Ana Khlystova
Jul 18, 2019 | 9 min read

Excuse me, do you have a moment to talk about our savior Customer Service?

Customer service definition

Business owners and customer service managers like to ask potential employees about what customer service means to them. The truth is, different people will give different answers to that question.

For some people, customer service simply means answering questions, while others will say it covers everything from greeting  new website visitors with personalized messages to monitoring whether users are employing all the features to their best potential. In this guide, we’ve tried to cover everything about online customer service, so let’s get right to the point.

Customer service is the term of many meanings (and synonyms, for that matter), but they can all be summarized in two words — helping customers. 

So, what is customer service?

Customer service is the help you provide to your customers regarding your product. It can mean something as simple as assistance with signing up or something like collecting feature requests and adding them to your roadmap.

In the most basic terms, your users can email you about some issue they have with your product and you answer them explaining how this issue can be fixed. That’s customer service right there. But it’s just the general concept as customer service will probably also include:

  • Onboarding new customers;
  • Maintaining your knowledge base portal;
  • Dealing with frustrated and churned users via various channels like emails, chats, social media;
  • Escalating technical issues and feature requests to the rest of the team;
  • Engaging customers proactively, etc.

Quick note!

Customer service has many other synonyms. There’s this big confusion around customer service, support, success, or care (have I forgotten anything here?). For the sake of clarity (and my inner peace), let’s look into these terms:

  • Customer support is a range of customer services to assist customers in making cost-effective and correct use of a product. It includes assistance in planning, installation, training, troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrading, and disposal of a product.
  • Customer success is a long-term, scientifically engineered, and professionally directed strategy for maximizing customer and company sustainable proven value.
  • Customer care means how well customers are taken care of while they interact with the brand.

I know, they all sound quite similar to me, too. 

Basically, all these terms are parts of a bigger picture of overall customer experience. And the role of customer service here is to make that experience unforgettable.

Why is customer service important?

The next big question is, why is customer service important? Why should I as a business owner invest in it and what do I get from it?

Well, the answer is EVERYTHING.

You need to understand that customer service is the only thing that connects you with your customers — those real people who use your products or services and yeah, need your help from time to time. And if you give them the best customer experience, you will also be the first to benefit from it:

1. Customer service is a great source of valuable customer feedback

Your active users are the best source of information about why your business is great and what it’s still missing. And customer service is the only way to gain access to that information. Support representatives are actually the only people that really talk to your users, know their goals and frustrations, and can pass this information to the rest of the team. 

You can never underrate the insights you gain from your customers. A true customer service oriented company values every thought and idea and reacts upon them as quickly as humanly possible.

  • Collect every request you get from customers into a spreadsheet.
  • Mark them with the corresponding tag within your customer service software.
  • Calculate how many times each feature has been asked about and differentiate the most popular ones.
  • Don’t forget about complaints, too. Collect all the common pitfalls to a separate doc and inform the responsible department about what needs to be fixed.
HelpCrunch

2. Customer service helps you increase your customer retention 

In the environment of fierce competition, exceptional customer service is something that will allow you to stand out. And even if users had some frustrations or setbacks using your product, they’d be willing to forgive you if your customer service team addresses them fast and resolves effectively. 

Basically, it means that if you manage to satisfy your customers’ needs, they will have no reason to leave your company. A satisfied customer is a retained customer, you can be sure of that. At the end of the day, good customer service is something that can save your reputation when nothing else can.

3. Customers are ready to pay more because of good customer service

HubSpot reports that 50% of customers are willing to buy more from a company if they had a positive customer service experience with it, while 86% would pay up to 25% more in order to get a better customer service experience.

Yes, customer support representatives can directly affect the number of upsells and cross-sells as they’re in the best position to pitch stuff to those who need it.

4. Customer service increases brand loyalty, which results in word-of-mouth endorsements and referrals 

If you meet your customers’ expectations, give them what they need on time and make them happy with the services you provide, you will earn something very valuable — people’s loyalty. 

The way to do so is through customer service, too. 

Customers not only expect the customer service associate to resolve their current issue, but they also have a level of blind trust in them. They’re receptive to employee recommendations or feelings toward a product. And this becomes even more powerful if the employee is able to solve their initial request.

MultiChannelMerchant

Having loyal customers is often overlooked by big companies, but at the end of the day, it’s one of the most powerful marketing channels for you. Loyal customers are those who will tell their friends about your business, mention you on their social media profiles and endorse you every time they have a chance to.

SaaS Growth Hacks

You can also offer your most loyal customers something extra to encourage all the recommendations – like affiliate campaigns, referral programs, or even special discounts.

Types of customer service

There are only two most common classifications of customer service — approach-based and channel-centric.

Approach-based classification of customer service

There are only two ways to do customer service — reactive and proactive.

Reactive customer service is the most basic way to do things. It means your support team reacts upon direct requests from users and visitors, provide them with all the necessary information and help while solving reported issues.

So, whenever someone emails you about a bug or asks how they can get a refund, you help them promptly and efficiently. That’s how reactive customer service works in basic terms.

But isn’t it just a regular type of customer service, you might ask?

Well, there’s another way to help people — more complicated, more time-consuming, but also way more rewarding.

Proactive customer service is the type of support when you initialize a dialogue with customers on your own before they ask for help. It requires more time and dedication as you need to do a hell of a lot of research before you’ll be able to be proactive:

  • Analyze all the previous conversations with customers and their feedback.
  • Determine the most common pitfalls customers fall to when using your product or service.
  • Create a series of proactive messages that will be sent to customers based on their behavior.

In practical terms, you can send your users automated emails or chat messages whenever they had trouble finishing installation, missed on some important feature. Or you can call and inform them if you’re expecting some technical troubles. 

The key moment of proactive customer service is to anticipate your customers questions and issues and resolve them beforehand.

Channel-based types of customer service

Customer service can also be categorized more elaborately based on the channels you can provide it through. Basically, there are 6 different customer service channels and 6 corresponding types of it.

In reality, you’ll end up having almost all of them at your company, because it’s always people’s call how they prefer to contact you. And your goal is to be everywhere for them.

1. Live chat customer service

You can install live chat software to your business website and your customer will have the fastest way to get in touch with you. It looks like a small button at the bottom of the screen. When a website visitor clicks it, they’ll get a messenger window where they communicate with your team in real time.

When the time comes and you’ll be choosing a customer service channel for your business, just remember that live chat is generally considered the most convenient one. In fact, according to J.D. Power, live chat is preferred by 42% of customers. Compare that to just 23% for email, and 16% for social media or forums.

2. Email customer service

Basically, whenever you visit any ‘Contact Us’ page at any random website, it’ll either contain a contact form or an email address you can write to (e.g. info@website.com or contact@domain.org). 

Emails have been an extremely popular way of communication for years. 54% of customers still used it for customer service last year, says Forrester. It only makes sense since we do use emails in our everyday life and it’s easier to contact businesses using the familiar channel.

3. Phone customer service

Phone customer service, also known as call centers, means that a customer can call a company’s representative via phone and have a live conversation with them.

A few years ago, call centers were on the verge of popularity. You need immediate help – you call a company to get it. At least that’s what you’d expect. In reality, you’d probably end up waiting on hold for 15 minutes and being irritated as hell.

I guess that’s one of the reasons call center volumes have dropped by 17% since 2015. From a business perspective, phone customer service is way more expensive, resource-consuming, and difficult to scale. You should only do them if you’re sure you can satisfy your customers’ demands quickly and effectively.

4. Self-help customer service

Another must-have customer service channel is a so-called knowledge base. Basically, they are blog-like portals with answers to all the common questions and issues your customers usually have. Self-help customer service also includes communities like forums where users can ask other people their questions and get the answers.

Your customer service team answers all the same questions several times a day. So, it only makes sense to create a quick guide with all the information people need. 

Users love help centers, too. If they can handle their issues without any outside help, they’ll gladly do so. 91% of customers would use a single, online knowledge base if it were available and tailored to their needs.

5. Social media customer service

We can’t forget those social media mentions and direct messages, too. No matter what customer service channel you’ll choose for your business, there will always be people who will prefer to contact you on social media.

It’s important to monitor your brand mentions there and address them promptly because negative social media comments can harm your brand reputation. No worries, though, it’s not like you’ll receive tons of requests on Facebook and Twitter right away. Answering a couple of mentions once a day will suffice.

Zappos on Twitter

Fortunately, you don’t have to do customer service in all these channels separately. Modern support tools like HelpCrunch offer a unified dashboard for live chat, emails, and knowledge base.

One super cute example of good customer service

Heard about Netflix?

1. Netflix switched from email customer service to call centers in 2007. It was unprecedented for such a big corporation. Usually, companies of this size try to outsource their customer service, move it offshore, and end up distancing themselves from it. But Netflix decided that if their support is the only way customers can get in touch with them, they better make it count.

This is a unique strategy for Netflix. There’s so much more competition, this is something they’ve done to get closer to the customer, because without that, there’s really no connection a customer has to Netflix.

New York Times

2. Netflix has created the now-legendary Netflix culture deck where they outlined all their key values and goals. Basically, it all comes down to giving their employees as much freedom as they want and expecting high results in return. It’s accessible for anybody who wants to read it.

Now, Netflix is not only legendary as a streaming video service, but also as a great employer. They give their employees unlimited vacation, don’t do yearly performance reviews and, well, pay good money for their work. 

3. Call centers are great, but there are people who hate phone calls. Netflix also provides live chat support, which brought them a couple of legendary customer service moments. Like this one, where their representative impersonated Captain Kirk in the chat conversation. It was so cute and so uncommon that the story got viral on Reddit in the blink of an eye. 

What does this teach us, really? 

This giant corporation with millions of users all over the globe somehow manages to stay genuine and super cute in their customer service. 

Come to think about it, it doesn’t take much — hire great people, treat them well and don’t be afraid to bet everything on excellent customer service. Oh, and don’t forget to sign up for HelpCrunch if you want the best customer service software for your team.


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