Customer service tools are used to manage the level of customer support provided before, during and after a purchase or service is provided to a customer. These business apps help to measure performance and identify ways in which the level of customer service can be improved. This is done by automating key processes, documenting best practices and recording customer interactions. By providing reports and overviews, users of customer service software are better equipped to put measures in place to improve their customer relations.
One of the main aims of customer service applications is to increase the speed and efficiency of issue resolution. By consolidating customer data into one easily accessible platform, reps can access complete client interaction history as well as all their personal information. Response time is reduced through call routing. Queries are routed to the right agents by automatically categorizing and separating issues into work queues for different teams.
Self-service is a another key trend among customer service applications. By providing customers with self-service portals packed with resources such as FAQ´s, guides, video tutorials, forums and other documentation, busy customers looking for a quick answer can help themselves before getting in the queue to speak to an agent. This frees up your agents for other tasks and reduces waiting time.
Multi-channel support tools offers a better experience to your customer by providing several forms of contact. These often include integrated phone, email, online support and social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. All queries coming from these channels are routed to the same inbox, reducing the time spent checking separate channels. Other customer service tools include feedback forms and online surveys, helping you to understand better what your customers really wants from your service.
Customer service software helps unite the whole team in improving the customer experience, not leaving it solely on the shoulders of customer reps. Through various communication tools, sales reps, marketers and other departments can collaborate and share information which they think might help to improving the service received by your customers.
Most customer service applications will provide you with key insights and analytics through reporting and time-tracking features. This equips you with the information needed to gain a deeper understanding of your customer service and help flag-up areas for improvement. It also helps to build workflows and create knowledge bases used to train new agents and ensure all existing agents are working from the same page.
|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.|
GetApp’s Category Leaders graphic identifies leading cloud-based software products in the Customer Service software category. If you’re a business owner or decision maker who is evaluating Customer Service technology options for your company, Category Leaders is for you.
The ranking highlights key factors that small businesses should consider when assessing which software products may be right for them. These factors include user perception (“user reviews”), compatibility with other systems (“integrations”), mobile offerings (“mobile”), technical capabilities (“functionality”), and product security (“security”).
To create each Category Leaders ranking, our research team typically evaluates hundreds of products in any one category. The 10-15 with the highest scores become Category Leaders.
Category Leaders is focused on the North American Customer Service software market. To be eligible for inclusion, products must offer a core set of functionality, as determined by our research analysts, who provide coverage of and have familiarity with products in that market. Please see the “Functionality” section below for additional details on the core set of functionality we define for the Customer Service market.
Since Category Leaders is intended to cover the Customer Service market at large, individual analysts use their market experience and knowledge, existing market-based research, and small business software buyer needs analysis to assess an application’s suitability for a given category depending on whether it can reasonably be expected to be relevant to most small business buyers across industries searching for a system with a strong focus on Customer Service capabilities.
In addition, a product must have at least 20 unique user-submitted product reviews across the three Gartner Digital Markets web properties: softwareadvice.com, capterra.com, and getapp.com, and those reviews must be published within 18 months of the start of the analysis period. The analysis period for the Q3 2018 Category Leaders update is December 22, 2016 to June 22, 2018.
An app’s score is calculated using five unique data points, each scored out of 20, resulting in a total score out of 100. The ranking and scoring methodology ensure complete impartiality and independence from any relationships that GetApp has with app vendors.
Review scores are calculated using weighted reviews collected from GetApp and its sister sites, Software Advice and Capterra. This score is based on average user ratings (on a scale from 1 to 5) of how satisfied users are with a product overall. The scoring includes ratings left within the previous 18-month period; ratings that are more recent are weighted more heavily.
The methodology calculates the percentile ranking for each product relative to all other products in the software category that have qualified for inclusion. That percentile ranking is then translated into a 1 to 20 score.
Integration scores factor in a number of variables. Up to 16 points are awarded based on the number of integrations an app has. The first 10 points are awarded based on the number of integrations relative to the category average, while 4 points are awarded based on the number of integrations relative to the leaders in the category. An additional 5 points is awarded for an integration with Zapier, a widely used software integration platform, while an extra point is given for having an open API. The total possible score for integrations is 20 points.
Mobile scores are calculated based on the availability of an iOS and Android app. Five points are awarded for the presence of each app, with an additional 10 points awarded for the number and average rating of reviews in both the App Store and Google Play. These review scores are calculated on a scale based on the category average for a maximum of 5 points per platform and an overall maximum score of 20.
If there isn’t a native iOS or Android app, the product’s website is assessed using Google’s PageSpeed Insights to measure mobile usability. A score out of 100 is given, then scaled to a score out of 5 for a maximum of 5 points.
Functionality scores are assigned based on a combination of two assessments: user ratings and functionality breadth data.
Fifty percent of the score is based on average user ratings on a scale from 1 to 5 of how satisfied users are with the product’s functionality. The scoring includes ratings left within the previous 18-month period; ratings that are more recent are weighted more heavily.
The methodology calculates the percentile ranking for each product relative to all other products in the software category that have qualified for inclusion. That percentile ranking is then translated into a 1 to 10 score.
The other 50% of the score is based on a functionality assessment of the product. For each software category, our research analysts define a core set of features that a product must offer, as well as additional “nice-to-have” common and optional features. For the Customer Service category, we identify the following set of features:
Core features: ticket management, multi-channel communication, knowledge base, and a communication tool.
Common features (at least two of the following): service level management (SLA), interaction tracking, alerts or escalations, macros, and reporting features.
Optional features: workflow management, customizable branding, social media integration, live chat, call center management, email integration, and a self-service portal.
Products are assessed according to how many of those pre-defined features they offer, and products with more features receive a higher score. We use this data to calculate a product’s percentile ranking, which allows us to determine how products compare relative to one another rather than determine an absolute number.
All told, a vendor can receive up to 10 points based on user ratings and up to 10 points based on the features assessment for a total maximum score of 20 for “functionality.”
Security scoring is calculated using answers from a vendor-completed survey. The questions in the survey are based on the Cloud Security Alliance self-assessment form as part of the Security, Trust & Assurance Registry, supplemented by the expertise of our security research experts. Each answer in the 16-question survey is assigned a point value. The scoring then calculates the percentile ranking for each product relative to all other products in the software category that have qualified for Category Leaders consideration. That percentile ranking is then translated into a 1 to 20 score.
In the event of a tie, each data point is weighted for importance, with security taking precedent, followed by reviews, integrations, mobile apps, and functionality, respectively.
Providers must abide by the Category Leaders External Usage Guidelines when referencing Category Leaders content. Except in digital media with character limitations, the following disclaimer MUST appear with any/all Category Leaders reference(s) and graphic use:
GetApp Category Leaders constitute the subjective opinions of individual end-user reviews, ratings, and data applied against a documented methodology; they neither represent the views of, nor constitute an endorsement by, GetApp or its affiliates.