customer support vs customer service_Freshchat

Customer support vs customer service: what’s the difference?

Written by on October 9, 2018

Mixing up customer support and customer service seems like a slip of the tongue. They both basically mean the same thing, right?

Wrong! Customer service and customer support are not strictly interchangeable terms. Although, in a lot of cases they are used to mean the same thing, not making a distinction between the two can cost you your business.

How? Your customer experience when people reach out for help will suffer—and that directly affects revenue. To avoid the customer service vs. customer support malapropism, and to put in place correct policies for customer happiness in both areas, look no further.


Customer service vs. customer support

Customer service and support are close but not interchangeable.

  • Customer service is about supporting the larger, non-technical concerns of a customer. It might be billing, it might be shipping, it might be calling to check a lost and found. This area of help is about supporting a customer through all phases of their life cycle, ensuring their happiness and encouraging them to take full advantage of your offerings.
  • Customer support is a more narrow subset of customer experience that is about helping customers handle technical concerns. Think “tech support”—except now that so many companies have software integrated into their offerings, or as their offering, that “customer support” is a more helpful phrase.

Think of it like this: they are both triangles: they share some properties—all their angles add up to 180 degrees. If one is a right triangle and the other is an equilateral, they are similar but not the same, and if you try to apply the same principles to each, you will end up with a failure. (Just try the Pythagorean theorem on our friend the equilateral triangle.)

customer support and customer service are similar triangles with different angles_Freshchat


Customer support and customer service both affect the bottom line

There’s a reason why the old saying goes, the customer is always right—it’s because an upset customer always needs to be appeased lest they take their business elsewhere.

For customer service and customer support, a big frustration amongst customers is not getting what they need out of that interaction. If you are mixing up support and service, have no playbook that separates them, you will be negatively impacting your customers’ experience, which directly impacts your revenue.


Bad customer experience means reaching out to customer support

There is a stark effect on customer experience for subscription services, for example. Harvard Business Review found that “a member who rates as having the poorest experience has only 43% chance of being a member a year later.” Compare this to a member who gives one of the top two experience scores—they would have a 74% chance of remaining a member for at least another year.”

Quantifying Customer Experience_Freshchat


Customer experience is more than just how someone likes an app interface, especially if they had problems. A blip in customer experience—say, receiving a damaged package—means that a customer will contact customer service. This will turn into a make-or-break moment for keeping that customer.


Slow service and support responses kill retention

Another element that makes a big difference for customer happiness is the time it takes to get responses. The Northridge Group, in their State of Customer Service Experience 2017 report that “customers want to be met on their channel of choice and have little tolerance for multiple contacts, long hold times, slow responses and ineffective issue resolution.”

In fact, more than 80% of consumers said that poor service would be a determining factor of driving them away from a company. This means that if a customer contacts you for support, and they are met with customer service protocol or vice versa, they will be frustrated.

As the digital era increases options for consumption, even among niche products (like SaaS products), this trend will only continue:

data about unhappy customers abandoning businesses_Freshchat


Good service and support make brand advocates

More generally, customer experience drives word of mouth. People will badmouth your customer service if they have a negative experience, but will be drawn to companies that they hear have good service—even if that means spending more:


What unhappy customers think_Freshchat


You must cater to customer needs

Given the impact of customer experiences on business revenue, including those with service and support, it’s critical that when customers reach out, they get a quick and helpful interaction. If you do not separate customer support and customer service internally, you will not be able to help customers in the way they need.

While all reps should be well-versed in the ins and outs of your company and products, support experts should be able to go above and beyond to solve technical problems. Service experts should be committed to helping customers get the full service of your company and should be prepared to help people navigate account and physical product problems.

Many customer reps can fill both of these roles, especially in small support teams. But because service and support are related but different fields, failing to clearly separate service and support cases as they come in will frustrate customers. Separating what type of help a user is asking for means you will directly cater to their needs.

For example, someone starts a live chat for tech support as they’re having a problem with some team features of your product. If this chat gets flagged as customer service, a rep might end up trying to upsell them to a more team-friendly plan, making the customer feel like their complaint is solely being used to squeeze more money out of them.

Taking that as a support chat means that customers will get their technical problem solved. Then, when the time comes to upsell, they’ll remember their good experience and will be more primed to convert.


Improving customer support with live chat for business

Studies show that companies feel they’re doing poorly on support in a majority of channels, including chat and chatbots:

Managing customer experience_Freshchat


In 2018 and beyond, there’s no reason why any company can’t step up their live chat game. Live chat is one of the fastest growing modes of support, and one that will continue to have a big impact on 2019 and beyond:

live chat is growing in popularity


In addition, live chat for business is positioned to solve a number of these poor customer experience channels:

  • Mobile: Give customers an easier mobile experience with live chat in your app, which caters to preferred CX on mobile. This can be especially important for support if a computer program is having trouble; people might want to chat on their phone while running a program on their computer.
  • Online chat: Add canned responses to help your agents funnel people through service or support as appropriate. Canned responses can build an easy blueprint for reps to separate service and support cases.
  • Self-service: Enable a help bot in your live chat that pulls up self-service documents and helps customers navigate your help library. Oftentimes, your team has built up resources that customers might not know about or might not be able to navigate as quickly as they want an answer, but giving them quick access is a huge CX boost.


FAQs are a great way to boost CX_Freshchat

  • Chat automation: Basic automation at the start of a live chat can: a) automate away small problems that allow reps to focus more on bigger problems, and b) provide a quick, personal channel for those with FAQs.

Live chat is a great way to boost your users’ experience while making that all-important intake easier. When customers get where they need to go, they’ll have a fully satisfying help experience. And that will return again and again to your bottom line.

Cover illustration by Karthikeyan Ganesh

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