Research

Customer service! To many, this term conjures up images of helpful staff giving advice and support. Yet, who really uses customer service? 

To answer that question, we may as well ask: Who really uses air to breathe? 

You will say, Everyone! The same case applies to customer service. We all use it every day, and it comes in different forms and flavors. Whether you call a support center or send an email to customer care, you are a customer who is using a service. 

Let's delve in closer and look at how a customer is defined, what customer services are available, and why you need to make yours top-notch. 

Who is a customer?

Go into a shop and buy something. You are a customer! The same applies when using a service such as Netflix, Spotify, or your gas and power. You are the respective company's customer. 

So a customer can be defined as the end-user of a product or service. 

It can be tempting to fall into the corporate trap of labeling internal departments as "customers" of another department. For example, sales may require support from finance. So one can say that the team in sales are the "customers" of the folk in finance. 

However, in a more purist form of the term, customers are the people that are buying your goods and services.

To keep these people happy requires excellent customer service. 

Ways to provide customer service 

Customer service comes in a wide range of flavors. It's like going into Baskin-Robbins and deciding which ice cream you want. There are so many options to choose from. 

1. Walk-in service departments

In the good old days, people would go into a shop before online shopping became a thing. You still have that option to some degree nowadays. However, something has changed in this digital age. 

If you had an issue or need help with your purchase, you could pop into your store and head to the customer service counter. The staff there would give you the support you need. 

As companies opt for online support, these walk-in service departments are becoming harder to find. That doesn't mean you can't offer such a service. Having face-to-face contact lets your customers experience a more personal touch than they would over the internet. 

The downside to providing a dedicated customer service desk is that it can be costly. 

Also, it can come across as something old-fashioned. Sure walk-in customer service counters were significant in the 20th century. But we have moved on and progressed with our style of customer care.

2. Phone support

Believe it or not, some people prefer to ring your company for support. They get to talk to a natural person who can empathize with the issue. 

When it comes to complex problems, 40% of customers want to talk to someone over the phone. 

The negative with this type of customer service is that staff can only deal with one call at a time. Multiple calls mean wait times. If your customer's time on hold is excessive, get ready to deal with the fallout.

3. Live chat  

Have an issue and live in a different time zone than where the business is based? No problem, you have a live chat. There are people ready to help you. 

Sadly, you will find some companies where the live chat is "closed" due to it being the weekend. Or it may be "out of hours." Such situations can be seen as a violation of what Live Chat is all about. 

You can use the chat as an opportunity to up-sell or cross-sell. It also still offers a personal chat. The customer gets to talk one-on-one with someone. 

4. Chatbots

Chatbots are clever pieces of technology that answer your customers' queries automatically. 

According to Microsoft's 2017 report on customer service, it was found that 30% of consumers find chatbots extremely effective at dealing with customer problems.

Unlike the Live Chat and phone options, chatbots are available 24/7. So they can take care of your customers while your team is having a day off. 

Additionally, you can enhance the knowledge base of your chatbot to provide answers to new questions. 

However, chatbots are still robots and show little empathy towards your customer. So, the personal touch is gone. That may mean that your customer is gone as well. Not an ideal outcome. 

5. Self-service  

Empower your customers by giving them the tools and means to resolve the issues themselves. 

This can be through the chatbots we mentioned in the last section. Alternatively, you can offer FAQs, online courses, and tutorials. 

This style of support can be multilingual if you have international customers. A handy option if your staff can't speak your client's native language. 

Yet, the job of constantly providing support information on your site can become overwhelming. 

If you hire outside writers to take care of the content, you need to train them in your voice and tone to ensure consistency across your channels. 

6. Email support

Providing a way to contact you via email allows your customers to explain their issues clearly.

Additionally, they can attach photos or videos as evidence of their issues. Then you can diagnose the situation and provide a solution. 

Email support also lets you assign a ticket to the problem. That allows you to keep track of the conversation until it's resolved. 

Yet, the response time to an email can be an issue. Do you have staff whose sole responsibility is to reply to emails? If you are receiving hundreds of emails a day, you risk missing some. That can result in a customer feeling neglected. 

Deciding what type of customer service to offer

This world has become more digitally connected. So it shouldn't be surprising that more customers prefer to reach out for help via digital channels. 

Figuring out which customer service channels you should offer comes down to what your customers want. 

On top of that, you have to consider what is financially viable for you to provide. Also, do you have the staff and resources available? It is crucial that you get customer service correct.

Reach out to your current client base and ask them what customer services they use the most. Is there a support channel that you currently aren't providing yet your customers would love? 

Omnichannel support 

Offering customer service through a range of channels helps with customer retention and increases your revenue. 

Businesses that offer this type of support have experienced a 10% year-on-year increase in their revenue.

When you offer different access points for customer service, you are a step closer to having loyal fans. Give your customers a seamless, user-friendly experience. 

Make these service portals mobile-friendly. More and more people are accessing the web from their smartphones and tablets. 

What makes for excellent customer service?

Think about the last time you had mediocre customer service. Now contrast that with the time you received fantastic service. 

That is the litmus test for what you should and shouldn't be doing. 

Excellent customer service encompasses several areas. People want to be acknowledged as soon as possible. The quicker you respond to your customer, the better.

Show empathy toward the customer's issue. Work towards a positive resolution. 

Check to see if the customer is happy with the outcome. If not, apologize and find a way in which the problem can be examined further. 

Industry application examples of customer service

Let's run you through how different industries use customer service to enhance UX.

Fintech

The financial industry can be relatively slow at adopting new approaches to anything. However, with the birth of the digital era, there has been a shift to online finance options.

Just think of companies like PayPal, Venmo, and Coinbase. They all come under the Fintech umbrella. 

Coinbase provides an online inquiry form, phone support, a blog, and a way to contact them through Twitter. 

With PayPal, you can reach out to their online community for help. Also, they have a "self-help" area where you can find solutions to common issues. The company also allows you to message them or give them a phone call. 

E-commerce

When one thinks of e-commerce immediately, Amazon comes to mind. This online retail has become a behemoth in the world of e-commerce. 

Yet, we also have Alibaba, Walmart, and even the freelancing site Upwork being clustered under the E-commerce category. 

The services offered by these companies are varied. 

Walmart offers customers a self-help section that provides information regarding Account and Billing issues, tracking of your order, other information around your purchases, and a lot more. 

You also have the opportunity to get chatbot support.

Amazon offers a range of customer services. You can browse their help files or reach out to the online community. 

Need further assistance from Amazon? They provide online chat, phone support, or send through email. 

In conclusion

Have you ever bought a product or subscribed to a service, then contacted the company for support? 

If so, you would have used customer service.

Get this core component of your business wrong, and it can hurt you through negative feedback.

Customers are getting more demanding nowadays. You need to be able to respond to their concerns in a quick and empathetic manner. 

Using an omnichannel approach to customer service allows your clients to contact you in a way they feel most comfortable with. 

Everyone uses customer support! Make the experience an incredible one and watch your business thrive.