Article

The types of customer service you should know

Read on for the types of customer service channels you should know about, and why customer service is more than the channels you offer.

By Amanda Roosa, Senior Associate, Content Marketing

Published February 1, 2019
Last updated September 15, 2021

With so many different ways to offer customer service, whether it be via email, social media, phone, or self-service, it might seem like there’s an overwhelming amount of types of customer service your business can offer. Each channel could be considered a different type of customer service, but in reality, there are only two types of customer service your business can offer: proactive and reactive. This article will cover various types of customer service, from different support channels to offering proactive and reactive support.

5 types of customer service

Traditional, brick-and-mortar support

Bricks and mortar stores will never go away—people love to shop, and they like to touch and feel the things they’re buying. But as the world changes, brands need to set themselves up to be nimble and change with the world to stay alive. Customers are more online than ever—65 percent of customers want to buy from companies that offer quick and easy online transactions and 49 percent gave Amazon the highest marks for service for that reason, according to our 2021 Customer Experience Trends Report.

Good customer service connects the dots between a customer’s online, mobile, and in-store visits. “Click and Collect” and “Click and Reserve” services are one way retailers attempt to bridge this gap. Taylor can purchase boots online, and have them shipped to the store to pick up in between Zoom calls. She can receive an SMS notification on her mobile when her order is ready.

Email support

Email is the classic, common, and widespread way customers communicate with companies. With the right email management software, email can be one of the easiest ways to organize, prioritize, and delegate customer support interactions in one place. What’s so great about email? It’s hard to find someone without an email account, and customers can reach out anytime to log an inquiry. Email is also usually the first form of support a business will offer.

Email is also a common type of internal support. Human Resources, Payroll, and IT teams can use email to handle issues or answer questions for employees.

Messaging and chat support

Customers increasingly want to communicate with brands over the same channels they use with friends and family, such as Facebook Messenger, SMS, and WhatsApp. Nearly a third of customers messaged a company for the first time in 2020, and 74 percent say they will continue to do so.

And companies are listening. Of the 40 percent of businesses that added a new channel in 2020, 53 percent turned to messaging. And those companies that are messaging with their customers boast the fastest resolution times and highest satisfaction scores. Businesses love messaging for the same reasons as customers: it's fast, convenient, personal, and secure. Unlike live chat, messaing is asynchronous, which makes it more flexible. In other words, customers can have conversations in real-time or they can troubleshoot while doing other things, like walking the dog.

As messaging rates have risen, so too has the use of AI and automated chatbots. Interactions with automated bots jumped 81 percent in 2020, second only to WhatsApp. With faster responses a top reason businesses use messaging, bots have quickly become a key component of any messaging strategy. Bots make round-the-clock support possible and can take simple, repetitive requests off agents' plates, making them a key partner to a support team.

Phone support

A phone conversation remains a powerful way to solve problems—even in the age of Twitter DMS. When customers get help over the phone, agents can resolve complex issues faster and deliver detailed, personalized support.

Phone support can be expensive when it comes to service rep—however, software with integrated insights can help you better understand how to staff, how many calls support agents take, and how ticket volume from your phone channel compares to other channels. With the right software, you can also have the benefit of full customer history, automatic ticket creation, call recording and other time-saving tools.

To offer the best phone support, you’ll need to consider the hours your agents are available to answer calls, greetings and hold music, and routing rules. You can conquer any fears you might have about phone support here.

Self-service

Support teams know a lot about customer issues—and the best way to solve them. But agents also spend a lot of time looking for information. A collective knowledge base can help tap into that institutional knowledge and aid your customer service team with the information they need to better serve customers. It can also help your business to understand and fill the knowledge gaps your company might have.

Besides, customers prefer self-service because it offers the least amount of interaction friction. By letting customers help themselves through a help center, online community, or customer service portal, you can reduce customer friction while also improving efficiency and delivering faster resolutions. Offering self-service is a baseline for excellent customer service and a great self-service experience can boost customer satisfaction, reduce support costs, and increase agent engagement.

Different customer service types, the same conversation

As seen above, there are various types of customer service your business can offer. And these days it doesn’t cut it to just offer one channel: 64 percent of customers used a new support channel in 2020 and 73 percent plan to keep using it. The key is to meet customers where they are: Customers shouldn't have to climb a ladder to reach your customer support team. Not sure where your customers are? Looking at customer feedback and other types of customer data is a good place to start.

But great customer service isn't only about offering support over your customers' preferred channels on the front-end. It's also about finding the right customer service software that connects channels and context on the back-end.

Our Trends Report shows that companies who perform better across key CX metrics, including faster response times and higher customer satisfaction rates, are more likely to have adopted omnichannel support, which integrates all of a company’s available channels into one streamlined workspace. When channels are connected and conversations are seamless, agents are more productive, and information can be shared across your company—and customers have the option to reach out on the channel they prefer most.

That means Sally can reach out over WhatsApp to return a bike and the customer service representative helping her can reference her past support conversations to see if she reached out about issues with the bike before, even if it was over a different channel. A single workspace also puts Sally's billing details and contact information at the agent's fingertips, so he can process her refund and send her an email receipt, without asking Sally to repeat any information.

The most important types of customer service

The right channels are key to meeting customers' needs, but the mindset your business has around customer service is more important. Do you wait for customers to come to you with problems, or do you get in front of those issues and proactively solve them?

Reactive support has been the standard: you wait for a customer to contact your business with an inquiry or issue. Proactive engagement, however, is becoming a crucial type of customer service—it means anticipating your customers’ issues and addressing them before your customers do. This can be done through FAQs and self-service pages to emailing your customer about a delay in their shipment. The results? Your customer satisfaction doesn’t dip because your customers stay in the know. See a customer hesitating with items in their cart? Offer help via live chat on your checkout page. Proactive customer support is about identifying and resolving customer issues before your customers have to reach out and before their satisfaction dips.

The best kind of customer service is more than the channels you offer

The best kind of customer service is more than just the types of communication channels on which customers can contact your company. The type of customer service a business can offer has grown to mean how seamlessly connected your agents and channels are and if you’re offering support before your customers know they need it. In reality, the future of customer experience and the type of customer service you offer is a support team that’s empowered to deliver proactive service on any channel.

Meet customers where they are

Learn more about conversational support and provide the full-service experience.