It doesn’t matter if you’re at your desk checking off your weekly to-do list or trying to return an item at a store – customer service and customer support touches everyone and everything. And like your customers and other consumers, you likely have high expectations for either of these areas should you need them. And with marketing taking on a more personable, authentic approach in the last year, it goes without saying how crucial customer service and customer support have become. Many people and businesses use the two terms interchangeably, but there are pointed differences between the two. However, depending on the size of your company, you may have one area or department that provides both.
What’s the difference between customer service and customer support?
Let’s start with customer support. Customer support normally covers troubleshooting, conflict resolution, or any issue that requires a more technical approach to resolving. Most of the burden is placed on the company for a resolution with customer support, especially since it is more issue specific. For example, you are having issues accessing the weekly metrics for your social media platforms through your CRM (customer relationship management) software. Would you call the customer service number you have on hand or customer support? In this case, it would take a team with technical experience to determine whether it was a bug in the software, user error, or some other technical glitch causing the hang-up.
On the other hand, customer service often reflects the company’s brand more so than customer support. Customer service has more exchanges between the company – often through customer service representatives – and the customer. The resounding goal between the parties is finding a more efficient means of a solution to the issue at hand, rather than going through the regular process. It has a proactive focus, wanting to solve the issue once and for all for the customer. The fewer interactions a customer has with a customer service department, the higher the chances they will become a satisfied customer and recommend your company to others they know.
Why are customer service and support crucial for any business?
The number of answers to this question is innumerable, but the first one that comes to mind for us is the ability to set yourself apart from your competition. If you consistently provide quality customer service and support to any and every body, it will quickly set you apart from the rest of the field. The more quickly and efficiently you can solve a customer’s question or situation, the more likely you are to continue having a customer friendly reputation. And with those words being used by many businesses, being able to back them up is everything.
Think of customer service and support this way – it’s often the only time a customer has contact with a business once the sales process has ended. A product or service you provide met the customer’s need or want and everybody went on their way. But what happens when something goes awry? If an issue does awry long after the sale is over, customers have a legitimate expectation of it being resolved quickly, efficiently, and professionally.
Without customer service and support, no company, regardless of industry, would survive. It goes beyond troubleshooting; many times these departments handle questions, payments, messages, and other information between the business itself and customers.
How Can It Help or Hinder Lead Nurturing and Customer Retention
Whether it’s in business as a whole or a specific area such as marketing, the Pareto principle or 80/20 rule dictates more of our actions than we may realize. Why? It simply states that 80 percent of effects come from 20 percent of causes. In this case, 80 percent of sales come from 20 percent of clients. And when talking about customer service and customer support, this rule applies to every situation and issue.
After the sales process is over, service – or lack thereof – is why customers will either become one-time buyers or repeat customers with your company. The Small Business Administration and U.S. Chamber of Commerce have multiple studies that show new customers cost five to seven times more to acquire than retaining current customers. But if 20 percent of customers give the vast majority of sales to a company, why do so many companies focus on offering discounts and promotions to new customers?
One way of knowing if your customer service or support is hindering or helping your business is by using key performance indicators (KPIs). These give a measurable value that demonstrates how effectively a company is reaching key business objectives. It works best when the objectives have been determined and set before you begin tracking KPIs.
How you conduct customer service and customer support also directly affects your lead nurturing. As a business, it goes without saying that customers are the lifeblood; if you don’t have customers coming in, chances are your business won’t be in business long. This is where lead nurturing comes in. Its focus is on developing relationships with potential buyers at every stage in both the sales funnel and buyer’s journey. The sub-focus is on marketing and communication efforts to consumers, by listening and providing information they are seeking, along with answers to questions.
Yes, customers want to be wowed, but they also want it to be as easy as possible to conduct business with you or any company. They also have an inherent expectation of consistent and professional customer service. Whether it’s lead nurturing or customer retention, if the channel used for contacting your business is in any way restricted, you’ll begin to see a churn in customers. Web forms that take several minutes to fill out or telephone lines with notoriously long wait times will begin to turn people off. Then you’ll be back to square one trying to bring in new customers instead of nurturing relationships with long time customers.
How to Deliver Top Notch Customer Service and Support
Everybody has their sure fire, absolute winning way to provide quality customer service and or customer support.
Know your customers
The first step in providing great customer service and support is knowing your customers, individually if possible. Keeping a note of interactions with customers in their file to reference in case someone else handles an issue or concern is a tremendous help. This way you’ll have a quick history of the customer in front of you and neither person will have to rehash old information before getting to the issue at hand.
Customers, like anyone, love personalization. Knowing small details about them such as what they have purchased in the past and making a small conversation about that if they have purchased it several times can go a long way in fostering a one-on-one relationship.
Respond in a timely manner
The sooner you can resolve an issue for a customer, the happier everyone involved will be, especially in time sensitive situations. Maybe it would take an extra call to a supervisor or putting a customer on hold for a minute or two to review a file. If that’s what it takes to resolve the issue, you may have just created a return customer who will sing praises about how thoroughly you solved their problem.
If you made a mistake, fix it
Mistakes happen because we’re human. But not fixing a mistake and allowing it to crop up again – and again – will hinder your customer service and customer support ability quickly. Not only will your customers become irritated, but employees who are caught on the broken record will also. Not fixing something simple can lead others to wonder what else about your business is lacking.
Have your customer service policy written out and prominently displayed
Training on customer service and support for employees should be at the forefront of everything you do and continuous. Training can take many forms, such as written materials, verbal instructions, and on-the-job demonstrations. Without continually focusing on customer service and support, lapses can happen with your customers paying the price.