While at first glance customer service and customer support seem quite similar, understanding the nuances between them is fundamental to delivering outstanding customer experiences. They both focus on helping customers, use similar tools like email, phone or live chat for customer interactions and employ similar soft skills to increase customer satisfaction. Even Google makes no clear difference treating both terms as multiple variants of the same keyword string. However, though customer service and customer support are connected – they approach helping customers from different perspectives.
The ‘customer service’ term is often seen as the old-fashioned version of customer support. It was mostly related to salespeople in brick-and-mortar stores who would assist customers with their issues. The ‘customer support’ term appeared later and has been popularized by IT and tech companies. Which is why it appears to be more modern with more businesses opting for that one.
Since customer service and customer support are very often used interchangeably, distinguishing the specific difference between the two terms can be challenging. To put it simply, customer support is mostly about providing technical assistance to customers helping them to solve issues they have with your products or services, whereas customer service is about providing value for customers helping them to make the most of your products or services. Let’s dive into the details for a better understanding.
Customer support is defined as a range of services provided to customers for assisting them in making correct, efficient and cost-effective use of a product. That involves assistance in planning, installation, troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrading and disposal of the product. The term ‘customer support’ is best 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 products or service offerings a company provides. Their job role may also include creating knowledge base documentation (such as troubleshooting guides, help manuals and FAQs), conducting usability studies and providing product feedback. Support teams very often collaborate with product development teams to ensure improving and optimizing the end-to-end customer experience.
Apart from being product experts and having strong hard skills, customer support representatives should also possess certain soft skills and people skills to able to effectively communicate with customers. A typical customer support interaction is reactive – it is initiated and ended by a customer.
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.
Customer service can be defined as the act of taking care of the customer’s needs by providing helpful assistance before, during and after the sale. 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 that 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 contributes towards the 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 or at the moment of the transaction and don’t really end.
Though customer service agent also need to have deep knowledge of products or services a 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, good communication, ability to use a positive language, conflict resolution and more.
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).
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, here are the basic things to remember about the difference between customer support and customer service and how to tell the two apart:
|Customer Support||Customer 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 outreach 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 of advanced tech skills.|
|Positions are mostly available in SaaS, tech and e-commerce companies.||Positions are available in any industry that serves customers.|
Customer support and customer service are critical for maintaining ongoing customer relationships, which is the key to improved loyalty, retention and continued revenue. While both terms have been mixed up, it’s still important to differentiate between them 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 the competition.
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