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Find out why Laurie McCabe believes that customer service is the new marketing and what tools small businesses can leverage to keep up in today’s digital age.
Customer service software enables businesses to communicate with their customers and offer support. The software provides the platform to answer questions, resolve complaints, and maintain client satisfaction.Read full GetApp guide
Here's what we'll cover:
The customer service department is the face of your company. At the same time, your customers’ experience is a direct outcome of the quality and skill of your customer service or customer support team. Because of this, any strong business will look to harness the power of customer service or customer support software to develop positive and long-lasting relationships with clients.
The basic idea of a customer service solution is to provide a centralized platform to attend to your customers’ questions. In order to prevent the relationship from deteriorating and to continue to fuel innovation and automation in your customer service processes, you have to invest in the right customer service software.
To help you select the right customer service software for your business, we’ve put together this guide. Here’s what we’ll cover:
Customer service software is a software tool that helps customer support teams to document, track, and resolve customer queries. With this software, customer service agents can address customer questions, issues, and complaints and communicate with them across different channels such as email, web, live chat, and social media.
With customer service software, you can manage all customer interactions on a single platform and retrieve them whenever. You can also raise tickets about customer issues, prioritize these tickets, and track the resolution status to ensure customer satisfaction.
Find out more about how you can make your business more customer-focused.
Customer service software can help businesses in managing and maintaining a relationship with their customers.
Below are some benefits businesses can experience with customer service solutions:
Issue resolution across multiple channels: Customer service software helps you put together customer inquiries from multiple platforms into a single platform. Whether it’s via a phone call to the helpline number, email to the customer support team, through live chat, or just a comment on your social media page, the customer service platform will generate a ticket for each customer query. These tickets are then automatically added to the centralized stream, ensuring that no issue/complaint is unaddressed.
Reduce the time that agents spend on each ticket: With a customer service solution in place, agents can tag members of relevant teams to the tickets raised, directing the customers to the best available resource. Features such as standardized answers, editable templates, and the ability to simultaneously respond to multiple queries in the platform shorten ticket resolution time.
Insights into customer service team performance: The customer service system offers analytical features such as customizable reports and dashboards, which provide insights into the performance of your customer support team. With customer service software, you can find out the time your team takes to respond, how busy agents are on certain days of the week, and which questions are frequently asked. These insights can help you improve your agents’ response time, and increase their overall productivity.
Self-service option for customers: Self-service functionality in the form of chat and forums will help you promote direct conversations with customers at the start of their issue resolution process. These features in a customer service solution can be a great place for customers to learn not only from agents but also other customers on how to solve their issues.
High level of customer satisfaction: With a customer service system streamlining your entire customer support process, it is easier to make customers happy and satisfied. With quick resolution times and one-to-one attention, levels of customer satisfaction increase. A great customer experience will keep customers returning to your business, increasing customer loyalty toward your brand.
Key questions to ask a customer service software vendor before you buy:
How is a customer service tool going to benefit my business?
How will the tool add additional value to my pre-existing customer support processes?
Here are some of the features that you should look for in a customer service management solution before you make a purchase:
Case management: Allows you to create, manage, prioritize, and assign customer queries in the form of tickets.
Multichannel communication: Helps you to communicate with customers and support them via multiple channels including phone, email, live chat, and social media platforms. You can manage all the communication in one place and redirect/assign communication to the appropriate agent.
Knowledge base: Provides answers to common or previously resolved questions, which can be available publicly to customers. It may also incorporate search/advanced search functionality to help users find the right answer.
Customer management: Records customer data such as customer’s personal details, customer requests, and customer interactions. You can access, track, and view these details in a single database to efficiently assist customers.
Self-service portal: Gives access to resources such as a knowledge base and community forums. On this self-service portal, your customers can raise tickets, track their request statuses, participate in community forum discussions, and get expert advice on issues.
Workflow automation: Automates repetitive tasks such as workflow creation, case assignment, and notifications. Automated workflow saves the time spent on duplicating processes every time.
Performance tracking: Provides performance monitoring capabilities to let you measure the productivity and performance of your customer service teams.
Analytics and reporting: Helps managers get data on issue resolution, customer service calls, response time, and more. Further, this helps you evaluate all the processes and assess the improvements required.
Collaboration: Allows your customer service team to have conversations about tickets, customer issues, and interactions. You can collaborate with each other using the file-sharing feature as well.
Key questions to ask your customer service management vendor before you buy:
Do you offer all the features mentioned above in your customer service software?
Are there any other features that you offer with your customer service software?
The first thing you need to do before choosing a customer service software is to know the different types of customer support software. While some customer service solutions focus on managing leads and improving sales, others act as help desk solutions that help businesses track bugs and problems in their systems to ensure that customers’ issues are resolved to their satisfaction.
Below are the different types of customer service solutions in the market:
Live chat software: Live chat solutions are customer service tools that offer web chat and messaging features. With this software, you can create tickets for unresolved issues while chatting and request that customers fill out automated forms on chat.
Knowledge base software: A knowledge base software is a platform that collects commonly asked questions and answers, guides, tips, tricks, information, and best practices for your customers and internal teams to access. This type of self service portal can free up your staffs’ time so that they can interact with customers who want or need one-on-one care.
Help desk software: These are ticketing solutions that allow you to convert customer queries into tickets that are stored and accessed in a centralized space. These tickets can be assigned a priority and then routed to relevant customer service representatives and resolved within a set timeframe.
Shared inbox software: A shared inbox platform is a collaborative space where team members can access the same emails in a centralized inbox. This software can help in collecting multiple email accounts into one inbox, allowing different teams to work together by responding to inquiries and complaints.
Integrated customer service software: These customer service solutions combine different modules of the software types mentioned above. It allows agents to communicate across different channels, raise tickets, and offer self-service to customers.
Key question to ask your customer service software vendor before you buy:
Do you offer a specialized customer service tool or a full suite with all the features mentioned above?
Let’s talk about some trends in the customer service space that you need to know about if you want to stay ahead of your competition:
eCommerce is increasing due to changing customer behavior: Due to the global pandemic last year, many businesses closed their storefronts, and consumers were forced to shop online. Because of this, the volume of eCommerce inquiries have skyrocketed. Before the pandemic, customers were comfortable walking into a store or calling a representative to get their question answered. Now, things have changed, and customers are more comfortable getting the queries resolved online, either via a live chat option or visiting the resource section on the website. Therefore, it’s smart for vendors to incorporate digital-first support strategies into their customer service software.
Internet of things (IoT) will improve your customer service offerings: Technology such as IoT provides businesses with the ability to gather accurate and real-time information through interconnected devices. Examples include collecting real-time data from sensors on your equipment to anticipate when it needs maintenance. This can be helpful in improving customer service as businesses can take data-backed actions to mitigate issues well in advance, reducing the time customers may wait.
Chatbots improve self-service for customers: Chatbot functionality resolves customer queries in real time. The technology can simulate interactions like a human and resolve simple and repetitive queries such as operating hours, contact information, and status updates. Chatbots can also redirect customers to resources available in the knowledge base. For instance, if a customer doesn’t know how to reset their password, the chatbot will direct them to a step-by-step description of the process. According to Gartner, the adoption of chatbots by vendors is set to see a substantial increase over the next two years (full article available to clients).
Key questions to ask your customer service vendor before you buy:
Are you planning to incorporate any new technologies in your customer service software?
What are the ways in which you plan to implement technologies such as IoT, AI, and machine learning in your customer service software?
While some customer service vendors charge a “one-time” fee and some offer free customer service products, most products on the customer service software market are priced on a per user/agent, per month pricing structure. On the basis of our research, pricing can be broken down into three pricing tiers based on their starting price:
$12 - $16
$17 - $33
These ranges summarize pricing for the base plans of most products. An enterprise or premium product that is priced higher may include additional features such as help center customizations, skill-based routing, advanced reporting, cross-team collaboration, and increased storage space.
*The pricing included is for the entry-level/lowest-priced offering that was found on vendor websites on August 18, 2021. These ranges correspond to the 25th, 75th, and 100th percentile of the pricing information gathered from vendor websites of sample products and exclude freemium plans.
That being said, there could be other costs associated with the customer service software that you need to be mindful of:
Additional features/Add-ons: Cost associated with advanced features like customer relationship management (CRM), self service portal, and chatbots.
Additional customer support costs: Cost associated with advanced support such as priority support, dedicated customer service manager, administrative assistance, and 24/7 support.
Implementation costs: It includes consultants, hardware installation, software customization, data migration, and integrations.
Training costs: Some vendors charge for in-person training at the client’s site.
Maintenance costs: Cost related to software upgrades and updates.
Be mindful of all these costs also before investing in a particular customer service vendor.
Key questions to ask a customer service software vendor before you buy:
What is the pricing model of your product?
In addition to the subscription fee, what other costs are associated if I decide to purchase?
Do you offer a free plan, free trial, and demo?
Any business, be it a small business, a midsize business (SMBs), or a large enterprise, can all benefit from deploying a customer service software if they have an ultimate goal of keeping their customers happy and satisfied.
While most businesses perform customer service functions, what determines the need for customer service software is how you view your customer service department, the company size, your budget, and the opportunities for strategic benefits. Ask yourself: Do you consider customer service as a high-cost business function or is it considered as a source of future profits?
For SMBs, customer service software is a central part of their business model—it is an opportunity for them to develop customer relationships and drive future business. In small businesses, it is of paramount importance to retain existing customers by engaging with them. Staff can interact with customers on a wide variety of topics and keep the customer interaction channel open throughout the customer lifecycle.
Customer service software in SMBs is used to:
Provide a personalized touch to customers
Simplify customer service processes
Make the process efficient using real-time information
Develop stronger customer relationships
Create value for customers
Analyze customer behavior and identify individual opportunities
On the other hand, large businesses might also use customer service platforms to improve efficiency and cost optimization. Their major focus is usually on scalability, efficiency, consistency, cost optimization, self-service capabilities, and advanced analytics.
Whether you are a small business owner or a large one, customer service software can help you in various ways. Therefore, it is advisable to first gauge your business requirements and needs and invest in the customer service solution accordingly.