Customer service and customer support might seem like interchangeable terms, but they represent different activities. The former involves providing value with the aim of improving relationships. Customer support has more to do with straightforward assistance and resolving any issues that might occur with the product or service.
Sometimes, the terms can overlap. Both are critical to the overall customer experience. Both utilize certain communication tools, skills, and techniques. Ultimately, customer service and customer support achieve the same goal. However, it’s important to know what the terms involve and what sets them apart. This is key to building an effective strategy.
Let’s start by taking a look at the core aspects of customer service and customer support.
Provides existing answers and solutions (FAQs, auto-responder emails, chatbots, etc.)
Increases the value derived from the product or service
Guides buyers through the customer journey
Concerned with customer satisfaction
Staff in this department mostly utilize soft skills
Used in any industry that serves customers
Customer Support Fundamentals
Direct assistance (technical support, troubleshooting, call centers, etc.)
Reactive response to issues
Concerned with product or service delivery
Staff in this department use a combination of hard (technical) skills and soft skills
Mostly used in tech and e-commerce
We can now see that customer service is about the customer, while customer support focuses on the product or service. But what does that look like in the real world? Let’s clear things up with two basic examples:
Customer service representatives in a clothing store will locate, recommend, and upsell products. They might also ring the customer up or help with an exchange. It’s a transactional relationship that aims to guide the buyer through their purchase as smoothly as possible.
Customer support agents who work for an online retailer respond to emails or calls made by shoppers who require assistance. They might follow up on a return or send feedback to the product team. Not only do they use customer service skills, but they also communicate with relevant internal departments to improve the experience.
What exactly these terms involve will differ depending on the business and industry.
The Role of Customer Service
Customer service takes place at all stages of the sale. Its primary purpose is to solve the common, less technical problems experienced by customers. All interactions between a business and the customer can be part of the customer service process if there’s an opportunity to improve relations or enhance the experience.
A customer service agent provides both reactive and proactive assistance. They’re focused on engaging customers and offering education or recommendations. They can also provide strategic advice in order to bring a customer closer to making a purchase or increasing their involvement with the business.
Customer service agents utilize their soft skills to answer queries and onboard new customers while following up on existing ones. They might also collect feedback and perform tasks that go beyond providing assistance. The following are some key soft skills that a customer service agent should have.
Within the realm of customer service is customer support, which can be considered a more specialized activity.
The Role of Customer Support
Customer support includes a range of activities that revolve around assisting customers with the usage of a product or service, such as installation, purchasing, troubleshooting, maintenance, and returns. The term is most commonly used to define teams in tech companies, especially those with products that require ongoing assistance, such as SaaS.
Knowing the above, it makes sense that customer support agents require a more technical set of skills in addition to the above-mentioned soft skills. To provide a satisfactory service, agents need to have a deep understanding of what their company offers. Their job is made easier through the implementation of knowledge base documentation.
For example, the company can create help manuals and FAQs to ease the load. It’s not uncommon for customer support teams to collaborate with other departments like product development to enhance the customer experience by relaying feedback. Companies use KPIs (key performance indicators) to monitor and improve their customer support.
Delivering Better Customer Service
So, what makes a good customer service department? Consider the following factors.
Know the Product
Customer service agents need to be experts when it comes to what their company sells. They should believe in the product or service and understand it inside-out. They should be able to discuss the features and use cases in a simple way that anyone will understand. They should also know what to do when something goes wrong.
Keeping your cool when dealing with unhappy customers is no walk in the park, but it’s absolutely necessary to maintain a good image. This is why it’s important for customer service agents to have strong communication skills. They should also be familiar with the tone synonymous with their company.
Now more than ever, customers expect quick responses from companies when they have an issue. Resolving queries in a prompt and efficient manner is key to satisfactory service. It will also ensure that customer support doesn’t get overwhelmed with requests. That said, quality should remain a number one priority.
The best customer service departments treat their customers as individuals and not just numbers. The interaction should feel real and personal. Sometimes, going off script and adding something unique is all it takes to show customers that you care.
To identify areas for improvement, customer service agents need to look into the data and listen in real-time. This is key to effectively solving problems and finding ways to do it better. Paying attention also means being mindful of the customer’s issue and their emotional state, as well as their personality.
Both customer service and customer support have their place in any modern business. Done right, they can serve as valuable sources of insights into how the customer experience can be enhanced while building lasting relationships that increase sales and drive future growth.
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