Customer Service vs Customer Support vs Customer Success: The Exact Difference Explained
Providing customers with the best possible experience has become increasingly important in the past two decades.
If you’re looking for commercial success today, you have to take a look at what kinds of interactions your customers are having with your brand and constantly look to make improvements.
With this much focus on customers and their experiences, we’ve developed a lot of terms to describe these processes. From customer and user experience to customer success – all of these terms mean different things and it’s easy to get them confused.
In this article, we will focus on three such terms: customer service, customer support, and customer success. What does each of these terms mean and what are the exact differences between each term?
Let’s start with the most popular one, learn its definition, and check out some of its best practices.
What is customer service?
There are many definitions of customer service to be found online.
It’s often defined as all one-on-one interactions between a customer making a purchase and a company employee. This is a traditional definition of customer service that puts personal interactions at the core of the activity. It’s something we see in any kind of retail – from your local bakery to global fashion chains.
However, this definition ignores two important things:
- Customer service happens in multiple places, at multiple times – it’s not just one-on-one interactions;
- Customer service doesn’t just take place when a customer is making a purchase – it also happens before and after.
So, let’s include these two things in our definition.
Customer service can be defined as the sum of advice and assistance companies provide to customers before, during, and after purchasing a product or service. This advice and assistance can range from general politeness and willingness to help to live chats and personalized product recommendations.
Customer service should also be differentiated from customer experience, which is the overall experience your users have with your brand – scrolling through your website,
Customer service best practices
Here are some of the most important things you should include in your customer service strategy.
One of the best ways to build customer relations is to personalize your customer service approach.
What does this mean in practice?
For starters, you should make sure your agents always say their names. If you’re using a live chat or other customer service platforms, it would be good if your agents have their profile pictures and names displayed. That way, the customer feels like they’re talking to a real person and their problems are being listened to.
Second, your agents should use customers’ names in their messaging and be as informal as possible. Don’t make them rely too heavily on scripts. Instead, let them treat each customer with care and a helpful, friendly tone.
Here’s a good example that applies all of this:
Have as many channels as possible
A company that has good customer service gives its customers multiple channels to use for help. Your social media pages and your website should be your primary channels, with agents ready to answer as soon as an issue arises. You can invest in live chat tools or social media management tools that help your agents manage inquiries.
Additionally, you might want to equip your website with a “call us now” button that enables your website visitors to quickly get in touch with you if they want to talk to an agent. Fancy chat tools are great to have but some people still prefer old-school phone calls.
It's often easier to deal with customer service issues through video – it allows you to get more descriptive and go into more detail. It’s also great for building a stronger connection with the customers: when they see your agent’s face, they’ll feel like their problems are being listened to.
It doesn’t make too much sense to use video for every micro-interaction but some important events in your customers’ journeys should be highlighted with a short, personalized video.
For example, when a customer first signs up for your service, you can greet them with a video and answer some of their potential questions. That’s just great customer service – you start the relationship positively and you do the onboarding process the right way!
What is customer support?
We can define customer support as the range of services you provide to your customers to help them use your product properly and make the right decisions.
When customers have an issue with your product or would like to know more about some of its key features, they can contact your support. It’s more common that your customer support team solves issues of those users who already own the product. So, when a customer purchases a laptop from your webshop but they hit a wall when setting it up, they’ll usually turn to your customer support.
In fact, tech support is one of the most common examples of customer support.
Source: Argon Systems
Traditionally, customer support has always been done through phone calls, as these issues require a longer conversation and potentially a step-by-step guide by a support agent. Today, we have customer support chats that can be as efficient as phone calls.
Customer support best practices
Your customer support will largely depend on the product/service you’re selling but there are some general rules you should follow to make sure your users have the best experience. Here are some of those rules.
Remember previous interactions
When you have multiple agents working in shifts and multiple customers contacting them every day, it’s hard to keep track of all interactions.
That’s unfortunate, as making a customer explain the same issue over and over again to different support agents can be more frustrating than the issue itself. Try to keep a record of your customers’ interactions and make sure they’re aware that you know their history.
That way, they’ll have in mind that your agents know who they are and are actively working on solving the issue.
Use customer support tools
To keep track of all those interactions, you might want to invest in a customer support tool. These tools can make your agents’ jobs easier with features like call recording, collaboration dashboards, and assigning responsibilities. This can, in turn, cut down on your response time and improve the overall quality of your support center.
Without a customer support tool, your agents may have a hard time managing a large volume of calls and taking over each other’s shifts.
Have an FAQ section on your website
One of the best ways to solve customer service issues is to be proactive and give your customers answers before they get to ask the questions.
Implementing an FAQ page on your website can help your customers solve problems on their own without putting additional pressure on your support team. Think about it: there are some simple issues that the customers can solve on their own, without the help of your support agents. All they need to have is information.
Give them that information and let your customer support agents focus on real issues that need professional guidance.
What is customer success?
Customer success is not as familiar as our previous two terms but it’s rapidly gaining popularity. It can’t even be defined as one single thing – it’s more of a set of actions and procedures your company can have in place to turn customers from one-time buyers into returning customers.
Customer success is a long-term business strategy, a process of maximizing customer profitability by being proactive and providing solutions to problems before they arise.
Now, this may sound complicated, so let’s break it down a little bit.
- Customer success is not something that a single employee is responsible for. It’s a set of company-level policies.
- Customer success is proactive – one of its ultimate goals is to reduce the number of customer support tickets by solving issues before they happen.
- Customer success is a long-term strategy geared towards increasing customer happiness and retention. Having a customer featured on a testimonial page is one of the best proofs of customer success in practice.
As you can see, customer success is more complex than other terms we’re dealing with in this article.
Customer success best practices
Now let’s see how you can implement customer success as a part of your overall business strategy.
Have a customer success strategy and team
You should start by assessing your customers’ goals and key pain points. After carefully analyzing these things and creating audience personas, you can develop this into a long-term strategy.
This strategy then needs to be executed by a Customer Success team – hard workers with great teamwork and communication skills. You can start by taking a look at your Customer Support or Customer Service departments, as they know your business inside and out, and they probably already excel in communication with customers.
Without a dedicated team and strategy, customer success in your company will lack the needed infrastructure to make your plans a reality.
Invest in the right tools
Once you have a team in place, it’s time to start thinking about what tools your team can use to get the most out of your customer success strategy.
You need a tool that can track customer interactions and give you as much data about your customers as possible. There are different types of customer service tools but CRM tools are generally accepted as the most elaborate solutions that give you the most information. Do your research and invest in a tool that can help you both engage customers and measure your success.
Choose your metrics
Before you kick things off, you’ll want to decide which metrics you should keep tracking to measure the effectiveness of your customer success strategy.
Customer lifetime value, retention rate, and customer acquisition cost can be a good start. You can also measure NPS (Net Promoter Score), which can tell you if your customer success strategy is so good that your customers are more likely to recommend your product to a friend or colleague.
Make sure you include both metrics that track your financial performance and customer success so that you can see whether your strategy is beneficial both for your company and customers.
Customer service vs. Customer Support vs. Customer success
Finally, let’s go through each of these terms and briefly explain the exact difference between each one.
Customer service vs customer support
As we stated earlier, customer service is a broader term than customer support.
It covers all the interactions your customers have with your brand – whether the salespeople in your store are polite, whether your social media managers respond to Instagram comments, etc. It represents the general ability of your company to treat customers the right way.
Customer support, on the other hand, is much more technical. Customers will contact your support when they have an issue or a specific question. Your customer support is usually managed by a dedicated team with knowledge about your product and its technical qualities. Customer service is done by all the employees who have contact with the customers.
Customer service vs customer success
When compared to customer service, customer success is a more complex, long-term strategy. Its main goal is to provide a holistic approach to customer interactions and solve issues before they arise.
So, what counts as customer service? All the interactions your customers have with your brand before, during, and after a purchase.
What counts as customer success? A set of long-term strategies your company has put in place to make sure your customers have the best possible experience and stay loyal to your brand.
Customer support vs customer success
Now that we know all this, the difference between these two terms is pretty clear.
While customer success is a set of long-term policies with a clear goal, customer support represents the interactions your agents have when solving customers’ issues. The biggest difference is the fact that customer support is more reactive while customer success is proactive.
Customer service vs. customer support vs. customer success: conclusion
We hope we managed to clear up any potential confusion you might have had about these terms.
As the customers are likely to stay at the center of attention for quite some time, it’s important to familiarize yourself with all the strategies that are in use and how best to execute them.
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