Chat support, phone support, email support, self-service … choosing the right types of customer service and the right communication methods for your business can seem like a daunting task.
After all, looking after customers is vital to every business. If your customers don’t receive quality service, they won’t return, and if they don’t come back then your business is sure to suffer.
Communication between businesses and consumers has come a long way in the past few decades. Email, self-service, social media, and chatbots have replaced letter writing and call center snags. And as technology advances, so too do the many new and user-friendly types of customer service available. During the first year of the pandemic, 64% of customers surveyed had used a new support channel, with 73% planning to continue using it.
The Internet and social media have been great levelers, giving the consumer as much of a voice as any company or service provider. And as consumers have become savvier about what they need from companies, their expectations have changed. Most people are far less likely to tolerate slow or inaccurate responses to their concerns—and who can blame them?
Customers expect that when they have questions, concerns, or issues with a product or service, their problems will be resolved quickly and effectively. This underlines how important it is for businesses to provide the best possible customer service, via the most convenient channels, in order to create a positive relationship between their brand and their customers.
What are the different types of customer service, and which types of businesses are they best suited for? In this article, we will examine the main types of customer service and discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each.
1. Phone Support
Phone support is one of the original types of customer service. In its most basic form, it involves taking calls from customers and answering any questions they may have about products and other deals your business offers.
Connecting over the phone can be an incredibly powerful tool for relationship building. It allows you to interact directly with your customers, get to know their needs and concerns, develop trust, and establish a rapport. Moreover, they will likely come away with a greater sense of satisfaction having worked through their issues with a real person.
Further, phone support helps your business's marketing efforts, providing feedback and other important information which can be used to improve your product. And while it’s simple for customers to search for a business on their smartphone, there’s a good chance they will still want to contact you directly to ask about a specific product or other information.
Unfortunately, phone support hasn’t earned the best reputation over the years, with many consumers reporting bad call center incidents or being left for hours waiting for the next available operator. These customers often come away from the experience with a greatly diminished regard for the company.
Another disadvantage is that phone support takes time away from other important aspects of running your business. In this scenario, you may also need to hire additional staff to handle the volume of calls you receive.
Some businesses will choose to not offer phone support. Inevitably, this will lead to a number of disgruntled customers who insist on being able to speak in real time with a live person. Phone support is where customers turn when they need to escalate communication which began on another channel. In fact, when it comes to more complicated issues, four out of ten people prefer speaking to a real person over the phone.
On balance, phone support is a good option for all businesses. The question you should be asking is not so much “do I need phone support?” as “how much phone support do I need?” If you are a relatively small business, in-office staff might be able to field all of your customer support needs. However, in the case of larger businesses, or if your employees might be away from the phones for any length of time, then an outsourcing solution might be your best bet.
Recommended for: All businesses
2. Email Support
Email is one of the most widely used communication channels globally, as well as being a mainstay of customer service. According to a Twilio study, 83% of consumers worldwide prefer receiving email communications from businesses.
What makes email one of the preferred types of customer service? Email support is an extremely convenient, accessible, and time-saving path to problem resolution. It’s especially helpful for customers who would rather not use phone support—they may be busy during the day, working late hours, or otherwise preoccupied.
Email is also great for customers who have a question or concern that is not urgent and doesn’t have to be resolved immediately. Further, email correspondence leaves behind a “paper trail” for both customers and businesses, making it easy to track service issues while improving efficiency.
The main downside to email support is that it can be quite slow. Even though customers may choose email when their issues are not urgent, they still expect a timely response. And the longer they wait, the more likely it is that trust in your brand will be lost.
Like phone support, email support is a critical service offering for all businesses. However, it’s also vital that these businesses have sufficient support staff available to reply promptly to their customers.
Recommended for: All businesses
3. Chat Support
Chat support is fast gaining ground on email, phone support, and other types of customer service. Little wonder, as it’s one of the quickest and most efficient communication methods around. Chat features come in two forms: live chat and chat bots.
Live chat is a one-on-one conversation between a customer and a human agent. It’s great for solving minor issues such as product questions and returns, order changes, shipping delays, etc.
An important advantage of live chat is that customers can communicate with a human being, asking questions and getting answers in real-time. In fact, a benchmark survey of 2,000 consumers found that live chat had a customer satisfaction level of 73%, against 61% for email support and 44% for conventional phone support.
The downside of live chat is that it doesn’t scale well, making it difficult to manage large volumes of chats at the same time. In this scenario, there are likely to be poor quality interactions and long wait times, which are bound to upset customers.
Chat bots are automated programs that answer specific questions from customers, who can interact with them via text messaging or voice calls. A chat bot provides the quickest way to answer customer queries about products, services, pricing, and other information. They’re best suited to resolving simple issues, as more complex problems require higher-level interactions between both parties.
In addition to answering customer queries, chat bots can also act as salespeople. Each interaction provides an opportunity to learn about customers’ needs and interests. This knowledge can then be used to recommend products and services that match those needs and interests.
Live chat and chat bots can be used together for greater effect. For instance, a customer may interact with a chat bot and the chat bot can determine if live chat is needed to resolve the issue.
Recommended for: Businesses that primarily operate online. Chat support is also good for businesses that want to interact with customers in real-time, and provide a speedy and/or personalized response to each customer query.
The DIY approach is an increasingly popular customer service option. Self-service involves giving customers the tools they need to find answers to their questions—and fast! An online survey by the CMO Council found that a fast response time was rated the most important aspect of a good customer experience.
Customers aren’t the only ones who love self-service. The advantages are clear for businesses too, who are able to provide 24-hour-support through a website or app that doesn’t need to be manned by multiple company representatives. All that’s required is the resources, delivered via text, images, or video, to guide customers through whatever issue it is that they may be experiencing.
Self-service options include knowledge bases with FAQs, tutorials, troubleshooting tips, and access to online discussion forums. They also facilitate administrative tasks, such as updating contact information and resetting passwords.
While this sounds like an easy and straightforward customer service solution, keep in mind it should not be used as a business’ sole source of customer support. These types of customer service should rather be regarded as an “add-on” option.
Recommended for: Businesses looking to enhance their existing customer support options.
5. Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media have evolved to become essential tools for personal communication across the globe. At the same time, companies have recognized the value of social media in providing their clients with excellent customer support services.
Based on the number of active users alone, social media is an impossible channel to ignore in the world of customer support. For instance, Facebook’s most recent report puts the number of monthly active users at 2.85 billion!
The main advantage of customer service via social media is that it allows businesses to interact with people in the spaces where they are already active. It’s also the ideal platform for businesses to provide up-to-date communication about changes to their schedules, delays in service, or other pertinent information that customers might need. In addition, a robust social media presence makes it much easier for customers to reach out with comments and queries, and for companies to respond promptly and proactively.
However, despite all these positive elements, there are also some stark disadvantages to this form of customer support. In order for it to work seamlessly, customer support agents must constantly monitor all a business’ social media pages. Customer support is already a full-time commitment and adding to this the constant monitoring of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram can be too much for many companies to handle on their own.
Furthermore, public comments regarding concerns and issues about a product or service may harm your brand’s reputation, especially if you’re not there to deal with the issue immediately.
Recommended for: Businesses that wish to expand their reach or build an online presence. Social media support is also recommended for businesses aiming to forge closer connections with their customers.
6. Omnichannel Customer Service Solutions
Omnichannel customer support allows for the seamless integration of multiple channels into one cohesive experience. It involves creating a single point of contact for customers to interact with your business via email, phone, chat, social media, etc. This type of customer support requires a lot of planning and careful implementation, so it is most often handled by outsourcing companies that are equipped to manage the task.
In addition to having a unified customer experience across all channels, omnichannel customer support helps your business manage customer expectations by providing consistent messaging and information across all channels.
This type of customer service is ideal for businesses that have more than one location or offer products and services over multiple channels.
Recommended for: Businesses that want to improve their overall customer satisfaction and loyalty. Omnichannel customer support is also useful for businesses that have a large number of employees or offer complex products or services.
Customer Service With Helpware
Choosing the right types of customer service for your business is crucial to ensuring its continued success and profitability. Understanding your customers, where they are, and what they want, is a key part of this.
Optimizing customer services likely means expanding your support channels while also keeping them running smoothly and consistently. This is a big ask for many businesses and highlights the many benefits of outsourcing to a trusted partner.
Helpware offers modern business process outsourcing to help any type of business maximize the effectiveness of its support channels and provide a truly transformative digital customer experience. Whether it is back-office operations, customer service, IT, or HR, Helpware has the experts ready to take on any challenge.
Talk with us today to learn how outsourcing with Helpware can take your business to the next level.