With so many different ways to offer customer service, whether it be via email, live chat, social media, phone, or self-service, it might seem like there’s an overwhelming amount of types of customer service your business can offer. Each channel could be considered a different type of customer service, but in reality, there are only two types of customer service your business can offer: proactive and reactive. This article will cover various types of customer service, from different support channels to offering proactive and reactive support.
Types of customer service channels: a rundown
Email is the classic, common, and widespread way customers communicate with companies. With the right software, email can be one of the easiest ways to organize, prioritize, and delegate customer support interactions in one place. What’s so great about email? It’s hard to find someone without an email account, and People can reach out anytime to log an inquiry. Email is also usually the first form of support a business will offer.
Email can also often serve as an internal form of support. Instacart, for example, dedicated internal instances to better support their employee base. The Human Resources, Payroll, and IT teams also use Zendesk Support to handle issues or answer questions for full- and part-time employees.
Offering real-time communication as a channel can create a personal connection with customers looking for immediate support. With chat and messaging abilities, agents can engage customers over websites, mobile apps, and even popular messaging apps like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and LINE. That means you can build the best customer experience on the channels that your customers actually prefer in a fast and effective way—without interrupting their experience.
Chat as a channel can help businesses anticipate customer questions and offer help when—and where—they need it most with chat support. In fact, The number of U.S. online shoppers who use live chat has increased from 38% to 58% over the last five years. More than 2.5 billion consumers use messaging apps, and according to a 2016 Nielsen study, 56 percent of Facebook Messenger users would rather message a business than call.
Instant communication is trending in customer support—especially when more than 53% of shoppers abandon their online purchase if they can’t find a quick answer. Real-time communication in addition to traditional email support can help prevent customers from churning, and, it enables agents to help more customers in less time, which means happier customers.
Social media customer service is the practice of providing consumer support through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter. If your customers are writing about you in social media and those interactions are falling through the cracks of your support infrastructure, it’s time to invest in a solution—because these days an unhappy customer is likely to lodge a complaint on your Twitter or Facebook. Not investing in a solution, or treating social media as outside traditional customer service, can cause companies to lose out on opportunities to engage or respond to public complaints.
The success of social media customer service, like all other types of customer service, depends on the quality of care provided. However, it’s important to remember that social media customer service often takes place in public or near-public environments. Extra care must be taken because these interactions can be broadcast to a customer’s friends and followers, and even their friends and followers. Communications from agents should be timely, accurate, sensitive, brief, and friendly. For more social media tips, read this.
A phone conversation remains a powerful way to solve problems—even in the age of email and social media. When customers get help over the phone, agents can resolve complex issues faster and deliver detailed, personalized support.
Phone support can be expensive when it comes to agent time—however, software with integrated insights can help you better understand how to staff, how many calls agents take, and how ticket volume from your phone channel compares to other channels. With the right software, you can also have the benefit of full customer history, automatic ticket creation, call recording and other time-saving tools.
To offer the best phone support, you’ll need to consider the hours your agents are available to answer calls, greetings and hold music, and routing rules. You can conquer any fears you might have about phone support here.
Support teams know a lot about customer issues—and the best way to solve them. Unfortunately, more than 20% of agent time is spent looking for info. A collective knowledge base can help tap into that institutional knowledge and aid agents with the information they need to better serve customers. It can also help your business to understand and fill the knowledge gaps your company might have.
Besides, 76% of customers prefer self-service because it offers the least amount of interaction friction. By letting customer help themselves through a help center, online community, or customer service portal, you can reduce customer friction while also improving efficiency and faster resolution. Offering self-service is the new baseline for customer service and a great self-service experience can boost customer satisfaction, reduce support costs, and increase internal agent engagement. According to the experts at Gartner, setting up self-service can reduce support costs by up to 25%.
Omnichannel as the ultimate customer service solution
As seen above, there are various types of customer service your business can offer, and these days it doesn’t cut it to just offer one channel. Now more than ever, companies are offering omnichannel support as their customer service solution. When channels are connected and conversations are seamless, agents are more productive, and information can be shared across your company—and customers have the option to reach out on the channel they prefer most.
In a recent study by Dimensional Research, 28% of customers said multiple communication options are part of a good customer experience and 27% said not being able to contact customer service with their preferred channel contributed to a bad customer experience. Furthermore, 85% said they will use a different contact method if they don’t receive a response from their initial inquiry and 51% said they wait less than an hour before trying another contact method if they haven’t heard back. Customer’s, especially Millennial’s, needs are changing, and good customer service organizations should respond. This means providing current and future customers with the right self-service tools and communication channels.
Proactive vs. reactive support
Channels are important, but the mindset your business has around customer service is more important. Do you wait for customers to come to you with problems, or do you get in front of those issues and proactively solve them?
Reactive support has been the standard: you wait for a customer to contact your business with an inquiry or issue. Proactive engagement, however, is becoming a crucial type of customer service—it means anticipating your customers’ issues and addressing them before your customers do. This can be done through FAQs and self-service pages to emailing your customer about a delay in their shipment. The results? Your customer satisfaction doesn’t dip because your customers stay in the know. See a customer hesitating with items in their cart? Offer help via live chat on your checkout page. Proactive customer support is about identifying and resolving customer issues before your customers have to reach out and before their satisfaction dips.
Customer service is more than the channels you offer
The type of customer service your business offers is more just than just the types of channels on which customers can contact your company. The type of customer service a business can offer has grown to mean how seamlessly connected your agents and your channels are and if you’re offering support before your customers know they need it. In reality, the future of customer experience and the type of customer service you offer is a support team that’s empowered to deliver proactive service on any channel.