Customer service software is the foundation of a positive customer experience. However, determining which tools are best for your company, vetting providers, and putting the system in place are all difficult tasks.
To assist you, we’ll begin with the fundamentals of customer support software: what it is, the various types, and how it benefits your team.
Then we’ll go over best practices, current trends, and an overview of the best tools available.
Finally, we’ll go over how to think about selecting the best customer support software for your company.
What is customer service software?
Customer service software is any program that assists a company in providing assistance and/or advice to people who buy or use its products.
Customer service software’s most basic function is to provide a centralized system, known as a ticketing system, through which service agents can track, prioritize, manage, respond to, and resolve customer queries or employee requests in bulk.
Any tool that assists in informing or facilitating customer service delivery is considered customer service software.
This includes knowledge bases, messaging apps, automation software, analytics dashboards, and other tools.
Customer service software is frequently integrated with CRM software to provide agents with access to contextual data from external sources, such as a customer’s purchase history.
This provides context for a support team about who a customer is, where they’re coming from, and why they’re reaching out—regardless of channel.
How does customer service software work?
Customer service software, at its most basic, enables businesses to improve customer service delivery by centralizing customer conversations and information across channels and systems.
Why do small businesses require customer service software?
Customer support software for small businesses is required to help organize, prioritize, and consolidate customer service inquiries.
Customer service software, when used correctly, allows for faster, more reliable, and more personalized responses to customer inquiries.
This enables small businesses to distinguish themselves through superior customer service.
When do you need customer service software?
Investing in customer service software is equivalent to hiring an extra set of hands.
When you need help managing the company’s workload, you hire more employees, and when you need to scale your customer service offerings, you bring on CS software.
When your client base becomes so large that you can’t keep up — or, worse, you’re making costly mistakes — it’s time to hire software help.
Different types of customer service software
- Live chat
- Phone support
- Knowledge base
- Video chat
- Mobile messaging
Customer service can be internal (supporting corporate personnel) or external (supporting people who buy or utilize the company’s products or services).
Each customer care channel is frequently categorized as a distinct sort of service. The following are the primary categories of customer service to be aware of:
Agents can use live chat software to resolve customer issues in real time, from wherever they are, such as the homepage of your website or within your mobile app.
This enables a company to be proactive and anticipate problems before they occur. For example, before a customer abandons their cart, an e-commerce company may provide live chat on its checkout page to answer frequently asked questions.
Live chat also allows a company to provide support around the clock. Chatbots can handle customer requests while your agents are busy being humans.
A phone conversation is still an effective way to solve a customer’s problem, especially when the stakes are high.
Because of the personal touches that come with a phone call, such as a human’s voice, it’s sometimes even more effective than drawn-out email conversations or real-time chatting.
Call center software enables customer service representatives to be more strategic by providing features such as call recording, smart internal routing, access to the full customer history, and automatic ticket creation.
Email is the backbone of customer service. It, like the phone, has a long history and is still a preferred channel among older generations.
Email is frequently used for both internal and external support. For example, a Human Resources, Payroll, or IT team could use email to respond to questions from full- and part-time employees.
Support teams can empower customers to self-serve with a knowledge base, community forum, or customer portal. In fact, 81% of customers would rather solve a problem on their own.
However, this is only possible if support teams have tools that make knowledge creation and maintenance simple.
For example, AI can detect when content is out of date or when a new article topic is required. It can also use the collective knowledge of agents to automate low-touch ticket resolution.
The proliferation of messaging channels such as WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, and Facebook Messenger has altered how people communicate.
The convenience factor has also permeated customer service. Customers can contact customer service via the same messaging channels they use to communicate with friends and family.
The ability to keep conversations and context in a centralized location is a benefit of using customer service software to communicate over messaging channels.
If resolving a customer’s problem begins with a message and then requires a phone call, all of that information is logged within the same support ticket.
With the pandemic and the proliferation of apps like Zoom and Google Meet making video chat a go-to business connection tool, it’s no surprise that video chat has also become a popular customer service channel.
Screen-sharing and co-browsing, in particular, help SaaS companies clarify customer issues and provide CS reps with insight into technical issues.
Since the pandemic began, video calls have increased 400% more than they did in 2019, indicating that this customer service channel is thriving.
From IT support to telehealth services, face-to-face interaction improves communication clarity and strengthens the customer/rep relationship.
While not suitable for all businesses, mobile messaging assistance can provide quick and efficient support for minor issues.
Mobile messaging, particularly for issues requiring a lot of yes or no questions, can be a simple way of gathering information and automatically generating a solution via a bot.
The majority of mobile messaging customer service is used for tasks such as product tracking, product activation, and appointment confirmation.
What are the primary advantages of customer service tools?
Companies of all sizes and types can benefit from customer care platforms, from multinational corporations that assist millions of other businesses in different languages to small consumer-facing businesses that need to respond to client concerns fast without recruiting an army of support people.
Here are some of the most important advantages of customer service tools:
Drives customer satisfaction and loyalty
When service agents have the information and tools they need to provide customers with quick, personalized responses, they can provide better service.
Customers who receive better service are less likely to churn and more likely to become loyal buyers.
And, given that 52 percent of customers go out of their way to buy from brands to which they are loyal, more loyalty usually translates into more sales.
Customer service software can help your business grow by facilitating better service and resulting in more satisfied, loyal customers.
When they have a problem, 63 percent of customers always or almost always start with a search of a company’s online resources.
The challenge for businesses is to manage a system for creating and updating those resources in real time.
Customer service platforms allow your company to automate the creation and management of knowledge bases, saving agents time and providing customers with the resources they require.
Furthermore, you can monitor how your customers use your knowledge base to help inform future self-service improvements.
Fosters a seamless agent experience
Customer service tools enable agents to access and use customer information when and where they need it.
These tools also promote better internal collaboration through shared inboxes and increased efficiency through streamlined workflows.
As a result, agents are better prepared and motivated to provide better customer service. All of this leads to increased productivity, which saves the company time and money.
Gives businesses the ability to scale smarter
Simple tools like spreadsheets are no longer sufficient to facilitate transparent internal and external customer service communications.
However, maintaining high levels of customer satisfaction as your business grows is nearly impossible without effective collaboration among your service team members.
Customer service applications empower a company to be more customer-centric. In other words, they allow a business to grow and scale in response to the needs of its customers.
Enables smaller teams to do more, faster
Customer satisfaction is heavily influenced by the speed of ‘first response.’ However, with so many service channels and a growing demand for personalization, service agents require customer service apps to help them respond to and resolve issues more quickly.
What are the primary characteristics of customer support tools?
While different customer support software may provide different tools, most CS software provides the following core features:
An organized ticketing system is the most important feature of customer service software.
Ticketing systems enable your customer service team to organize customer questions, complaints, and conversations into separate “tickets” that can then be assigned and handled.
Ticketing systems are sometimes referred to as help desk software, but they all serve the same purpose: collecting customer input from external and internal sources and converting all interactions into functional tickets.
Email management/Inbox support
A shared inbox for email management and support is a key feature of a customer support tool. Conversations from various channels, intake options, and departments can be consolidated in one location with an all-in-one inbox.
Features of an inbox solution may also include:
- Internal memos
- Assignments for response
- Monitoring of ticket status and email updates
- Duplicate email notifications
- Routes of escalation
- Scripts for automated responses
Self-Service and/or FAQs
Not every customer problem necessitates a full ticket or time with a customer service representative.
Self-service portals and/or FAQ sections enable customers to quickly obtain the information they require without having to schedule a meeting or wait for an available representative. These features also allow your representatives to devote more time to complex cases.
Any customer support software must include real-time communication tools. Live communication should include a live chatbot at a minimum, but many also include phone, video, and webinar features.
These features should also include integration options, access to chat transcripts, phone and video call logging information, and live communication analytics.
Shared Project Management
Project management software provides project tracking and collaboration to all members of your team.
Project management, like inbox support, ensures that everyone is always aware of project task status and eliminates double-responses.
Depending on your company, shared project management can also be used to communicate with project-related customers and provide them with access to deliverables.
Customer Tracking and Reporting
Customer tracking and reporting tools allow you to track and analyze customer history, behavior, and service metrics.
This information is critical because it allows your team to keep track of how many requests are received, how many tickets are opened, when those tickets are managed, and how satisfied the customer was with the overall experience.
The majority of customer tracking and reporting software will also generate graph reports for easy viewing and analysis.
What are some customer support software best practices?
Customer support software promises exciting capabilities, but those promises fall apart if the people who use it do not adhere to best practices. Here are four best practices to help your team outperform expectations:
Meet customers on their own terms
Customers aren’t interested in buzzwords like omnichannel. However, businesses should.
The experience that omnichannel customer service can deliver is a huge differentiator and a critical tool for cultivating loyalty.
Offering all of the channels that customers expect to communicate with your company — email, chat, phone, text, and social media — is what omnichannel means.
Because they can communicate with you in the same way they do with their friends and family, the customer gains trust and comfort.
Make personalization possible
The information you require to determine what your customers want from your products and services is almost certainly available to you, and is possibly already pouring in.
This data can provide insights into when, where, and how to engage customers for engagement strategies.
It also works: According to Zendesk findings, companies that use the most data see 36 percent faster resolutions and a 79 percent reduction in wait time while handling four times the number of customer requests.
If you’re not sure where to begin, a good place to start is with an open and modern CRM platform that allows you to connect data sources to create and offer personalized services based on real customer preferences.
Invest in effective collaboration
There’s a reason why giant telecoms, banks, and airlines dominate this list of companies with the worst customer service ratings.
When there are thousands of employees, it is much more difficult to find the right person to speak with—for both agents and customers.
This is why it’s critical to provide easy ways for your teams to contact other departments so you can streamline communication and internal workflows, giving agents the context they need, when they need it, to provide more responsive support.
Current trends for customer service platforms
When considering an investment in a customer service platform, keep in mind that whatever tool you choose will evolve and change.
Don’t be concerned; this is a good thing. You want tools that can adapt as your company and the world change.
However, you must also keep an eye on how the world of customer service management is changing.
Here are some of the top customer service trends to consider as you use or consider using new software.
Data-driven personalization as the price of entry
The concept of using data from across the organization to provide personalized, contextually relevant customer service is not new.
What is new is the increased accessibility of tools that enable data-driven personalization, as well as a broader recognition of the value of customer data among executives.
In fact, according to the most recent KPMG CIO Survey, 91 percent of CIOs understand that how they handle and use customer data is becoming as important as a company’s product and service offerings when it comes to attracting customers.
A truly data-driven customer experience was previously too resource-intensive for most businesses. However, with more powerful, affordable software, using data to better serve your customers isn’t as much of a differentiator. It’s more like the cost of admission.
Customer service teams are focusing on efficiency
Hiring managers faced stiff competition for quality agents long before COVID-19. So much so that most teams expected customer requests to grow faster than headcount.
The pandemic added fuel to the fire, causing even more resource constraints. As a result, there has been a greater emphasis on improving efficiency through the use of the right culture, solutions, and data visibility.
Nonetheless, only about half of customer service representatives report having adequate tools for measuring and reporting on the metrics that are most important to their support team. And nearly 40% are undecided.
This gap presents an opportunity for CIOs and other IT leaders to prioritize customer experience—the sum of all touchpoints each customer has with the company—again before approving another redundant or risky point product.
Blending customer service and customer success
Customer service in the traditional sense is reactive. When a customer has a problem, they contact an organization and are directed to an agent or resource who can assist them in resolving their problem.
However, the world’s fastest-growing companies are providing more proactive customer service.
Rather than reacting, these organizations customize their services to ensure their customers achieve their objectives.
Some businesses are even establishing dedicated customer success teams to supplement (or replace) their service teams.
While traditional customer service is far from obsolete, executives, managers, and agents are clearly reconsidering how they define customer service.
The best customer service software tools
- Sprout Social
- Apple Business Chat
- NICE inContact CXone
Customers expect companies to communicate with them through the channels they prefer, which now include a slew of technologies for efficiently staffing and connecting to your tech stack.
Here are some customer service tools that can help a company provide excellent service.
Customer service software from Zendesk enables businesses to create effortless customer experiences. Conversations flow seamlessly across channels, increasing overall productivity and satisfaction.
The Agent Workspace in Zendesk’s Suite provides agents with all of the tools they need to collaborate with one another and other teams, as well as deliver fast, personalized responses on any channel—all from a single, unified interface.
With the increasing use of social media for communication, customer service software that assists support teams in providing cohesive social support experiences is extremely valuable.
Sprout Social facilitates conversations across all social media channels by combining sales, support, marketing, social media monitoring, and engagement features.
Sprout Social also eliminates disconnected or siloed communication and workflows by connecting social media teams and support agents.
From a single secure web-based dashboard, Hootsuite enables teams to engage with customers and schedule content across multiple social networks.
Hootsuite is a solid overall tool for service operations due to its extensive feature set and large integration library.
You can use Hootsuite to create, update, review, and edit tickets from social media when combined with Zendesk via a native integration.
With Hootsuite and Zendesk, you can break down the barriers that often exist between social and support teams. As a result, customer interactions across all channels are improved and more seamless.
Businesses can use MailChimp to create, send, and track email newsletters, signup forms, and event invitations.
When integrating a customer support system like Zendesk Support, teams can personalize emails with targeted customer segments.
However, MailChimp can also serve as an all-in-one marketing platform for a small business. MailChimp can be used to create landing pages and ad campaigns, track performance, and automate emails, but you’ll need one of their more expensive plans.
Customers can use Apple Business Chat to get answers to questions, schedule appointments, resolve issues, and make purchases without leaving the messenger.
A messaging partner, such as Sunshine Conversations, is required to ensure a consistent and seamless conversational experience over custom messaging channels like Apple Business Chat.
Customers can get fast, convenient messaging support on phones all over the world thanks to Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.
And they support everything you could possibly need to communicate, including GIFs, images, emojis, videos, and more.
Customers can change a hotel reservation, pay a bill, or find the perfect lipstick color when integrated with a CRM via a messaging platform like Sunshine Conversations—all from within the Facebook messaging App.
SurveyMonkey is a customer service tool that provides businesses with templates for a variety of customer surveys to gather information such as product feedback and customer satisfaction.
And, thanks to SurveyMonkey’s extensive integration library, you can easily integrate this tool into your existing workflow.
In other words, SurveyMonkey allows you to collect feedback from customers or employees while causing the least amount of disruption to you and them.
Internal customers can get support from IT or HR departments through the same channel they use to communicate with their teammates using Slack.
Employees can self-serve over Slack at scale when combined with an AI-powered bot, such as Zendesk’s Answer Bot.
When combined with a customer service software solution, Slack allows agents to better communicate with one another when resolving tickets, resulting in more streamlined collaboration and faster resolution.
Recurly offers a flexible subscription billing management platform that can handle the entire subscriber lifecycle.
Agents will no longer have to switch between tabs or systems to view or change customer subscription details when integrated with a support system like Zendesk Support.
Furthermore, Recurly is a powerful tool in and of itself, allowing your team to easily manage subscriptions, offer discount codes, set up recurring payments, and more.
NICE inContact CXone Agent combines customer context and contact center controls into a single interface, allowing agents to be more efficient and provide better customer experiences.
What truly distinguishes NICE inContact is its breadth of features for more sophisticated, larger-scale service operations.
NICE provides valuable workforce and quality management tools that enable your service managers to continuously improve the performance of their team, in addition to voice solutions, ticketing routing, and other standard customer service capabilities.
How do you pick the best customer service platform for your company?
Your customer service software is critical to the day-to-day operations of your support team. Finding the right combination of tools is therefore critical.
Read through the six questions below to help you think about what tools might be best for your team:
Is customer service software easy to implement?
The ease of implementation of customer service software is determined by a variety of individual factors.
The ease of implementation of one system versus another is determined by your desired integrations, workflows, customization requirements, and other factors.
Web-based customer service tools, on the other hand, are generally easier to implement than desktop-based software.
Nonetheless, in the vast majority of cases, businesses should be able to begin serving customers with software that integrates with their existing infrastructure within a few days.
Does the customer service platform provide agents with collaboration tools?
The best customer service software app provides agents with collaboration tools and streamlines workflows so they can work more effectively together and answer customer questions.
With skills-based routing, for example, agents are served questions based on their expertise, such as product area or language.
Agents can share best practices across departments when customer service software integrates with other internal tools such as email and Slack.
Will customer service software allow you to seamlessly scale?
Customer service should grow with the company. Support software should have options to accommodate a growing business, such as the ability to add or remove channels and integrate new systems and software.