At many companies, the help desk is the end-all, be-all when it comes to keeping customers happy. They’re often tasked with everything from customer support to managing aspects of the customer experience, and even customer re-engagement. However many companies can’t even distinguish between those things.
In reality, there are four pieces to the customer satisfaction puzzle, and each is important for a business to master if they want to reap the benefits of happy, loyal customers.
Let’s review each piece of the puzzle.
#1 Customer Service
Customer service is very transactional. A help desk agent is the person at the store who helps a person find what they need when they walk in. Virtually, that same representative is responsible for taking on inquiries to help customers navigate the website or purchase the right product.
A customer service representative is going to be dealing with most customers before they ever make a purchase. They need to be friendly and polite, using a tone and style that represents the face of the brand. In fact, in many cases, these customer service representatives are the face of the brand. At most companies, a customer service representative is the go-to person to talk to.
The transactional nature of a customer experience may involve asking a representative where to find a product or how to purchase it. The service representative might use that opportunity to upsell other products to the customer that are relevant.
A customer service team is likely to utilize a program such as Live Chat, or other multichannel messaging help desk, to help manage inquiries. Some aspects of customer service can also be complimented/assisted by an AI-powered help desk (part of a multichannel messaging help desk) software.
Ultimately, a service rep makes sure the customer gets what they want, but no extra feedback or info is involved that the company can use in the future.
Customer service is….
- Focused on offering efficient service and being helpful during customer transactions.
- Responsible for managing transactional metrics like CSAT, first contact resolution, and average handle time.
- Present in every industry, from food service and retail to hospitality, banking, and more.
- About connecting customers to answers and solutions that already exist.
#2 Customer Support
There is a lot of overlap between customer service and customer support in a help desk setting, but these are two different roles and they should be treated as such in any business.
While customer service is focused on servicing customers, customer support is focused on supporting them.
In other words, a customer service representative may help a person choose a plan size for a file-sharing service they are subscribing to. A customer support representative is the person that they’ll contact when they can’t find the “share” button.
A customer support representative will pull from product documentation, collect feedback, and utilize their technical problem-solving skills to support a customer who calls in. A customer support representative does utilize customer service skills, but customer support is a more specific practice under the umbrella of customer service.
Customer support is…
- Focused on improving the intersection of the product and the experience using it.
- Responsible for transactional metrics in addition to business metrics like customer effort score, churn, and net promoter score.
- Mostly found at SaaS and eCommerce companies. Not all companies have a need for a customer support department.
- About troubleshooting, solving technical problems, and coming up with new solutions and answers.
Service vs. Support in a Help Desk
Oftentimes, the same people work as both customer service and customer support representatives at a given company, meshing the two duties into one. However, distinguishing service from support gives the company a strong advantage.
That’s because the duties of a customer service team have them working alongside the sales and marketing department to help usher purchases and upsell customers. People who call customer service about a potential purchase and then don’t actually complete the sale can be passed on to the corresponding department who will follow up with the customer and try to get their business.
Meanwhile, the customer support team is working with the product development department, passing on feedback about features that are giving customers difficulty and things that customers want to see in the product.
Could one team do both? Of course, but it’s more efficient and streamlined to distinguish between the two, especially for software firms and the like where the “product” is in a constant state of evolution.
#3 Customer Success
Customer success is another thing that closely interlocks customer service with customer support. It’s actually a concept implemented throughout the customer journey as workers at any company strive to figure out what success means to each client. The goal is work with customers to help them achieve their definition of success as they engage with your company.
A customer success team will work closely with customer service and support representatives to help them fine-tune their approach, but the customer success team is also about strategizing and being proactive to help support customers in achieving success before they even reach out to the service team.
Customer success is…
- More consultative in nature and requires empathy and resourceful problem-solving.
- Focused on achieving desired business outcomes as a customer continues their journey.
- Responsible for measuring business impact, like client retention, expansion, and lifetime value.
- Seen as a value-added function at a company, driving revenue.
- About proactively discussing road bumps and strategizing so customers can get around them.
#4 Customer Experience
Customer support falls under customer service, which is closely linked to customer experience.
A customer’s experience is going to stretch far beyond a single interaction they have with your customer service team. Rather, the customer experience is the sum of all interactions and opinions they have had regarding your company. Your customer service will do a lot to influence their experience, but so will product quality and support.
Customer experience encapsulates the customer’s broader journey as they moved from being a prospect to becoming a paying customer. Customer service and all other aspects factor into your customer’s experience.
How they use your product, how they interact with self-support alternatives, how they feel when calling your service desk, and the interactions they have with the team are all things that will shape the customer experience.
The aspects of customer experience can be broken down into three categories:
- Customer Service: This includes customer support and customer success along with self-service support.
- Technology: This is the product in itself, how it works and how customers interact with it.
- Design: This is the brand’s face, it includes your marketing, design, and the feeling you evoke in customers.
While customer service is limited to a customer’s interactions with the team when they are seeking assistance for an issue, customer experience takes on a much broader perspective to determine how a customer feels and how positive their overall association with your company has been.
Putting It All Together
Every company has one thing in common: They want every customer’s experience to be great. This starts with a strong customer service department.
In many industries (like SaaS and eCommerce), a customer support team should also be distinguished within the customer service department in order to facilitate the transfer of feedback and technical questions to the development department.
In other industries, like retail, the customer service department can work as one effective team alongside the sales and marketing departments to help drive purchases and upsells.
For businesses who want to further drive revenue and make the most of a customer’s experience with their company, customer success is certainly a practice they should look into.
The customer success team will work with many different departments to help strategize how customers can be better serviced throughout their journey.
They’ll work alongside sales and marketing to help better educate customers on issues and factors that may not be clear based on questions and information gathered from the service and support teams. They’ll also work with product development to reinforce the feedback the support team is collecting from customers and ushering improvement across the board.
Want To Improve Customer Experience?
While a company may not be large enough to have distinguished customer service, support, and successful teams, every business can implement the aspects of each to improve the customer experience.
Categorizing issues and designating individuals to handle different problems and situations can help instantly improve the customer experience by simply directing customers to the most qualified individual to handle their issue. This can be done by training staff (even with a very small team) so different people specialize in different aspects
Although each team member should have a broad knowledge of the product and company, it’s typically not possible for a single person to memorize everything they need to know to handle service, support, and success at once. That’s why defining each at your company and specializing workers may be the best option.
At the end of the day, communication amongst departments will prove to be the most important factor at companies big and small. Customer service representatives need to know when, what, and to who they need to pass on information in order to encourage product development and better sales and marketing practices.
Help desk agents aren’t just the voice of your company, they’re also the eyes and ears.