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The Different Types of Customer Service

Customer service is one of the most important differentiating factors that customers look at when choosing between competing companies. No matter how great your products are, customers want to know that you’re ready to help them when they have questions, problems, or just need advice. However there are many types of customer service, and individual consumers will have their own sets of preferences. So, what types of customer service should you consider offering?

Read our guide to customer service.

Face-to-Face Customer Service

When you walk into a brick-and-mortar store, you should experience this good, old-fashioned type of customer service. It’s the friendly shop assistant or clerk who listens to what you need and ensures that you get it. 

The top advantage is the one-on-one contact, but it might not suit everyone – doing business remotely makes life so much easier, especially when they have after-sales service needs. For businesses, there’s always the question of staffing. Customers don’t like to wait – but having extra staff members with time on their hands is unproductive and costly. So from the business’s side, the top disadvantage of face-to-face customer service will be the lack of scalability. 

Phone or Call Centre Customer Service

What do you do if you don’t feel like travelling to a store to talk to their customer service agents in person – or if the store doesn’t have a physical presence near you? For many people, it’s a matter of picking up the phone and giving them a call. 

The top advantage for customers is convenience. They get in-person service without having to trek to a store location. For businesses, there are multiple advantages, including better relationship-building. And there are other advantages. Calls can be recorded, for example, helping businesses to exercise better quality control and verify what happened during interactions. Plus you can outsource, allowing you to offer 24/7 customer service, and scale service in response to demand. 

Emails and Messages on Social Media

Putting things down in writing helps customers to think their problems through and express themselves well. Getting responses in writing gives them a record of the interaction and makes it possible for them to use the information they receive at their convenience. The top two disadvantages from their perspective are the time taken waiting for responses and the fact that writing things out may seem like “work.”

From a business’s viewpoint, email customer service may seem convenient. Few people expect instant replies and agents can work during business hours, taking time over their responses. But, there’s the fact that many customers – in fact, most of them – would prefer to get instant assistance and are therefore not keen on using email in the first place. 

Live Chat Customer Service Using Bots or Live Agents

Most companies use a combination of chatbots and live agents to handle live chat customer service. Customers like it because they can reach out to your company from its website or app and expect rapid-fire responses. But woe-betide the company that uses only chat bots. People don’t really like talking to bots. They can’t empathise with customer’s needs, are unable to personalise information, and they’re often not very good at understanding what customers really want. 

Offering an “I want to talk to a human” option helps customers to get in touch with a live agent if they’re not happy with your chatbot. For the customer, it’s still more time-consuming and less personal than calling, but at least they’re confident that they’re talking to a real human being. 

From a business’s perspective, having chatbots to provide answers to common questions automates some interactions, saving time and money, and people can intervene to pick up the pieces if the bot doesn’t know what to do with a query. 

Self-Service Knowledge Base

Offering a self-service knowledge base consisting of articles and explainer videos can help people search for answers to their questions. But be warned! They won’t see this as customer service in its purest form – they’ll see it as helping themselves – so there’ll be no customer service kudos for you. Worst of all, some of them won’t find the information they’re looking for. 

Once again, having an easily accessible live chat or call-in option helps to mitigate this. Be quick to offer it – some companies only offer the option after customers have scanned several knowledge base articles, and by that time, they’re getting frustrated and impatient. 

Interactive Voice Response (IVR) Customer Service

Instead of typing messages to a bot, IVR technology allows them to talk to it, either using voice recognition or a push-button menu. The up and downsides are similar to those we mentioned for chatbots. Research into whether customers thought IVR improves customer experience was revealing. Only 12 percent said that it led to a good customer experience, and 61 percent said it led to a poor experience

Apart from not feeling valued when left to talk to a machine, your customers may become as frustrated with IVR calls as they are when talking to a chatbot. Always be wary of allowing technology to tend to all the needs posed by your business’s most important asset: its customers. 

To Automate, or Not to Automate? Self-Service or Hybrid?

A survey found that 71 percent of people preferred dealing with a human being when seeking assistance from customer service. 43 percent said they’d stop supporting a company if it didn’t allow them access to human agents. Although this might seem damning, there are certainly customers who are perfectly happy to go for an automated or self-service option – provided they can find the information they need with ease.

It seems reasonably certain that if you want to automate at all, offering a hybrid service is the best bet. When customers need intervention, they know that they can talk to a person any time they want to. When they find answers through a bot or information resource, they don’t need human help, and there’s less pressure on your agents. 

Best Option: Omnichannel Customer Service

People have different preferences and these can vary depending on their current context. Phone will always be important. Business Leader Magazine confirms that 61 percent of people still prefer phone calls, and 75 percent say they think that calls get them the quickest response times. 

The human element is still the most important part of customer service. 80 percent say they prefer supporting businesses that offer personalised service (regardless of channel) – something that only a human can do effectively.

So, although some people like to reach out on social media or send an email, almost everyone wants to interact with a real person when the chips are down. This leads us to two important customer service conclusions:

  1. People want to talk to people, and
  2. They want to have a choice of channel options

Omnichannel customer service offering human contact covers all the bases and offers a solution that’s preferred by all customers. Add great customer service agents, and you have a winning recipe.

Customer Service Models 

Another way to look at customer service is to consider the various models used.  Here’s a quick summary:

Tech-based customer service: Everything’s automated and there’s no human option. It’s cheap, but most of your clients will either feel neutral about your customer service or absolutely hate it. 

Low interaction customer service: Your business offers clients tech-based service first – but if they want to talk to a person instead, they have that option. 

Medium interaction customer service: People do most of the customer service work, but some interactions are automated. For example, customer surveys are conducted using software, and automated email responses are used for generic communications such as order confirmation. 

High-interaction customer service: It’s all personal, all the way. This model would usually apply to very high value goods and services because it offers “bespoke” customer service and is very labour intensive. 

Of these, low and medium interaction customer service models are the most widely used. The balance sought is to provide enough personalised service to satisfy clients while also using automated options to reduce workloads. 

The Challenge: Managing Machines is Easy, Managing People is Harder

The whole point of offering customer service is to ensure a great customer experience. From your perspective, managing customer service software is a whole lot easier than managing a customer service team. But do you even need to?

Outsourcing customer care means you don’t have to directly employ a team – and there are other advantages too. For example, an outsourced customer service company can redeploy people at will, making customer care completely scalable. Nobody is waiting specifically for your customers to call, but when they do, the response is fast and efficient. 

At RSVP, we train our customer service agents to represent you, but you only need to deal with one touchpoint: our company. Meanwhile, your customers are giving you rave reviews for personalised, one-on-one service, building your reputation as a company worth supporting. Interested in finding out more? Contact our London-based outsourced customer service company and find out why we’re so much more than your “regular call centre.”

 

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