customer service and support

Customer service and support teams interact with consumers on an as-needed basis, using various chat channels such as phone, website chat applications and social media messaging. Support teams are available to provide technical assistance with products, while service teams are focused on the customer experience.

Difference between service and support

So what are the differences between customer service and customer support? While both customer service and customer support teams are focused on the consumer, they provide assistance in different ways.

Customer service teams are focused on providing the best possible customer experience and continuing customer relationships once a product is sold. They also specialize in customer retention and solve complex issues frustrating customers. The customer service team is the face of the company, the front-line when customers contact a business for assistance. Customer service agents help consumers pay bills, review or make changes to accounts, handle returns and answer frequently asked questions.

Customer support teams also have consumer contact, but they are part of the larger customer service department, answering questions related to and troubleshooting products. Depending on the industry, support teams provide guidance with electronic equipment, software and apparel, among other things. Customer support agents solve problems related to products consumers have purchased or are using.

Components of customer service and support

Customer service and support teams incorporate various elements to operate efficiently. They include the following:

  • Call management system. This is used to log incoming phone calls and route them through a network to the proper person or department.
  • Contact center. This is the central point from which all customers are managed. Contact centers offer omnichannel support, including email, voice, chat and websites.
  • Internet-based customer service suite. Also known as e-service suites, these platforms are designed for consumer self-service.
  • Field service and dispatch system. This system is an essential part of customer service and support, enabling technicians to be contacted and sent out to service a product when the need arises.

Technology to support both

While email and phone systems are both widely used to contact customer service and support agents, they are not always the most efficient. Customers who choose to pick up the phone benefit through live chat with an agent; however, both means are subject to business hours.

To increase customer satisfaction while minimizing the costs involved, many companies use customer-based service applications such as Web self-service, enabling consumers to contact companies outside of normal business hours, and without the need for human assistance. Some examples of web self-service transactions include the following:

  • bill payment
  • username lookup
  • password reset
  • check the status of an order
  • updates to account information
  • looking up business hours and user manuals

Chatbots are also gaining in popularity as a means to reach customer service and support departments. According to Gartner, chatbots will be integrated across 25% of customer service and support operations by 2020.

Customer support vendor comparison chart
Here are some vendors offering customer support software.

Like web self-service, chatbots -- over the phone, via website chat applications and social media messaging apps -- are available to consumers outside normal business hours. Instead of clicking on links on a webpage, chatbots can answer verbal and written questions. Organizations that use chatbots typically train them on frequently asked questions and tasks, programming them to their specific industry.

This was last updated in December 2018

Next Steps

Zendesk's customer service software can work for enterprises of all sizes, providing users with tools that are heavily focused on proactive customer engagement and customer support services.

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