business than your customers. They are the ones who deal with your final products, test your services, and spread the word about your brand. So it’s crucial to listen to their reviews and feedback that can help to provide personalized customer service. Thankfully, there are a great number of social media where you can find all this information:
- Social networks: monitor your accounts, read comments and reviews, and don’t forget to reply.
- Google: analyze search results, look through the reviews on Google Maps, and check the traffic on Google Analytics.
- Web search: visit popular websites, which post articles about successful businesses, services, platforms and find there the information about your company.
Help your customers help themselves
According to statistics from SuperOffice, 40% of consumers prefer self-service support over human interaction. Nowadays, when everyone has access to the Internet, clients prefer to search for the answers on their own. Only if the search is not helpful, they will try to consult customer service representatives. That’s why your website should include a special page where users can easily help themselves - FAQs, manuals, how-to guides. Keep in mind that if they won’t be able to find such a page, there will be a high chance that they prefer a competitor over you.
Provide templates for customer service teams
A good support specialist is fast and able to find a solution within a couple of minutes. To ensure they correspond with this characteristic, you can prepare several templates on how to behave in different situations and deal with various types of consumers.
What can be helpful:
- Live chat templates
- Ticketing templates
- Email templates (business correspondence and emails to clients)
- Help desk templates
- Phone call templates
Furthermore, you can use chatbots. They are very convenient in dealing with common issues that don’t require human assistance.
Stick to the highest standards and the quickest responses
When people contact a customer service representative for advice or to solve a problem together, they expect, above all, a human attitude, understanding, and a quick solution. Therefore, it is crucial to monitor the tone of communication between employees and customers, the speed of response, and the choice of the most appropriate solution to the problem situation of concern.
What is more, a person who contacts a customer service agent has no time for long conversations. They expect to receive a quick and clear solution right away, not in a week, a month, or even five minutes.
What can you do to offer good customer service?
- Track the amount of time a particular employee spends responding to a certain person.
- Motivate the team to solve the problem during the first call (first-call resolution).
- Reward with bonuses the employee with the highest number of first-call resolutions.
Keep up the good work
Remember that there is always a place for improvements, even with great customer service. Still, some troublesome situations may happen again and your customer support team should come prepared. With a rich experience in resolving challenging customer issues, dealing with difficult clients, and offering the best customer service possible, familiar cases will be solved in a flash. But what about unfamiliar and unclear situations?
You can try the following:
- Hold training sessions, masterclasses, and webinars to develop the soft skills of your team
- Improve as you go: track and fix any problems right on the moment they arise
- Motivate your support professionals to work more efficiently: provide benefits for personal achievements, hold contests like "The best agent of the month", and the classics - payrise.
- Establish a healthy working atmosphere based on trust and honesty, where every employee can share their failures and successes, challenges and favorite tasks, and tell funny stories about people who contacted them.
3 best apps for boosting customer satisfaction
Now when you clearly understand the key components of customer service, let’s have a look at some useful tools that can perfectly complement any support team.
As its official website says, Zendesk is the champion of customer service. Its software is highly popular among international support teams, thanks to a great number of useful features to assist customers. This service is a robust all-in-one solution for many organizations searching for an advanced and efficient tool for managing relationships with their audience.
The service offers:
- Integrated customer support
- Knowledge base and smart self-service options
- Various communication means support: live chat, instant messaging, social media, email, voice calls
- AI-powered bots
- Convenient voice software
- Integrated help center and community forum
- Advanced agent workspace with 1000+ built-in integrations
Freshdesk is another popular help desk solution that can boast of being user-friendly and affordable. It’s a cloud-based platform designed to help businesses provide excellent customer service. It includes a great number of communication channels: phone calls, emails, real-time messaging, and social media.
Its key features are the following:
- Advanced ticketing: team inbox, collision detection, smart notifications, merging tickets, activity log
- Collaboration: parent-child ticketing, ticket invites, tasks splitting
- AI-powered automation
- A fully customizable widget for customers
- Built-in integrations: WhatsApp, Slack, Shopify, Salesforce
Whoosh is the latest app for virtual collaboration. It can be used both for dealing with clients and for communication within a company. It’s quite different from other customer services since it's mostly aimed at hosting online video meetings. The developers see their major goal in popularizing calls with the camera on. They want to help people who feel a lack of face-to-face communication due to the global pandemic and have to talk with others only on the web. That’s why this app is ideal for providing outstanding customer care. It allows seeing customers and their emotions and offering real-time help.
What we like about it:
- AI-powered tools: gesture, mood, emotions recognition, scheduling assistant
- Smart cloud recording for storing and analyzing clients’ cases
- Full-HD video and audio quality
- Integrations with other platforms
- Everything for engaging collaboration: instant messaging, screen sharing
- 100% secured communication: end-to-end encryption, meeting host controls
- Compatible with any mobile device, tablet, laptop, and desktop
What does customer service mean to you?
"A complaint is a chance to turn a customer into a lifelong friend." - Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic Founder.
These words perfectly describe the major goal of customer service/support/care. Without providing your clientele with quality assistance, there will be no harmony in business. Even with a blurred line between these three concepts, it’s important to offer all of them to deliver high-quality service, an enjoyable experience, and only positive emotions to each of your clients.
By gathering a team of professionals with excellent soft skills and rich experience, providing them with modern tools and equipment, encouraging them to build trust and rapport with any person they meet, no matter how hard dealing with them can be, one day you’ll be rewarded with a large and loyal audience.