Keeping customers happy is an integral part of any company’s plans for success and growth. High customer satisfaction (CSAT) can reduce churn rates and increase organic lead generation—as a satisfied customer is more likely to recommend a product to friends, family and other associates. So how do we get those satisfaction ratings up? Well one place to start is improving your customer experience by clearly defining customer support vs customer service.
Aren’t customer support and customer service the same thing?
The difference is nuanced but it’s one that many companies overlook to their detriment. Although some experts—and even google—have a hard time distinguishing between the two. Yet, understanding the difference enables your company to provide the customer care that your customers deserve in the easiest, most efficient manner.
So, what is customer support?
Defined by the industry as a “range of services provided to assist customers in making cost effective and correct use of a product,” customer support agents help customers with anything concerning the planning, installation, training, troubleshooting, maintenance, upgrading, or disposal of the product. In short, customer support teams are the modern incarnation of the internal technical support that most companies used to employ.
The rise of software as a service (SaaS) has made remote installation and operation of software much easier, leaving those traditional tech support teams open to focus on more interesting tasks than explaining to Frank why #REF! keeps popping up is his spreadsheets. SaaS and the online shopping era are also partly to blame for some of the confusion around the definition of terms—as customer support has grown into a prevalent part of many industries that previously only needed to provide customer service at their physical stores.
Your customer support agents should be experts in your product line. They should be capable of diverse and proactive technical support, while maintaining the patience and people skills to deal with frustrated customers whose technical difficulties are affecting their job. A customer support interaction should start when the customer reaches out on one of your channels with a problem and the interaction should not end until that customer is satisfied with the help they have received. Customer support should never be seen as a touchpoint for inbound sales.
Some key performance indicators (KPIs) that your company should focus on to evaluate their customer support include CSAT, net promoter scores, (NPS) and churn rates.
What is customer service then?
So we’ve defined customer support as the technical side of customer care. Customer service, on the other hand, should be regarded as an umbrella term for all customer interactions aimed at enhancing experiences and improving relations with the company and its products—customer support is just one of those interactions.
To put it even simpler, all businesses have elements of customer service, but not all need to offer customer support. A restaurant, for example, provides customer service when you are seated, order your food and upon payment. The waiter is probably not going to come and show you how to cut your steak though.
This difference requires customer service teams to be extremely versatile. Their focus should be on giving users the best possible experience with a company’s products in order to maximize the value of a customer’s investment in that company. That means maximizing value for the user as well as the provider.
So while good customer service may entail promptly connecting customers to a technical support representative, it could also mean answering queries on social media, onboarding new customers or following up with a returning customer to see if they need to upgrade or expand. Customer service agents need good reactive skills to ensure customers are utilizing the company’s products in the most efficient manner, but their minds should also be on upselling and gaining leads through recommendation.
While the meaning of the terms “customer service” and “customer support” may have become muddled with improvements in technology and increased specialization, it is still important to tell the two apart and invest in both sectors to ensure high quality customer experiences.
Okay, I get it. But what about customer success?
The other hot buzzword in customer relationship management—customer success—is less subtle in its difference from the other two. Like support, customer success is an offshoot of the customer service umbrella term. Customer success as a term became popular as part of the customer-centric culture driven by the SaaS era. Customer success teams focus almost solely on customer retention, with referred leads being one of their prime assessment metrics.
Customer success is all about ensuring that products are living up to the promises that the marketing team made. A customer success agent should be the most proactive of the three, reaching out to customers on their preferred channel to check up on them right when the customer thought you had forgot about them. Customer success team members need to be personable, engaged and have a good understanding of how the relationship between the customer and the company should be evolving over time.
If your business has been having trouble with churn rates, perhaps it is time to reevaluate your customer service and ensure that you have the right people in charge of the right touchpoint of the customer journey.