Effective customer service is a key part of any successful business strategy. In recent years, customers have started using digital communication tools to give companies feedback about products. As a result, numerous new customer service tools have been created. Therefore, it has become a necessity for companies to offer multiple channels for customer service.
Customer service is the support a company offers to its customers. Support begins during the purchasing process and usually extends past the purchasing date. During the purchasing process, companies provide customers with information about services they sell to help them make informed decisions.
Offering excellent customer service is important for businesses looking to grow their brand loyalty and maintain their customer base. Successful companies create an environment where customers feel comfortable coming to customer service agents for assistance. When customers are confident that they will receive the help they need, they’re more likely to repeat purchases. Furthermore, they are more likely to become advocates for your company and recommend your brand to others.
With the increasing use of digital communication tools, many companies have started offering customer support on various platforms. Beyond the telephone, customers can now find support via email, webchat, text message and even on social media. There are many tools to help companies provide customers with the help they need. However, there are two basic types of customer service: proactive and reactive.
Proactive Customer Service
This type of customer service is about identifying and resolving issues before they escalate and become problems. They focus on customer success and for that reason, the majority of consumers prefer proactive support. In fact, about 68% say that proactive customer service improves their perception of a brand.
Advantages of Proactive Customer Service:
- Higher customer loyalty and a better service experience
- Lower volume of issues and requests
- Trust and strong customer relationships
Disadvantages of Proactive Customer Service:
- Annoying to some customers
You can deliver proactive customer service by solving an issue in advance or providing self-help resources.
Proactive Customer Service Types:
- Live chat
Reactive Customer Service
Reactive service comes after a customer files a complaint, experiences a problem or feels generally dissatisfied. Reactive support is usually more stressful as support agents are dealing with negatively charged people. It also makes a less positive impact on the customer experience and brand perception.
Advantages of Reactive Customer Service:
- Helps to identify frequent issues
- Can help with customer retention
Disadvantages of Reactive Customer Service:
- More workload for support agents
- May increase the churn rate
Types of Customer Service
Walk-in service departments
This type of customer service is slow and inconvenient for people who have to visit the physical storefront in order to get their concerns addressed. However, one-on-one customer service interactions can be practical when it comes to building a rapport with your customers. Your can get the opportunity to have a meaningful conversation, know a customer better and get feedback in real-time.
On the contrary, in-person interactions can sometimes require to offer a solution to an angry customer right away. In fact, a single customer case can take up the majority of your time – leading to a delay in the work you were scheduled to do.
Advantages of Walk-In Customer Service:
- Have face-to-face interactions with customers and understand their problems better
- Win the trust of your customers as well as prospects
- Get the opportunity to recommend other similar products and increase sales
- Get non-verbal cues from customers (eye contact, gestures, facial expressions, etc.)
Disadvantages of Walk-In Customer Service:
- Maintaining a separate in-house customer service section can be time-consuming and expensive
- That space can be instead utilized for selling more products
- Having an “only physical help section” makes your business appear outdated
Telephone support is a classic way of offering customer service and probably the oldest customer service type. Moreover, a phone conversation remains a powerful way to solve problems. In fact, around 61% of US customers prefer phone as their go-to channel to resolve customer service issues. To receive telephone support, customers call agents on the phone to ask questions and explain their problems verbally. This allows them to describe complicated situations with ease. Furthermore, support agents can resolve complex issues faster and deliver detailed, personalized support.
However, there are some challenges in telephone support processes. For example, poor cellular service that can lead to dropped calls or limited staff availability that can lead to long wait times. Furthermore, it can be expensive when it comes to customer service. However, with the right software you can get valuable insights. For example, the number of calls, full customer history, call recording and other time-saving tools.
This type of customer service works great for online businesses and companies who value personal connections with customers. It also works for businesses and institutions that handle complex cases. The phone will allow them to instantly answer all the questions the customer may have. In addition, it is ideal for B2B or B2C sectors that deal with high-priority or sensitive requests.
Advantages of Phone Customer Service:
- Deliver a personalized experience to each customer
- Customers can interact with an agent and get the right solution in real-time
- Improve your chances of First Contact Resolution (FCR)
- Offer automated call back feature to interact with customers at their convenience
- Takes less time than typing or email exchange
- Easy to use for different generations
- More natural human-to-human interaction
Disadvantages of Phone Customer Service:
- Long hold times can decrease the customer experience
- Customer service agents cannot handle multiple calls at the same time
- Phone support requires intensive agent training
- Heavily dependent on the quality of reception
- Possible high charges for international customers
- Time-consuming and frustrating operator transfers
This support is ideal for customers who want to access information easily and answer their question on their own. Furthermore, this type of customer service is inexpensive and require zero wait time from a customer. However, information should be well organized including videos, images and step by step procedures. In addition, it should be kept up-to-date with the terms and policies of the company.
Self-service is a great fit for businesses who get common service requests. For example, refund and exchange requests, questions related to product configurations, billing requests etc. Self-service support primarily exists in the form of frequently asked questions (FAQs) published on a company’s website. Furthermore, it can include chatbots, knowledge base articles, product guides, video tutorials and more.
Self-service is ideal for customers who wish to get relevant help with minimum efforts. Over 60% of US customers prefer an automated self-service portal, such as a website or mobile app, for simple queries. By letting customers help themselves, you can reduce customer friction while also improving efficiency and delivering faster resolutions. Taking that into account, every business should include some sort of self-serve customer service solution.
To make the most of this type of customer service, your support agents need to know your customers’ needs and typical questions they have. You’ll also need to ensure a great UX and SEO of your self-service sites. The goal of such a customer service solution is for your customers to find your blog or knowledge base quickly and easily. Customer self-service works well for any industry. However, it could be more useful to companies that offer a wide range of services or complicated products. It’s also a good option for public institutions that deal with many regulations and formalities.
Advantages of Self-Service Knowledge Base:
- Be available to both existing customers as well as prospects 24×7
- Reduce your support ticket volume significantly
- Allow agents to focus on more important customer issues
- Create a multilingual knowledge base to cater to customers from different parts of the world
- Combines various resources
- Low maintenance (in case of infrequent product changes)
Disadvantages of Self-Service Knowledge Base:
- It might be difficult for customers to locate relevant information
- You will have to update your existing help content or add new pages constantly
- Impossible to cover solutions for all customer problems or requests
- The different writing styles and knowledge of contributors can lead to inconsistent documents
- High maintenance (in case of frequent product changes)
- Labor-intensive in case of a complex product
This type of customer service is provided in person, at the home or workplace of the customer. Companies use on-site support to provide repairs and troubleshooting services to customers with technological issues or consulting needs. The biggest advantage of offering on-site support is that it allows agents to interact with customers on a more personal basis. Which can help them build stronger customer relationships to make repeat business more likely.
This type of customer service is very convenient for customers as it’s delivered to their door. A customer service representative arrives at the customer’s site to deliver a service in person. However, this type of customer service is not convenient for the company, though. It requires close collaboration between the customer service team and an on-site service representative.
Furthermore, on-site customer service is usually very expensive. You will have to worry about aspects such as hiring remote professionals, their training, travel expenses and more. However, certain products require the physical presence of an assistant when something goes wrong. On-site customer service can involve tasks such as installing a product at the site, annual maintenance or product repairs.
Advantages of On-Site Customer Service:
- On-site customer service acts as a more convenient option for customers
- Real-time service can lead to better problem resolution
- Serves as the last resort when all other channels have failed
- Customers can check the authenticity of parts being replaced
- Field expertise display
- Natural face-to-face interactions
Disadvantages of On-Site Customer Service:
- Visiting the customer’s location can prove to be time-consuming
- On-site service is quite expensive and cannot be offered to all customers
- Agents have to be trained in multiple customer service areas such as technical support, etc.
- Agents can get frustrated due to unpredictable working hours and location
- Requires an on-location support team
One-on-one customer service makes sense only when on-site presence is necessary. B2B/B2C services such as appliance repairs and inspection would be hard to deliver over the phone or any other medium.
Live chat support
This tool is very popular because it satisfies customer’s need to get their issues quickly resolve. For instance, customers usually reach service agents within a matter of seconds with live chat. Furthermore, the instant and web-based format usually means customers can multitask when wait times do occur.
Customers can use live chat support to instant message a service agent on a company’s website. As a result, agents provide them with solutions and answer questions. Moreover, customers can search within the chat widget to find answers to their queries. One way to provide such type of direct customer service is by implementing live chat on your company’s website.
According to research conducted by Forrester, customer service provided by live chat is 17-30% cheaper than a phone call. The reason is simple – the phone does not allow you to manage multiple customers simultaneously. When you compare the various customer service options, live chat offers the fastest response times to customers.
Advantages of Live Chat Customer Service:
- Assist customers in real-time when they are shopping and increase sales
- Agents can handle multiple customer chats at the same time
- Easily integrate upselling and cross-selling opportunities
- Canned responses to automate repetitive replies
- Web chat conversation archive
- Proactive customer service
- Website integration and high customization
- Integration with various third-party apps
- No frustrating operator transfers
Disadvantages of Live Chat Customer Service:
- Chat replies can often feel scripted and robotic to customers
- You are required to offer a solution to the customer almost immediately
- The use of emoticons or slangs by customers can prevent a meaningful conversation
- Faster than email but slower than a phone chat
This service is greatly appreciated by users who avoid human interaction. A customer can make queries and get responses even in the middle of a purchase. Customers from a different time zone don’t have to wait for a business to start their working hours to report an issue because live chat offers round-the-clock accessibility.
According to a survey of digital, 73% of people prefer to live chat support whereas 61% of people prefer emails. Finally, only 44% of people likes telephonic interaction to the service. You can add live chat to your online store by downloading plugins, such as Zendesk Chat, Pure Chat and LiveChat.
Consider live chat for your customer service if you:
- Have an online business
- Prefer to stay closer to your customers
- Want cost-efficient but premium customer service
Messaging and chat support
Chatbots are useful virtual assistants. They can answer customers’ questions, collect feedback and much more. If a chatbot is unable to resolve a customer issue, a customer is routed to relevant agents or teams. However, despite the popularity and cost-saving benefits, conversations with chatbots lack a human touch.
For consumers, the most significant benefit of chatbots is that they can receive support 24/7. Customers also don’t have to interact with anyone to get their issues solved. Businesses love messaging for the same reasons as customers: it’s fast, convenient, personal, and secure.
Lately, all sorts of businesses have been adopting chatbot technology, including B2B and B2C ones. The top five industries profiting from the use of chatbots are real estate (28%), travel (16%), education (14%), healthcare (10%), and finance (5%). But chatbots will also work incredibly well for other businesses.
Advantages of Chatbot Customer Service:
- Be available to customers even when your team is offline
- Schedule meetings with customer service or sales teams
- Automatically share links to relevant self-help articles, videos, etc.
- Improve your chatbot function over time by adding more questions and answers
- 24/7 customer support
- Zero customer wait-time
- Reduced number of queries to solve
Disadvantages of Chatbot Customer Service:
- Chatbots can offer only limited responses to customers
- Robotic responses can frustrate customers and force them to speak with an agent
- AI-powered chatbots can be expensive for your business
- Limited in independent query solving
- Conversation design requires logical thinking
- Chatbot conversations often lack empathy and personalization
Email is the classic and common way customers communicate with companies. With the right email management software, email can be one of the easiest ways to organize, prioritize and delegate customer support interactions in one place. While email support is often a little slower than live chat support, it still provides customers with numerous options. For example, to contact service agents through a text-based format without directly interacting with another human.
This helps customers document important information, explain themselves clearly and avoid time-consuming efforts to receive support. In fact, customers consider email as a more trustworthy and professional channel. In addition, it’s inexpensive way to communicate to your consumers and your agents get more time to respond. However, email customer service challenge is that after a point in time it becomes difficult to keep track of every single email. In such a case, you can adopt customer email management software to ensure their proper tracking.
Advantages of Email Customer Service:
- Record and document customer conversations over a period of time
- Add a professional touch to your customer service using email signatures
- Automated email notifications to update customers about the status of their issue
- Easily attach relevant images, videos, docs, or other files
- Canned responses for repetitive customer questions
- Customized email designs
Disadvantages of Email Customer Service:
- Delayed email responses can make customers feel frustrated
- Keeping track of emails can get challenging
- Typing long replies can be time-consuming
- Lack of real-time human-to-human interaction
- Difficult to personalize experiences
- Difficult to read emotions
- Easy to miss
Nowadays, 4.3 billion people all over the world use email. According to the Radicati Group, there are almost 3.2 billion email users in the world who send 269 billion emails every day. Accordingly, your customers choose email customer service because they believe it’s the fastest way to resolve their issues. Businesses that provide this type of customer support must remember to respond not later than within 24 hours.
Email customer service is a good option for companies with a large pool of foreign customers. That’s because their customers can send their queries at any time of the day or night. In addition, it is appropriate for companies who deal with risky or sensitive issues. Agents may be unable to resolve them instantly and need more time to find solutions.
Social media support
Social media is no longer a platform that is limited to social interactions between friends and families. In fact, it is one of the most popular digital tools used for communication across the globe. And companies have adapted it to serve as a powerful channel for customer service.
To make use of social media you have to constantly monitor all of the available channels. The best way to do that is to have a person on your customer support team dedicated to resolving social media queries. Moreover, to use a proper social media monitoring software that will notify you whenever someone mentions your brand or product.
Social media is an excellent choice for online businesses as companies can interact with their audiences in various ways. To respond faster to direct messages, they can integrate live chat with the platform of their choice, like Zendesk. According to statistics, around 20% of US customers demand an immediate response to their social media questions or complaints. And live chat integration, coupled with chatbots, will speed up chats, bookings and orders.
Advantages of Social Media Customer Service:
- Customers can reach you right from their most-used social media apps
- Share proactive messages to update customers about downtime
- Allow customers to help each other by creating community pages
- Share customer service success stories and enhance brand reputation
- Integration with live chat apps
Disadvantages of Social Media Customer Service:
- Negative customer reviews or comments can impact brand reputation
- For large businesses, it becomes difficult to track every single social media mention
- In most cases, the solution has to be shared on another channel
- Customers can share tweets or posts at any time of the day, even when your team is not available
Social media platform is used by many companies to advertise their businesses and make people aware of their services. However, it is also used to provide support to the customers. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram are the most famous social media platform to provide help to customers. By providing timely help, you can show your potential customers that you genuinely care for them.
Interactive voice support is an automated telephone system that interacts with customers through dial pad, keypad or voice requests. Based on the inputs provided by the customer, IVR systems can understand their problem and offer the correct information. It is a great way for companies to support customers with very simple questions without needing to have actual agents present.
IVR can handle basic customer requests with ease. For example, when a customer calls to confirm an appointment, the IVR might ask for the customer ID and offer the requested information. A thoughtfully created IVR can improve the customer journey. However, improper implementation can spoil the whole purpose and lead to frustrated and unhappy customers.
Interactive voice systems can be updated frequently to store relevant information that customers are looking for. Hence, support agents can focus on resolving issues that the voice support can’t handle. The fundamental challenge of using interactive voice systems is that customers aren’t interacting with an actual human. That means they will sometimes be redirected or put on hold many times. However, this can be avoid by designing interactive voice systems that allow customers to request help from a live agent when necessary.
Advantages of IVR Customer Service:
- IVR is available 24/7/365 to assist customers with their queries
- It can make your business appear more professional
- It can improve the call traffic flow by routing customers to relevant agents
- Your agents get the time to focus on more pressing issues
Disadvantages of IVR Customer Service:
- Limited IVR options can be frustrating for the customers
- IVR requires a heavy upfront investment
- Complex customer issues cannot be solved using IVR
- Frequent changes in the IVR menu can confuse customers
Video Customer Service
Video is becoming one of the most powerful types of customer service. Live video sessions can help you offer technical support, product demonstrations or simply understand the challenges faced by a customer. However, videos don’t have to be live.
You can record tailored walkthroughs and demonstrations and share them via social media, help center or other channels. This will allow customers to access the support videos anytime and replay segments to apply the troubleshooting steps better. To become a brand that is known for personalized customer service, you can even record thank you videos for customers and appreciate them for being loyal to your business.
Advantages of Video Customer Service:
- Schedule online video meetings in seconds
- Uploading support videos online can help you reduce your ticket volume
- Personalized, one-on-one interactions
- Easily share recorded videos on social media, help center or other channels
Disadvantages of Video Customer Service:
- Not suitable for an audience that isn’t tech-savvy
- Low internet speed or poor connection can decrease the support experience
- Creating interactive videos for every common issue can prove to be expensive
- Live video sessions are prone to distractions
FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions
This type of customer service requires the least amount of investment. FAQ page can be created on official website or App as well as on the social media platforms. A person who prepares FAQ must have deep knowledge about the company’s services and the company’s policies. In addition, the FAQ page is also helpful to convert potential customers.
Annual Maintenance Contract (AMC)
Annual Maintenance Contract is also one of the modern ways of providing services to customers. It is the best way to maintain customers loyalty to the organization. Many organizations provide free of cost or at a minimal charges AMC to the customers who buy their products. This way, they can stay in touch with customers. AMC can be provided to the customers free of cost before their warranty or contract expires. After the contract expires customers can be asked to renew the contract or get the paid services.
As seen above, there are various types of customer service your business can offer. The best kind of customer service is more than just the types of communication channels on which customers can contact your company. In reality, the type of customer service you offer should be empowered to deliver proactive service on any channel.
Nowadays, proactive engagement is becoming a crucial type of customer service. It means identifying your customers’ issues and resolving them before they reach out. This can be done through FAQs and self-service pages to emailing your customer about a specific matter.
The types of customer service you choose will depend upon numerous factors. Such as the demographics of your target audience, their interests, your company’s budget, team size and more. It’s best to mix speed, convenience, personalization and self-service to create an excellent customer service for your brand. For example, start with live chat. It’s economic, offers the best of all worlds and gives you the flexibility of downsizing or scaling in accordance with your business requirements.
To choose the best types of customer service for your business, you can always directly ask your customers. Find the channels that work best for them and build your customer service options around these channels. In addition, keep an eye out on emerging channels. Adopt those that gain popularity among new customers and save the company’s time and money. Be proactive and solve issues before they escalate. As a result, it will improve your brand reputation and customer satisfaction metrics.