When customers contact your service team, they want help fast. How fast? According to our research, 81% of customers expect faster service as technology advances. You need a customer support strategy that can help you keep up.
Customer support refers to the people and interactions that help customers who use a business’s service or product. Help can include answering a question, providing training or installation, and of course, troubleshooting an issue. Customer support plays a major role in customer retention – provide a pleasant, smooth experience, and you’ll build your brand reputation and foster loyalty. Get it wrong, and you may lose customers.
Read on to learn more about why customer support matters, or navigate to one of the following sections:
- Customer support vs. customer service
- Why customer support is important
- 5 strategies for improving customer support
- What to consider when selecting customer support software
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Customer support vs. customer service: How are they different?
Customer support and customer service might sound similar, but they serve two distinct functions.
Customer support is all about helping customers solve problems and get back on track as quickly as possible.
Customer service is more about the overall customer experience. The principles of customer service include building relationships with customers, making them feel valued, and providing them with a positive experience from start to finish.
Why is customer support important?
Customer support is where relationships are built and loyalty is nurtured. With a solid customer support strategy in place, you can:
- Build trust: Delivering timely, accurate responses will keep customers coming back for more.
- Boost brand reputation: Customers who have a good experience with your support team – whether in the contact center or in the field – may tell their friends about your brand.
- Collect customer feedback: Customer support interactions provide valuable feedback that can be used to improve your products, services, and overall customer experience.
- Gain a competitive advantage: Excellent support sets you apart from your competitors, and may even be a deciding factor for customers choosing between similar products or services.
5 strategies for improving customer support
Great support isn’t just a nice-to-have. Our research shows that 80% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services. Here are five ways to deliver on those expectations:
- Offer 24/7 availability
Around-the-clock support, through channels like phone, email, live chat, or social media, is a way to meet customers wherever and whenever they need help. But if staffing live agents 24/7 isn’t realistic, a chatbot or good self-service site can go a long way toward helping customers with frequently asked questions during off hours.
- Provide omni-channel service
Customers often use multiple channels to start and complete a transaction. The key is for your contact center agents and field service workers to see all of a customer’s interactions with your business – no matter which channels were used – so customers don’t have to repeat themselves. The right customer relationship management software can help you get there.
- Embrace automation
One of the most important elements of a smooth customer service experience is speed. Automation can help you deliver faster service at scale. It offloads repetitive, manual tasks so agents have time to focus on more complex service issues.
- Invest in generative AI
Predictive AI has been a part of customer service for a long time (for example, many early chatbots were powered by predictive AI). But now generative AI is opening up new ways to support your agents and improve the customer service experience. Here’s how:
- Quickly generate personalized responses: Generative AI can serve up suggested responses to customer inquiries, helping agents respond quickly and in the correct brand tone. AI can generate these responses based on customer data, knowledge base articles, or trusted third-party data.
- Create work summaries and briefings: Generative AI can help workers in the contact center or the field create wrap-up summaries for cases and field visits.
- Generate knowledge articles: Drafting knowledge articles can be a time-consuming process – but now generative AI can help you create a first draft. (Be sure to have a human review and edit.)
- Lean into service analytics
Analytics can help you see what’s happening in your contact center. Do customers have to wait on hold too long? Do agents need training on a particular issue? With the right data at your fingertips, you can turn customer interactions into insights for improving your service operations.
What should I consider when selecting customer support software?
While human agents are the foundation of any service team, customer support software plays a major supporting role. The right software helps agents deliver quality service at scale. Here are some questions to consider as you review the options on the market:
- User-friendliness: Is the software easy to use? While some learning curve is normal, you want your team to get up and running right away.
- Integration: Will it work with your existing systems and platforms?
- Cost: Consider cost relative to value. Which features might provide a greater ROI? Think about both the initial investment and any ongoing expenses for maintenance or upgrades.
- Support: What kind of ongoing or specialized support does the vendor offer?
You likely want a platform that offers these features:
- Automated ticketing: Streamline your support process for maximum efficiency.
- Self-service portals: Give customers the power to find solutions on their own.
- AI-powered chatbots: Manage routine inquiries and free up your team’s time.
- Generative AI: Help agents respond to customers with personalized answers across any channel. Some solutions even offer AI assistants that can draft knowledge articles.
- Service analytics: Get the insights you need to better understand your contact center performance.
With a solid grasp of why customer support software is important, you can begin to identify criteria for making a good selection. Be sure to work with a broad range of stakeholders – including service agents and leadership – to come up with a list of requirements for your customer support software. From there, it’s a process of learning what various vendors have to offer, and comparing that to your needs.
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Your contact center should be a modern, omnichannel engagement center that both agents and customers love. Learn how to maximize ROI with contact center software built into your CRM, powered by AI and automation.