The 4 Types of Customer Service & How to Maximize Them

In an era where new companies can be created with just a click of a button, consumers struggle to differentiate between them. Because of this, many look to customer support as the primary factor in deciding which companies are best.

In fact, the Temkin Group found that companies that earn $1 billion annually can expect to earn an additional $700 million within 3 years of investing in customer service on average. That’s quite the impact for something that has traditionally been seen as a cost center.

In fact, since its inception over 50 years ago in the form of call centers, customer service has come a long way. Today, there are essentially 4 types of customer service. Out of all of them, 62% of customers want to communicate with companies via email for customer service, 48% want to use the phone, 42% live chat, and 36% prefer to help themselves.

So, how do you maximize each of these customer service methods? Read on to find out.

Social Media & Live Chat Customer Service

Of the four types of customer service, live chat and social media are the primary methods of support for millennials. In fact, 64% of them prefer it over other methods of getting help.

Even more important is that millennials are much more inclined to leave negative reviews than other customers: 27% of millennials have done so, versus just 16% of boomers. It’s valuable to ensure that they have a good experience.

The most important aspect for support on social media and chat is speed. People reach out in the moment when they are trying to achieve something and need a swift response. 60% of customers who reach out via social media expect a response within an hour, and that expectation drops to just mere minutes with live chat. This response expectation is significantly higher than other methods of support.

However, social and chat do not lend themselves to solving more technical, in-depth requests or billing inquiries. If a customer does reach out for that kind of help via these channels, respond quickly, but redirect them to one of the other types of customer service. That way, they know that you’ve acknowledged their issue, and you can help them in more detail, less publicly.

Best practices for social and chat support:

  • Keep it quick.
  • Don’t use it to try to resolve complex or billing-related inquiries.
  • Keep your tone informal and friendly.
  • Don’t be creepy on social. If someone doesn’t directly ask for help, don’t butt into their conversation.

Email Customer Service

According to DMR, people send 269 billion emails every day. Beyond just regular email, 54% of customers used email for support last year, making it the most used of the four types of customer service. Email is one of the older forms of support, so people of all demographics feel comfortable using it—more so than live chat, video chat or social support.

Email support also lends itself to solving more inquiries than most other channels due to its flexibility. You can send screenshots, video recordings and links to documentation without having to worry about privacy issues like you would on public forums and social media. 

However, some customers might not have the vocabulary required to describe the issues that they are experiencing within your product. After all, not everyone works in technology, or knows the ins and outs of your product like you do. 

For those people that prefer a more face-to-face approach, a different type of customer service might be more helpful, such as phone or video support.

Best practices for email support:

  • Match the tone of the customer reaching out to you.
  • Use email’s strengths to send multimedia in your message.
  • Be comfortable shifting to another channel if your customer isn’t being served best over text.
  • Pay attention to how long it takes you to respond, and prioritize larger-scale, time-sensitive issues.

Self-service customer support

Often, the quickest way for a customer to get a solution is to get the answer for themselves. That means reading through support documentation, using an AI bot, or even a “Contact Us” form that suggests solutions. Customers prefer to help themselves, and it’s cheaper to create documentation than to add additional staff to a support team.

Unfortunately, only 66% of customer service teams use knowledge bases, compared to 82% of customers who want to use knowledge bases. It’s one of the most under-utilized of the four types of customer service! 

The best way to create an effective self-service support center is to not only create documentation, but find ways to show it to your customers in the right moment. Things like in-product tooltips, email onboarding series, and even chatbots can go a long way to getting your customers’ eyes on the documentation that will help them most. Instead of just expecting customers to go and search out your knowledge base, help them proactively to get the information that they need.

This actually does double duty: it gets your customers the answers they need more quickly and provides a better experience, but it also lowers the number of tickets coming into the other options you are using for customer service.

It’s not the end-all-be-all of providing solutions, though. Self-service won’t help customers answer inquiries that are bugs, billing inquiries, or one-off technical problems. You still need to make sure to provide them with an avenue to reach out about those.

Best practices for self-service support

  • Show the documentation in context within your product.
  • Use an email onboarding series to get your documentation in front of your customers at the right time.
  • Don’t try to use self-service for everything. It still needs to be easy for customers to reach out to you.
  • Keep your tone concise, clear and consistent with the rest of your marketing website.

Video and phone customer support

There are always going to be people that want to talk to “a real person.” Despite the fact that all of the four types of customer service involve some kind of human interaction, video and phone are the most intensive.

Because of this, they are most useful when someone has an in-depth technical question, doesn’t have the vocabulary to ask their question via email or needs immediate and direct help troubleshooting.

Video and phone support take more energy and focus from the customer service representative  than other types of customer service. Unlike social media, email or self-service, your reps can’t multitask while on the phone or sharing their screen. Because of that, this method should be reserved for dire situations, or customers who pay enough to merit the focus.

Similarly, you’ll need to put your most experienced team members on this channel, as there’s very little time to prepare or research while they are already on a call with a customer. There’s little worse for customers than waiting on hold for a customer service representative to do their research. An experienced team member will usually know the answer to tricky questions, or know where to quickly get to a resource to find the solution quickly.

Best practices for video and phone support

  • Staff this customer service channel with experienced team members.
  • Be judicious with how often you offer this, as it requires more focus than any of the other four types of customer service.
  • Use phone and video support to troubleshoot technical or privacy-related issues.

Conclusion

While some of the four types of customer service are more popular than others, they can all be incredibly impactful if used appropriately. Know when to bust out the video or phone support, but also make sure your self-service offerings are up to snuff and appropriately targeted. By offering a balance of all four types at appropriate times, you ensure that you’ll be able to answer any type of question coming up. 

Social and chat support for quick resolution questions; 

Email is best for longer-winded, more in-depth inquiries; 

Phone and video for issues that require a bit more handling; 

and finally, self-service for any other low-hanging fruit. 

Find the balance that works best for your customers, and the types of inquiries that your team usually fields, and you’ll be on the road to customer experience excellence in no time.

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