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Customer service vs customer support

What’s the difference between the two?

Because the terms customer service and customer support are often used interchangeably, distinguishing between the two can often be challenging. Simply put, customer support is mostly about providing technical assistance to customers by helping them resolve any issues they have with your products or services. Customer service, however, is about providing value for customers by helping them make the most of your products or services. Let’s dive into the details for a better understanding.

The role of customer support

Customer support services range from assisting customers in planning, installation, troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrading, to the disposal of your product. The term ‘customer support’ is mostly related to teams in SaaS and tech companies dedicated to supporting customers with products and services that require ongoing tech assistance.

Customer support agents should have a deep knowledge of the products and services offered by their company. Their role may also include creating knowledge base documentation (such as troubleshooting guides, help manuals, and FAQs), creating use cases, and providing product feedback. Support teams often collaborate with product development teams to ensure improvement and optimization of the end-to-end customer experience.

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Apart from being product experts and having hard skills, customer support representatives should also possess certain soft skills and people skills to be able to communicate with customers effectively.  Some of the most critical KPIs (key performance indicators) a company should consider to evaluate their customer support are net promoter score (NPS), customer satisfaction score (CSAT), customer effort score (CES), and customer churn rate. To learn more about how using NPS and CSAT can improve your customer satisfaction, read this article.

The role of customer service

Customer service can be defined as taking care of a customer’s needs by providing helpful assistance before, during, and after the sale of a product. Unlike customer support, customer service is about supporting the larger, non-technical concerns of customers. It involves all interactions between a business and a customer that are aimed at enhancing customer experiences and improving relations with the company and its products, whereas customer support is just one part of those interactions.

Customer service agents are focused on engaging customers and providing both reactive and proactive assistance, as well as offering education, recommendations, and strategic advice in order to maximize the value of a customer’s investment in the company. It could involve onboarding new customers, answering queries across all service channels, following up with customers, collecting customer feedback, as well as upselling products when appropriate.

Customer service is a more complex department that goes beyond offering assistance to customers and aligning with strategic company goals. In fact, customer support may be part of a larger customer service department. The relations between a customer and a customer service department start before a transaction is made and don’t necessarily end.

Though customer service agents need to have a deep understanding of the products or services their company offers, they do not necessarily need advanced technical skills. To be able to deliver great service experiences, customer service representatives should possess a wide range of soft skills such as active listening, empathy, excellent communication skills, the ability to use positive language, conflict resolution skills, and more.

Customer service vs customer support

An example of what not to do!

To measure customer service effectiveness businesses tend to look into transactional metrics such as first contact resolution (FCR), first response time (FRT), average handle time (AHT), and customer satisfaction score (CSAT). 

Customer support vs. customer service

Selecting the term customer support or customer service when naming a customer-facing department depends on what products or services a company sells and whether those require ongoing technical assistance. The name should ultimately reflect the activities of the agents representing it.

To sum it up, below are a few basic things to remember about customer support and customer service, and how you can tell the two apart:

Customer SupportCustomer Service
Involves straightforward assistance with technical problem solving and troubleshooting.Helps customers to get more value out of the product or service they purchased.
Implies responding reactively to a customer's query whenever a customer has a problem with the product/ service.Implies proactive interaction and consists of a business guiding the customer throughout the entire journey.
Business centric (concerned about the proper product functioning).Customer centric (concerned about the customer’s satisfaction with the product).
Agents employ both hard skills (tech skills) and soft skills.Agents employ mostly soft skills, no need for advanced tech skills.
Positions are mostly available in SaaS, tech, and e-commerce companies.Positions are available in any industry that serves customers.

The bottomline

Customer support and customer service are critical for maintaining ongoing customer relationships, which is the key to improved loyalty, retention, and recurring revenue. While both terms are often mixed up, it’s important to differentiate between the two and invest in both sectors in order to ensure customer satisfaction and high quality customer experiences. If businesses are able to provide both customer support and customer service by responding reactively and engaging proactively, they can gain an advantage over their competitors.

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