by Deeksha Malik and Jaipal Singh
Published on 30 June 2017
Constantly evolving customer preferences, an uncontrollable market environment, and competitors waiting for a chance to eat up your customer base the moment you make your customer unhappy: welcome to the world of customer service.
Making your customers fall in love with your company requires much more than simple one-time grand gestures. It's a long relationship building journey calling for consistent and high service standards throughout. Especially for small businesses with limited staff, achieving such great relationship with the customers can be tough. But implementing a good customer service software can help you streamline your customer service processes so that you always have delighted and loyal customers.
Before you look for a customer service software, take some time to think about the functionalities that you would want your tool to offer. Often, the software vendors offer similar bells and whistles which can make selection confusing. To address these challenges we've compiled this features guide that will help you understand what each feature does and how it can be helpful for your business. The features list below comprises of both basic and niche features followed by a brief description. A single click on the feature name will take you to the page with a list of software offering that feature in GetApp customer service software directory.
|Customer management||Helps businesses manage every aspect of customer interaction, from receiving inquiries to recording customer details, monitoring interactions and analyzing customer engagement.|
|Multi-channel support||The ability to interact and provide support to customers via multiple channels, such as online chat, phone calls, email, web forms, and social media platforms.|
|Self-service||Allows customers to access online portals where they can submit inquiries, access information, participate in online discussions, and perform routine tasks, without needing assistance from customer service representatives.|
|Workflow||Helps companies automate routine workflows like prioritizing and distributing requests, assigning cases, managing feedback, monitoring performance, and more.|
|Automation||Helps businesses automate manual processes to speed up customer interactions.|
|Monitoring and tracking||Supports the monitoring of business operations so that everyone is aligned to achieve one common business goal. A solution should include activity tracking and performance monitoring tools that can help organizations manage, monitor and measure critical business KPIs.|
|Integration||Integration capabilities allow businesses to link multiple applications together and build a comprehensively integrated environment in which applications can seamlessly share data and functionalities with each other.|
|Security and permissions||The set of features required to ensure the security of business data and prevent unauthorized access.|
Customer management features allow you to capture, research, and analyze data related to customer behavior, customer experience, buying preferences, demographics, and a lot more. Let's look below at some of the customer management features you can expect in a customer service software.
|Case management||The set of activities involved in creating, managing, assigning, reporting, and prioritizing customer requests, flowing in from multiple channels.|
|Contact database||Maintains customer records to store details like name and address, complaint type, phone number, ticket ID, and other essential information.|
|Contact history||Lets businesses record and maintain an archive of past customer interaction to know their previous requests and the kind of support offered.|
|Custom fields||Lets the business specify extra data fields other than those that come by default in the customer service software.|
|Customer analysis||Helps to analyze data relating to customer engagement and behavior to generate advanced insights. This helps improve future customer engagements and deliver better customer service.|
|Customer experience management||Allows businesses to record customer feedback and suggestions and study pain points about the service. This helps improve the quality of customer interactions and provide better service experience.|
Customer service is not "one size fits all" and customers prefer different methods to look for support. Some of them prefer being contacted via email, some through phone calls, while the others would prefer live chat with support agents (or even a chatbot). Today customers can pick any channel of support and they expect the same level of service across. Thanks to multi-channel customer service that has opened up new avenues for organizations to reach a wider audience.
|Call center management||Helps organizations streamline their call center operations such as caller management, call transfer and scheduling, agent management, call distribution, performance monitoring and reporting, and more.|
|Chat||Allows agents to communicate with the customers and their team members via a chat window. Some advanced chat messengers also allow sharing audio and video files along with documents. Customers can also submit their issues and raise tickets using the chat option embedded on the website.|
|Multi-channel management||Allows support agents to interact with the potential customer, receive customer requests, and provide customer support via multiple channels such as phone, emails, live chat, and social media.|
|Social media integration||Allows the customer service tool to integrate with social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn with the objective to track requests and conversations posted by customers on such platforms in the form of posts and tweets.|
|Surveys and feedback||Helps organizations gather customer feedback related to service quality, satisfaction level, and other performance standards.|
Nowadays, many customers prefer helping themselves to reaching out to a support agent. To serve their customers better, organizations are expanding their self-service capabilities by opting more and more self-service support channels. Let's explore below some of the self-service support features which a powerful customer service software offers.
|Knowledge base||Supports the creation of a centralized online repository of frequently-asked questions and other useful information for internal reference or customer self-help.|
|Online forums||Promote interactions between customers. This feature allows users to set up online communities which customers can join and post their inquiries, challenges or best practices to that forum.|
|Self-service portal||Allows customers to perform certain basic tasks like raising tickets, tracking service status, escalating or dropping tickets, maintaining ticket history and submitting feedback.|
|Web forms||Allows organizations to design and integrate online forms into their website for use by customers to raise support tickets. Agents can also capture support tickets from the website and add them to the help desk.|
For small businesses, especially those with a mobile workforce, it's not surprising to hear complaints from a customer about long wait times for customer support. This usually happens because there is no proper workflow management. Handling everything manually is no easy feat and that is why you need a workflow management tool. Here are some of the key workflow management functionalities that any decent customer service tool should offer:
|Alerts/Escalation||Alerts can be configured for almost any critical event like performance, attendance, SLA deadlines or call drop. Escalation features enable support agents to auto-escalate pending issues to their supervisors and other agents to ensure tickets are resolved quickly.|
|Feedback management||Helps users design, create and share feedback forms with their customers, as well as record their feedback to analyze and understand their opinion and thoughts about the product or service.|
|Help desk management||Enables support agents to receive, process and respond to support requests in a timely and efficient manner.|
|Queue manager||A queue manager is a rule-based engine that collects and distributes customer requests among agents in an orderly manner. Some high-end solutions also offer advanced tools that prioritize requests as per SLA commitments, ensuring high priority requests are addressed first.|
|Real-time notifications||Allows teams to set up notifications for critical events.|
|Routing options||Allows teams to set up rules for routing customer tickets to the right person in or outside the team.|
|Ticket management||Allows users to create and handle tickets, assign requests to agents, track support progress, and close tickets post service completion.|
|Workflow management||Allows businesses to design, execute, and automate repetitive tasks like generating ticket IDs, prioritizing requests, distributing tickets among agents, sending service progress notifications, closing requests, and recording service related information.|
Customer service automation not only improves quality and speed of service but also minimizes the need for human intervention. This eliminates the possibility for error, wasted effort, and redundancy.
From intelligent routing of calls and automatic order confirmations to sending email notifications, automation allows organizations to serve their customers timely, speedily, and efficiently. Let's have a look at some of the automation features which you can look for while buying a customer service software:
|Automatic call distribution||A rule-based routing engine that allows businesses to distribute and assign calls according to the agent's availability or according to their calling experience.|
|Automatic notifications||Ability to configure notifications for critical issues that get delivered to both agent and customers via email or in-app notifications.|
|Auto-responders||Sends automated replies and follow-up emails to prospects and customers in the absence of agents.|
|Email templates||Offers pre-built email templates that can be customized to quickly generate different types of emails such as ticket confirmation, service updates, and service completion emails.|
|Macros||A prewritten message that is delivered to tickets with matching service requests. Some of the actions where macros can be used are service activation or deactivation, transfer acknowledgment, processing refunds, or sharing news about upcoming events.|
Trying to devise a smart customer service strategy for your business without metrics is like riding a bicycle down the hill with your eyes closed. It's equally important for you to view, measure, and track the quality of your service over time to understand how well your customer service efforts are performing and what areas need your attention.
A good customer service software will offer monitoring and tracking functionalities that can help you handle your customers efficiently as well as streamline your agents' activities. Here's what these functionalities can help you with:
|Activity tracking||Keeps track of core activities of agents and the customers, from the time the ticket is raised until it is successfully resolved.|
|Activity dashboard||An interactive user interface which enables managers and agents to monitor their KPIs and keep a tab of their daily 'to-dos' on a single screen.|
|Call monitoring||Allows supervisors to hear live as well as recorded agent-customer interactions for training and quality purposes.|
|Call recording||Records all or some customer service calls for training and quality purpose.|
|Customizable reporting||Generates custom reports for call quality, cases resolved, agents progress, and other key performance indicators. These reports can help in analyzing business performance and addressing challenges.|
|Real-time analytics||Allows users to analyze SLA performance, agent performance, and other customer engagement data from multiple sources and present data in a way that can be used to make informed decisions.|
|Real-time monitoring||Allows users to monitor customer interactions in real-time using an advanced dashboard.|
Customers today are very demanding and want a consistent experience across sales, marketing, and support. If you are looking to customize and build a powerful customer service, you should go for a software that can integrate with your other existing applications like CRM, help desk, eCommerce, etc.
Integrating your customer service tool with your existing software stack will ensure a seamless flow of data between applications. Let's have a look at some of the features below that will ensure your customer service software integrates with other applications you are using.
|API||Stands for Application Programming Interface. Helps to improve customer service interactions and add new capabilities to the system by integrating with external applications like chat messengers, Outlook, CRM, BI and eCommerce apps.|
|CRM integration||Allows the customer service software to integrate with third-party CRM solutions, facilitating seamless flow of customer data and engagement history between applications.|
|eCommerce integration||Helps users link leading eCommerce platforms such as Shopify, Magento etc.|
|Email integration||Supports integration with leading email service providers such as Outlook and Gmail to manage all email communications from a single interface.|
|Help desk integration||Supports integration with third-party help desk software for managing support and ticketing activities.|
|Mobile integration||Allows agents to process tickets, view service status, and communicate with customers and other team members via phone through dedicated mobile apps or a mobile web browser.|
|Website integration||Allows users to embed the application into the company website for collecting customer inquiries, generating tickets, monitoring discussions, etc.|
Data security is a growing concern today among organizations, especially for those in eCommerce businesses or with large networks. With security and permissions functionality, you can control who has access to your customer service data as well as the features of the tool.
|Role-based permissions||Allows users to design and assign role-based permissions to access data, files, or other important documents.|
|Single sign on||Allows users to access multiple integrated applications by signing in from one interface with one set of login credentials.|
|User access controls||An administrator can define and set access levels for the different set of users like managers, supervisors, support agents etc. This ensures that users can only access the features they are authorized to and are restricted from the rest.|
Listed below are some additional customer service features that can help you improve your customer service:
|Collaborative workspace||Allows users to collaborate with other team members to share documents, tickets, chat with them, discuss issues, tag people and a lot more.|
|Customizable branding||Allows businesses to brand business logos, taglines, and themes at various interfaces of the application such as home page, dashboard, reports, emails, notifications and more.|
|File transfer||Allows users to share documents and digital files within or outside the organization securely and safely.|
|Gamification||Helps organizations to set up a reward system for employees, in which they can score points, earn badges and ratings for completing tasks, trainings and other bonus activities.|
|Search functionality||Allows customers to search response for their inquiries in the knowledge base and discussion forums using text strings. Agents can also search details from their customer service database to access any previous record.|
|Tags and keywords||Allows businesses to tag similar support requests with similar keywords and group them together to enhance searchability. Customers can use these keywords to search questions from the knowledge base.|
|Widgets||Link-activated text or buttons that can be used to embed knowledge base, contact forms, FAQs and chat functionality into existing website and other business web pages.|
Hopefully our customer service software features guide has given you more of an idea of the tools you need within your solution before you start shortlisting and testing apps. Here are some handy GetApp resources to help you with your customer service software selection: