Every business operates with the guarantee of providing the highest levels of customer service to their customers, and it’s easy to understand why. Customer satisfaction and overall customer experience are defined by the type of service that companies deliver. Happy customers don’t just stay and continue patronizing a certain product or brand, they stay and help companies gain more clients by publicizing good reviews and making endless referrals. Unhappy customers do the opposite. They leave and continue to criticize the brand, refraining customers from having a mediocre or straight-up awful experience.
While satisfaction levels vary depending on the customer’s expectations, customer service teams are trained to work effectively to make sure that businesses can deliver excellent customer service, regardless of each customer’s standards and demands. Taking care of a customer base should be a part of a company’s culture that new customer service reps can adopt.
There are many types of customer service, but the goal of every type is customer loyalty and delight. For us to learn and understand their differences, let us define customer service first.
What is Customer Service, and Why is it so Important?
There are thousands of definitions that people associate with customer service, but the simplest and the easiest to understand is this: Customer service refers to the provision or delivery of services to customers before, during, and after the purchase of a product.
It is also defined as a series of activities organized to improve the overall experience of customers, meet their expectations, listen and answer to their queries, and keep them satisfied. According to a 2017 report, customer service is an essential element for 96% of consumers in brand loyalty. Is this result an exaggeration? Absolutely not.
Through this definition, we can interpret customer service as an endless cycle that should be checked and assessed for the consistency of quality and performance of the professionals and representatives involved. It defines the class of customer journey and paves the way to building relationships with lifetime customers that could bring lifetime value to the business.
How Can You Tell if a Company’s Customer Service is Good?
Customer service quality can make or break a business, and there are many indicators that dedicated customer service professionals note to decide if a company’s customer service is good. Here are some of those indicators:
- Great focus on service
- Affordability or free service
- Repeat customers
A company has good customer service if the management and the employees care for the customers by giving dedicated and passionate service, maintaining polite and friendly communication with them, knowing their needs and taking the initiative, and going the extra mile to keep them satisfied, focusing on the quality of service, and giving more than what they paid for. As mentioned in the first part of this article, customers stay and repeat their purchases with a company that serves them well.
What is the Most Common Type of Customer Service?
The most common type of customer service is the traditional or walk-in customer service where customers come to physical stores to have a tangible experience of the products and services that they want to buy.
The service experience in this type is usually more intimate since clients can have actual interactions with the company’s representatives, thus, the responses to their queries are more prompt and effective due to the lack of communication barrier and any factor or channel that will refrain them from expressing their wants and needs.
What are the Different Types of Customer Service?
Customer service can be classified into ten (10) different types:
- Traditional/Walk-In Customer Service
- Phone Support
- Email Support
- Social Media
- Self-Service Customer Support
- Live Chat CS
- Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
- On-Site CS
- Customer Communities and Forums
Keep reading to understand the differences as well as the activities involved in each type.
10 Customer Service Types
1. Traditional/Walk-In Customer Service
Walk-in customer service is the most common and popular type of customer service because it is naturally embedded in every business’ blueprint. Customer issues are part of daily business activities and dealing with angry customers is something that every business owner or employee should be knowledgeable with. Traditional customer service is done in physical stores (usually retail) and service and repair hubs, where customers are welcomed by a team of sales representatives and service personnel.
As “old school” as this type may seem in this age of digital information, many companies still put high amounts of effort into walk-in customer service because some of their active customers still prefer on-site shopping to online choices which are considered more convenient. The best thing about this customer service type is that employees and sales teams can give a sincere and personalized level of service to the customers. When there are service or product-related problems, they can apologize personally and offer solutions in the most authentic and intimate manner. The same goes when customers are satisfied; they can commend the sales and service staff for a job well done, so trust and confidence will be established in no time.
However, if you are a business owner who aims to run with 24/7 customer service, this type is not for you. This customer service type is perfect for businesses that run in specific working hours and schedules and with a physical store that clients can visit.
2. Phone Support
Even with the emergence of social media and other online customer service options, customer service via phone support is still thriving. In fact, a survey found out that 76% of customers prefer contacting customer support through phone calls.
Phone calls are best for customer problems that need to be escalated quickly to the responsible departments. It is very common for customers to relay their initial concerns through email or instant messaging, and when things are still unresolved, they proceed to call the customer support department. Just like traditional customer service, phone support offers a “human touch” in handling customer complaints. Customer support agents are trained to regulate their voices when talking to irate customers and as a form of customer care, they give answers to customer questions as politely and as sincerely as possible.
Furthermore, a real human voice adds to the overall genuineness and empathy that customers need when they feel frustrated and disappointed because of a product or service-related concern. Phone support experience has also leveled up, thanks to technology. Businesses can now shift to Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP,) a multipurpose call solution system where customer support agents can make, receive, and handle calls using the internet. VoIP offers basic phone call features such as caller ID, call forwarding, call management, voicemail, call waiting, etc. at rates that are more affordable than traditional phone call systems.
Call center agents receive and resolve customer service issues with the use of VoIP, and of course, superb customer service skills. This customer service platform is ideal for business owners who focus on speed, simplicity, empathy, and growth that can only be achieved through meaningful conversations between customer service agents and clients.
3. Email Support
Email is one of the strongest communication channels that companies and consumers trust in versatility and data privacy. While it is understandable that “human interaction” gives a certain level of relief and comfort that can appease angry customers, when complex issues arise, phone conversations may limit the amount of information that customers can share with customer support reps. This is where email support has the upper hand. Sending complaints through email allows customers and customer support representatives to attach documents, images, or any files necessary to hasten the solution for a specific problem.
The percentage of customers seeking support through email will continue to increase, with over 50% of the world’s population having active email addresses. Customer service representatives interact with customers through email by sending canned responses or automated responses to frequently asked questions and inquiries. Keep in mind that canned responses are only applicable to basic questions, and sending them to clients with unresolved concerns can irate them more. Moreover, it is crucial to take note that email support, just like other customer service types, has its downside.
Customer service through email may not offer immediate solutions to customer concerns unlike walk-in and phone support. When piled up, emails can also be more difficult to check, which might cause major delays in the response time, creating more conflict and unpleasant experiences for customers.
To solve these issues, companies use omnichannel software to conveniently and effectively handle the high influx of inquiries from customers. Omnichannel support is a strong and practical strategy where customer service agents can manage all incoming and outgoing communications from different channels using a single platform. Check out this list of the best omnichannel support tools to improve your customer service and efficiency.
4. Social Media
In the most recent data, there are 4.70 billion social media users in the world. That is more than half of the world’s population, and while these figures can be overwhelming for some, this data is highly helpful to business owners who have not found their perfect customer service platform yet. Social media customer service is a phenomenon. Social networking sites, specifically Facebook and Instagram, have added more business features to help entrepreneurs connect with current customers and prospective clients all over the world.
With Facebook’s business page (Meta Business Suite) companies can easily check and manage the buying activities and habits of customers. With live chat and instant messaging features, business owners and social media managers can receive and process customer requests, customer queries, complaints, and even seal deals and transactions online!
Aside from quick messaging features, Facebook/Meta Business Suite also offers easy integration of other communication channels such as WhatsApp and Instagram. To record important information, especially in addressing complaints and requests for product replacements or repairs, you can easily access conversations with customers to verify. Customer engagement also affects the online visibility of your business page, so the more you engage with your customers through comments under social media posts, product links, and photos, the higher your engagement rate and visibility will be. On top of this, most social media platforms can be accessed using mobile devices, so despite busy schedules, you can still get in touch with your customer base anytime, anywhere.
READ MORE: Social Media Customer Support Services
5. Self-Service Customer Support
Let’s be honest. Our idea of customer service always involves help and aid from customer service representatives and customer support specialists. While this idea is not wrong, it should also not limit the kinds of customer service that business owners can deliver to their customers. Self-service is preferred by most customers because it is convenient and empowering at the same time.
To encourage self-service customer support, companies invest in internal knowledge bases that customers can access while browsing a business website or page, in mobile phones, tablets, or computers. A self-service knowledge base is a one-stop resource of customers that can give answers and helpful responses to frequently asked questions, pricing, product specifications, and service inclusions.
Since it is open to all current and prospective clients, a company’s knowledge base should be regularly updated with the newest information and customer service trends. When there is a high influx of inquiries and complaints, customers check the internal knowledge base for answers, so everything that is encoded in it should be 100% true and updated, with no grammatical or typographical errors.
6. Live Chat CS
Customer support teams are usually commended for their ability to make convenience and genuine service work together to achieve customer satisfaction and encourage repeat business. Through live chat customer service, agents can handle many inquiries from customers without losing the “human touch”. Moreover, if the live chat apps are mobile-optimized, customers can forward their product and service-related concerns with a few clicks. Since live chats are facilitated by human agents, the flow of conversations is much more natural and unrestrained.
Just keep in mind that the canned responses/automated replies of some live chat software and apps may sound robotic and sometimes scripted, so make sure to update responses that are too generic and bland. Ultimately, customers would still prefer personalized services over the ones generated by artificial intelligence.
READ MORE: Live Chat Support Outsourcing
7. Interactive Voice Response (IVR)
“For billing concerns, press 2”
Familiar? For sure, it is. We hear this type of instruction every time we contact the customer service hotline or customer support desk in hopes of resolving product and service-related issues, and most of the time, this system works. The interactive voice response (IVR) is a business communication and customer service solution that helps in answering common questions that clients raise. It is done by pre-recording answers to basic questions and assigning specific shortcuts that people can contact about the said questions. However, the AI-operated nature of IVR can be frustrating for some customers, and complex issues are still recommended to be escalated and forwarded to other departments, for quick and effective resolution.
IVRS are commonly used in telecommunications and hotel companies.
If you want an approach to customer service that is simple yet powerful, then chatbots might be the best choice for you. It is fast, fully automated, and works 24/7. Chatbots are becoming a popular trend among businesses due to their simplicity and effectiveness. It is also an excellent tool for customer interaction, as industries claim that chatbots can increase engagement by 90% and sales by 67%, delivering considerably high ROI with minimal effort.
Chatbots are gradually improving in performance and problem-solving, and companies are looking forward to delivering quick resolution to complex customer issues, with the help of chatbots. Customers who value effectiveness and convenience do not mind chatbots missing the human touch so if you want a cost-effective service and communication tool, chatbot customer service is still an excellent choice.
9. On-Site CS
Establishing good connections with customers is a crucial task that business owners and customer support teams should focus on. Almost every customer service solution needs proper planning and budgeting and big companies really invest in the best and proven strategies to take care of their loyal customers and show potential clients that they are in good hands. Budget-wise, on-site customer service is the most expensive customer service and support solution on this list.
On-site customer service can be adopted by hiring experienced customer service professionals and trained technical support specialists to deliver a superb experience to customers. In the customer service industry, it is very common for some companies to deploy dedicated teams for field visits to check on product quality and functionality, fix technical errors, and answer customer service complaints. This solution is highly-convenient for customers but can be exhausting for agents. Businesses also spend more on agent training and continuing education, specifically in important service areas including customer communication and relationship management.
This type of approach is common to internet and telecommunications companies, and other industries in need of frequent technical support and expertise.
READ MORE: Outsourced Customer Service
10. Customer Communities and Forums
Aside from being heard and valued by companies, customers love the feeling of inclusivity and open communication with companies and their fellow consumers. To deliver delightful customer experiences, launch communities and forums where they can interact with your representatives, share their insights and opinions about particular products or services, and deliver valuable suggestions that can improve overall company operations. Communities and forums are best for companies with a huge following and client base.
To make sure that your company forums will not cause any misunderstanding and conflict among customers, content moderation is a must. Content moderation can help in regulating all user-generated content by the policies and standards set by your company or the state where your business is located. Lastly, a well-moderated forum can encourage more customers to voice out their concerns and opinions, help you track the causes and sources of bad reviews, and create proactive solutions that are beneficial for the company and the customers.
Key Customer Needs
It is the responsibility of every business and sales and customer service representative to serve according to customer preference. Different customers have different needs, and by looking at their buying habits and patterns, it will be easier to understand the things that they focus on when choosing a product or service. Here are four (4) of the key customer needs that businesses should always consider to build valuable customer relationships and generate more sales in the future:
Let’s face it. Pricing has a HUGE effect on the purchase decision of a customer. To clarify this, customers do not ask for low pricing. They ask for fair pricing. Setting prices for your business offerings can be done by accounting for your costs and expenses, and studying the pricing patterns of your competitors. If you plan to increase your product pricing to a certain percentage, what are your considerations?
Price increase drives customers in looking for cheaper alternatives that serve the same purpose, so before attaching a hefty price tag to your products and services, make sure that the quality can justify the amount that consumers will spend on it.
Every phase in the customer lifecycle involves service, a good one, to be specific. Customers travel and pay with the expectation of good service and experience, and the best customer service teams know how to get things done. Service should not end after a purchase; in fact, it should freely flow during complaints, resolution, and repeat business. Bad customer experiences are usually caused by awful service starting from lack of product knowledge and poor communication.
With 58% of customers willing to pay more for better customer service, it’s time for companies to level up and put service improvement on top of their many priorities.
This one doesn’t need any explanation. Customers continuously seek products and services that they can buy with their hard-earned money. A great product has the following characteristics:
- Serves its main purpose.
- Simple, intuitive, and anticipates needs.
- Exceeds expectations.
- Emotionally resonates.
- Aims for convenience and better quality of life.
To Feel Valued
Customers want to feel valued. Companies can show how they value their customers by listening to their suggestions and taking their insights as opportunities to serve them better.
Loyal customers also appreciate small gestures and efforts from companies such as customer discounts and promos, gifts, free memberships, priority parking, and other campaigns launched to show how the companies care for them. When they pay for the product, they also pay for the experience and expect the value they can get from a product or service.
Qualities of a Good Customer Service Representative
Good customer service representatives guarantee top-notch service, so business owners set specific qualities for CSR applicants. Being a customer service representative needs a good balance of technical skills and soft skills to proactively do daily tasks and interact with customers in such a way that the experience will be memorable. Check out this list of the most important qualities and skills that every good customer service representative must have.
- Courtesy and professional etiquette
- Excellent communication skills
- Attentive listening skills
- Optimistic approach to customer interaction
- Product and service knowledge and expertise
- Innovative problem-solving abilities
- Basic technical and troubleshooting skills
Frequently Asked Questions
What are the main benefits of customer service to businesses?
Good customer service offers several benefits to businesses, but the most common are the following:
Customer service helps…
- Build strong and valuable relationships with customers.
- Satisfied customers can become loyal customers.
- Loyal customers can help increase brand awareness and sales.
- Which could also prompt an increase in recommendations.
- Higher interest to revenue conversion rates.
- And an established and trusted reputation.
What is the most effective type of customer service?
Self-service customer support is highly recommended because knowledge bases can help companies reduce employment and training costs, maximize available time and resources, and focus on more important and complex issues relayed by customers.
What factors should business owners consider when choosing the type of customer service?
To help you decide which customer service type is ideal for your business, you have to set your organizational goals with a definite time frame as a guide to the things that you want to carry out. Setting your priorities can also help you manage your expectations and come up with better and more innovative ideas to serve your customers better. Here are some factors that you should consider when determining and choosing your type of customer service:
- Nature of your business (do you offer products or services?)
- Size of business (number of departments and employees)
- Target market
- Forecasted revenue
- Expansion plans
Identifying different customer service types and understanding how each type can help you connect and build meaningful relationships with your customers is a powerful strategy to get into the pulse of your customer base. Knowing their needs, buying behavior, and the most convenient ways to reach out to them can guide you in creating products and designing services that they can avail.
The best companies don’t just focus on in-service interactions. They form competent customer service teams for after-sales service activities, problem-solving, and customer retention campaigns. As long as you know what your company has to offer, and you stick to your principles and goals, customer service will be a piece of cake for you and your team.
What customer service type do you think is perfect for your business? Share it with us and inspire more industry professionals to keep updated with the latest customer service trends and practices.
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