Types of Customer Service: 8 Ways You Can Improve Your Customer Experience

Customer service is king. You’ve heard it before. But to truly rule in your market, you can’t rely on traditional methods. What many companies fail to realize is that there are many different types of customer service. More importantly, if you’re not actively engaging people with these different approaches, it could cost your company a lot.

An essential aspect of customer service is engaging with customers where they are when they need you. From email, social media, live chat, or text messaging, having a customer support presence on the right platforms is crucial nowadays, with 90% of customers claiming they want omnichannel customer service.

This article will discuss the various types of customer service you can use, giving you the advice you need to deliver an omnichannel experience, which will increase customer satisfaction, foster loyalty, and ultimately boost your bottom line.

Reactive vs. Proactive Types of Customer Service

When we talk about types of customer service, it’s essential to understand that each type is not simply a different channel, like email or social media. Instead, you should consider whether the customer service type enables a company to deliver reactive or proactive customer service.

  • Reactive Customer Service is the type of support a company provides when customers reach out to them first — for instance, when a customer sends an email or makes a phone call.

  • Proactive customer service is the type of support a company provides preemptively to help people solve challenges they might face in the future. For example, a company could publish a knowledge base or in-depth FAQ that addresses common customer questions.

By offering proactive types of customer service, companies can provide greater value to their customers, exceed expectations, and differentiate themselves from the competition.

Proactive support enables you to welcome visitors to your site (or physical store), get ahead of their concerns, and offer personalized service. Together, these tactics help dispel any doubts that prospects have, making them more likely to buy.

A further benefit of proactive customer service is that it improves customer retention and loyalty. Customers would rather spend their money with a company that goes out of their way to meet their needs preemptively. In doing so, you can stand out from the competition and keep customers interested.

8 Types of Customer Service Channels

Now that we know the two different types of customer service — reactive and proactive — let’s look at the various customer service channels you can use in your business model.

We’ll break down the pros and cons and explain how best to use each channel to improve your customer service experience.

Live chat support

Source: JivoChat

Live chat software allows you to communicate with your prospects and site visitors proactively — and that’s a good practice, because 41% of customers prefer live chat over other options like email or social media. Also, 40% of buyers who use live chat are more likely to make online purchases.

When it comes to private matters (such as healthcare), some people may be uncomfortable chatting on the phone with reps. Live chat software offers people a more comfortable alternative.

Here are the pros and cons of this type of customer service:

Pros:

  • Archive conversations for future reference

  • Customize chat personas to establish your brand voice

  • Save time by automating responses to common questions

  • Personalize service to make customers feel valued

  • Qualify leads earlier to increase their conversion rate

Cons:

  • It’s not always possible to read customer emotions

  • It takes time to optimize chat sequences

When to use this type of customer service:

Both public and private organizations can benefit from live chat. For example, a non-profit can answer questions about how they champion their cause, while private companies that sell B2C products or B2B services could use live chat to guide customers to the right product.

In any case, it’s important to remember that live chat should not replace your human agents entirely, but it can enhance their ability to serve customers.

Customer self-service

Source: Adobe

Self-service is when businesses provide a way for customers to get answers to questions on their own. FAQs, videos, and blog posts are good examples of this type of customer service.

According to McKinsey, companies that diversify the technology they use for customer support can increase customer satisfaction by 15-20% and increase conversions by as much as 20%. When a customer takes the time to research, it can help them feel more educated and confident with purchasing decisions.

Here are the pros and cons of this type of customer service:

Pros:

  • Provides instant access to customers, on-demand

  • Appeals to different learning styles and preferences as the content can be reformatted across various media

  • Helps expand market reach as you can translate the content to various languages

  • Requires little maintenance

  • Demonstrates your expertise

Cons:

  • Reduces your ability to read your customer’s emotions, as they engage your self-service content instead of communicating directly with your team

  • Doesn’t cover every possible aspect or potential query about your products or services

  • Is not suited to complex and evolving products that require more detailed information or frequent updates

When to use this type of customer service:

Industries with complex or technical information — such as law firms and parts manufacturers — can benefit most from offering self-service.

Software is another industry that should implement self-service resources. Instead of hopping on a product demo with every customer, you can make videos available on-demand to answer frequently asked questions at scale.

Chatbot support

Source: JivoChat

Chatbots are artificial intelligence (AI) applications that can integrate with your webpage to communicate with customers and provide support services. With AI and machine learning, chatbots continue to learn with every customer interaction. Over time, they can offer quicker resolutions and a better user experience, which further enhances customer service.

Worried that people won’t want to talk with a bot? Chatbots have a response rate of 35-40%. And once you engage your customer, it is much easier to guide them through the sales process, which helps increase conversion rates.

Better yet, 69% of chatbots resolve their entire ‘script, ’ meaning they lead the customer to the desired outcome. In other words, chatbots improve customer satisfaction more often than not.

Chatbots can run 24/7, without breaks or vacations, ensuring customers can always get assistance, no matter when they need help. Here are the pros and cons of this type of customer service:

Pros:

  • Eliminates wait time for your visitors — one of the most crucial customer service areas to get right

  • Offers a scalable solution that grows with your business

  • Requires less maintenance, as a great chatbot can be created once and will run for years with minimal updates

  • Reduces overhead, as chatbots cost less than hiring live agents

  • Ensures customers can quickly connect with live agents if needed

Cons:

  • Limited in the range of problems it can solve compared to live agents

  • Requires planning and question-to-answer design

  • Some customers may prefer to speak with a person

When to use this type of customer service:

Both B2B and B2C companies can use chatbots to great effect. Real estate, finance, travel, and healthcare are particularly well-suited based on the amount of customer service a chatbot can handle, which frees up customer service teams to work on more complex issues.

Businesses can also use chatbots to create a simpler, streamlined user interface on their website. Instead of creating text-heavy site pages that may cause information overload, you can say only what’s needed and let the chatbot popup handle answers to any questions your visitors may have.

Social media customer service

Source: Wix Answers

Social media customer service is when companies use platforms such as Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to offer customer support.

Did you know 80% of consumers report using social media to engage with businesses? Leading platforms, like Facebook and Twitter, have billions of monthly users, so when you have a profile on those channels, that puts your business in touch with almost a third of the planet. Companies shouldn’t let customer inquiries slip through the cracks, or their reputation may suffer.

Here are the pros and cons of this type of customer service:

Pros:

  • Brings together your market as a community more effectively than other types of customer service

  • Integrates with your company website and customer relationship management (CRM) system

  • Offers people a mobile-friendly experience

  • Helps business develop a stronger brand voice and a reputation for caring for their customers

Cons:

  • Requires constant management and engagement

  • Remains subject to platform changes and algorithmic updates that could impact your reach

  • Sometimes may seem too informal for certain target markets

When to use this type of customer service:

If your brand targets younger consumers, then social media customer support is an excellent approach. If you have a lot of traffic to your business Facebook page, you can assign customer success reps to handle queries.

Phone customer service

Source: HubSpot

Even in the era of innovation and SaaS, phone support is not dead — 76% of customers still prefer to contact small businesses via phone.

You can use phone customer service with live agents fielding calls from customers or an automated voice system that provides information based on user input.

One of the main advantages of phone support is that your customer service team can pick up emotional cues and intonation when they hear a customer’s voice. As this direct contact helps reps understand how a customer may be feeling, they can preemptively help before a situation escalates.

Here are the pros and cons of this type of customer service:

Pros:

  • Accessible by all generations (especially those not well versed in digital technology)

  • Provides a deeper understanding of customer questions or problems

  • Increases trust and credibility

  • Maintains strong connections with customers who prefer phone support

Cons:

  • Requires a lot of human resources (and expenses)

  • Can be a drain on your team’s time as they deal with questions that could be answered quicker on other channels

  • Lacks the scalability of self-service or chat-based customer support

When to use this type of customer service:

Many businesses can use phone customer service to build a relationship with prospects before making a sale. This approach is beneficial for B2B businesses or those selling expensive or complex products. In these cases, phone conversations allow sales reps to convey the value for customers and overcome any objections in real-time.

Email support

Source: Freshdesk

Email support is offering customer service via a dedicated email address. This type of customer support can be proactive or reactive, and it gives companies the means of building customer relationships through a personable, conversational channel.

This medium remains one of the most reliable channels for customer communications. There are over 3.9 billion daily email users, and the average email open rate across all industries is 21.33%.

Here are the pros and cons of this type of customer service:

Pros:

  • Maintains a written record of customer conversations

  • Uses a tried-and-true support channel

  • Makes it easier to track customer service agent performance and attitude

  • Can be automated with canned responses

  • Removes the ‘middle-man’ between you and your customers. You decide how and when to help them

Cons:

  • Takes time to create an effective email support sequence

  • Email tickets can slow down your service team

  • Your communications may be lost in a sea of other emails in a customer’s inbox

  • Lack of face-to-face conversation limits your ability to read customer emotions

  • Messages can be improperly marked as spam, potentially leading to customers thinking that you didn’t respond to their inquiries for help

When to use this type of customer service:

The top three industries for email customer support are government, hobbies, and religion, respectively. However, the power of email is in the direct communication between your brand and your market, so any industry can benefit from a well-managed email support system.

Businesses can drip constant emails providing value to their followers. This approach to consistent, conversational marketing helps build relationships over time, increasing customer trust and eventually warming them up to buy higher-priced services.

On-site customer service

Source: Pexels

On-site customer service is helping the customer at their business premises, like their home or office. While online customer service is popular, 23% of customers still prefer face-to-face service. On-site help is one of the customer service areas where you can offer an added touch of personalization.

And with company reps now spending 89% more time interacting remotely with customers, on-site service can give you a competitive advantage.

Here are the pros and cons of this type of customer service:

Pros:

  • Nurture customer relationships by getting to know your customers better in real life

  • Create live interaction with your products and services

  • Reach customers who aren’t comfortable communicating remotely

  • Understand and resolve customer issues faster

  • Demonstrate more commitment than your competitors

Cons:

  • Involves greater expenses due to employee time, mileage, and other resources

  • Sometimes frowned upon in a post-pandemic world due to social distancing reasons

  • Is often limited to the local area, so many customers can’t avail of your on-site service

  • Lacks the scalability of technology-based customer support

When to use this type of customer service:

Companies that can’t easily operate remotely — such as beauty salons, occupational therapy clinics, and home repair businesses — are the ones most likely to benefit from in-person customer service. (Imagine a roof repair company trying to assess damage to a customer’s home over chat or video calls!)

While it may be possible to an extent, the nature of some businesses doesn’t lend itself to a remote working model. Without on-site service, you could frustrate prospects and lose customers to companies that can offer the assistance they need.

Customer service via messaging apps

Source: Sirena

There are several messaging apps for customer service now, with WhatsApp (downloaded over 58 million times in November 2020) and Facebook Messenger leading the charge, as more people want to communicate with brands via their mobile devices.

These apps get more engagement than their nearest counterpart, text messages, which are opened within three minutes 90% of the time. People are accustomed to communicating with business — not just friends and family — right from their phones. If your company gets on board, you can always reach customers wherever they are to solve issues and answer questions quickly.

Here are the pros and cons of this type of customer service:

Pros:

  • Offers companies a free or inexpensive channel to communicate with their audience

  • Provide a means of instant communication with customers

  • Enables multimedia messaging for richer engagement — a key advantage compared to some other types of customer service

Cons:

  • Some older customers may not be comfortable using message apps

  • Risks a lot of time-wasting with customers who don’t take messaging seriously

  • Requires a team of on-call agents to respond to messages

When to use this type of customer service:

Companies that can afford to have live agents send and receive messages within minutes should take advantage of messaging apps. From healthcare to SaaS to e-commerce companies, most industries stand to benefit from having a better response time to customer queries. Messaging apps are an excellent way to stay in touch and provide short bursts of communication.

Omnichannel is the Best Type of Customer Service

The best type of customer service is not limited to one channel — instead, an omnichannel approach is the smartest strategy. With multiple channels that intertwine, you can engage people at different stages of the customer journey and offer a better service.

No one wants to express their needs on one channel just to repeat themselves on another. It’s crucial to make it easy for customers to seamlessly continue the conversation, even when they switch channels. Customers now expect a personalized experience, and 71% will be dissatisfied if it is not.

Instead of viewing each support channel in a vacuum, companies should work toward a cohesive customer service plan. Providing consistent service across all channels will improve customer experience, build goodwill, increase customer loyalty, and save money.

JivoChat is an omnichannel business messenger that offers support teams a unified dashboard. From this centralized platform, your support agents can interact with customers and pick up where the last conversation ended, regardless of how or where the issue began. Support agents will have the complete history, notes, and customer data from prior interactions to speed up issue resolution.

Ultimately, omnichannel platforms deliver tangible business results by reducing resolution times and support costs, and by improving customer satisfaction. In the long run, an omnichannel approach that encompasses multiple types of customer service will help your company gain customer trust, nurture brand loyalty, and increase customer retention.

Final Thoughts

Customer service isn’t easy. But problems with data entry, customer ticket tracking, and answering customer questions can be mitigated when everything flows to a central “home base” of client support.

An omnichannel approach automates routine interactions and impresses customers with friendly, lightning-fast support. You can merge the various types of customer service to offer a seamless experience that makes you stand out from the competition. The result is happy, loyal customers.

Are you ready to try new types of customer service? Get a free trial of JivoChat to see how omnichannel service can work for your business.

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