Are you doing everything you can to ensure that your customer experience is as smooth as possible?
Are you offering your customers the right options to help them solve problems and retain their loyalty?
Not sure? Starting with a refresher on what customer service actually involves (including the different types, channels, and models that it employs) is a great first step to assessing what you need to upgrade your service strategy.
In this article, we’re going to cover the different types of customer service available and take a look at which options are most effective in giving your customers what they want and need.
Suggested reading: Want to deepen your knowledge? Check out our deep dive on the new approach to customer service that’s enabling businesses to stay agile and improve quality.
The different types of customer service
Customer service refers to the assistance and support that a business offers to anyone who buys and engages with their products and/or services. It covers the entire lifecycle of the customer journey, from guiding a potential buyer on making better-informed decisions around their purchases, all the way to building customer loyalty.
In today’s digital age, there are a number of different types of service that a business can use to engage with its customers. The most commonly applied ones are:
- Live chat
- Online support portals
- Social media
- In-person/on-site support
It’s important to consider how people will respond to each of these different types of communication in customer service. There’s a difference between what customers need and what they want — but both are just as important.
Generally, the average hierarchy of preferred customer communication is as follows1 2 3.
- Self-service: 40% of customers
- Phone: 36% of customers
- Live chat: 33% of customers
- Email: 25% of customers
- In-person/on-site support: 18% of customers (though worth noting that this is less of a preference for customers and moreso something they’d be willing to do)
- Online support portal: 5% of customers
- Social media: 2% of customers
What’s also important to note is that different demographics like age hugely affect customer preference. While it’s important to understand what customers generally want, you must focus on what specific demographics prefer and what they’re looking for:
- Younger customers: Higher value is placed on customer service via social media and online communication channels, with 52% of millennials preferring live chat. They also appreciate quick response times and 58% expect to be able to engage with a brand whenever they choose.4 Focus on pleasing millennials because 74% of them would switch to a different service or brand if they encountered poor customer service.5
- Older customers: Alternatively, customers from an older generation tend to prefer phone calls. Providing knowledgeable service agents is key, with 40% of consumers over 55 believing that informed representatives are the most important customer service factor.6
There is one consistent preference across all demographics that’s important to remember: the ability to speak to a real person.
While self-service has seen a rise in popularity, 59% of customers still want some form of person-to-person contact out of their customer service. So regardless of which customer service types you elect to include in your service strategy, always consider how you can ensure you’re matching your customers with highly-skilled, qualified agents.
The four customer service models
Customer service models are critical in achieving the best customer experience possible as you can apply a true strategy to how you offer your customer service. The majority of businesses split their customer service operation into four categories, from levels 0-3:
Level 0: Self-serve and automated functions
These include providing FAQ pages, chatbots, password resets, and onboarding documents for complex products or services. Implementing these will help you preempt customer issues, resolve issues efficiently, and reduce the costs of unsatisfied customers.
Level 1: Front-line support
This is where more moderately skilled customer service agents are positioned to resolve the common problems that your customers have. It serves as the first human touchpoint that a business can offer and is valuable in adding a personal touch to your customer service experience.
Level 2: Problem-solving
This level comes into play when there are problems or requests that a customer has that can’t be properly actioned by the above level. Senior agents are key here to give customers detailed responses and to fix more complex issues efficiently and smoothly.
Level 3: Technical support
This is the most specialised level and requires agents that are experts on your products and services and can clearly communicate that expertise to customers.
Dividing customer service options like this enables you to properly triage customer queries, create appropriate tickets, and share information for training purposes.
What your customer service needs to succeed
There are a few musts that no business can afford to overlook when it comes to positive customer service experiences.
By focusing on what customers expect and your own specific business outcomes, you’re on the right track to securing customer satisfaction.
1. Online and phone services
Online portals for customer service are no longer a nice-to-have for consumers: they’re an expectation. More than 40% of all customers want phone, live online chat and email support. These should be the foundation of your customer service strategy.
2. 24/7 access
Often, the most convenient times to access customer service are outside of working hours. Accommodate this by offering customers the service they need in the evening and at weekends.
3. Quick response times
90% of customers say that an immediate response of 10 minutes or less from customer support teams is “very important” for a satisfactory experience.7 It’s key to avoid keeping customers waiting or they may shop elsewhere.
4. Access to knowledgeable agents
Arguably, the most off-putting customer service experience is speaking to an agent that doesn’t have the right knowledge base or who isn’t even human. Interactive voice response is the number one reason customers don’t like calling customer service.8
Offering customers communication with well-informed and personable representatives is fundamental.
5. Language options
Accommodating language barriers is non-negotiable if you’re a business benefiting from international clientele. After all, how will your customers be able to interact with your representatives and your brand if they can’t understand you?
6. An omnichannel approach
The most successful approach to customer service is a varied one, but a multi-channelled method isn’t enough anymore. Brands looking to secure a seamless customer service solution need to upgrade to an omnichannel approach.
Omnichannel: the best type of customer service
The idea behind an omnichannel approach is to make it as convenient as possible for customers to reach your company’s support network in whatever way they prefer. Better communication ultimately drives better relationships between you and your customer.
As we’ve discussed, the more channels your customer service teams utilise, the more demographics you’ll be able to provide a good experience for.
Proper omnichannel support with methods such as chatbots, live chat, and email responses means that customer information is relayed to agents at every stage of service so that customers don’t have to repeat themselves to every representative they speak to.
Pro-tip: Aim to automate as much as you can while also keeping it personal and easy for customers to transition to human-driven channels. Offering omnichannel support alongside your phone support will help you reap the benefits of customer satisfaction.
Consider your capabilities
Choosing which form of customer service suits your business best is critical. Whatever you choose, be prepared to scale and ensure that you have flexibility. This will give you the capacity to expand without breaking.
The key here is in execution. Will you have outsourced customer service, in-house service, or even a mix of both? Let’s take a look at the options.
|Choosing in-house gives you complete control and transparency over your operation. |
While that’s great for some, it means that all the responsibility and resources are also yours.
If you’re a brand that sells fewer higher-margin products and who already has a successful in-house customer service team, this might be the option for you.
|Partnering with an external customer service provider brings financial savings, flexibility and accessible expert input. |
It can provide benefits that are either hard or impossible to achieve in-house.
These include on-demand specialist advice, lower costs spent on training, and guaranteed 24/7 customer support.
Hybrid works best
A hybrid approach means you get the benefits of a more traditional call centre as well as those of a distributed operation. That being said, the advantages of an outsourced system do outweigh the more traditional approach when it comes to flexibility, service quality, and scalability.
Pro-tip: Outsourcing customer service can lead to different outcomes depending on your price point. For more guidance on understanding costs, check out our article on customer service outsourcing pricing.
There are some additional key things to bear in mind when choosing the right outsourced option for you:
Onshore vs offshore
Offshoring is when a company moves their customer service process to another country, most often to take advantage of cheaper labour markets in call centres. For that reason, it’s often the more tempting option.
However, not being able to understand a customer service agent is ranked the most frustrating part of a customer service phone call experience.9 By choosing an offshore service where this is likely to happen, you are risking losing potentially 51% of your customers who won’t want to do business with you again after such a negative experience.10
The better option is to invest in quality i.e. a customer service outsourcing provider who offers UK-based representatives. This partnership will cut costs as well as achieve better communication with customers.
Call centre vs contact centre
A call centre is limited to making inbound and outbound calls to customers, whereas contact centres offer more elaborate communication capabilities that make omnichannel approaches much more attainable.
In a contact centre, representatives are given the essential tools and training they need to make calls, execute live-chat, and provide email and technical support. A contact centre also provides access to a wider range of trained specialists. It’s a clear win for a contact centre partnership over a call centre one.
When forming a customer service strategy, remember that the best options are to:
- Outsource your customer service operation for better expertise and improved customer care.
- Only stick with your in-house operation only if it’s really working.
- Opt for an onshore investment.
- Invest in a contact centre rather than a call centre.
Choose the right customer service strategy for you
Customer service is a lot more than just problem-solving.
It’s about providing your customers with a frictionless experience and improving your organisation’s relationship with them.
Outsourcing customer service to an expert provider with knowledgeable, UK-based agents can make the heavy responsibility of customer satisfaction easier and more cost-effective.
Providers such as Odondo partner with you to ensure that representatives are matched to the unique demographics of your clientele so that service is delivered appropriately and in a way to encourage brand loyalty.
Book a free consultation with one of Odondo’s co-founders today and start creating a customer service strategy that’s right for you.
Bobby spent 11 years as an Investment Banker before going on to co-found his own e-commerce start-up, where Customer Service was one of the core functions that fell under his remit.
He has spent the past 9 years in and around the start-up space, most recently co-founding Odondo with the aim of reimagining the delivery of Customer Service. Bobby has pursued a very traditional career path for someone who ultimately aspires to be a hardcore gangsta rapper.