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What is customer support?

Customer support definition: Customer support refers to the assistance and guidance provided to customers before, during, and after the purchase of a product or service. Its purpose is to address any issues or concerns the customer may have, and ensure their satisfaction with the company's offerings.

The history of customer support can be traced back toe th early 20th century, when businesses began to recognize the importance of addressing customer concerns and providing high-quality service. In the years that followed, customer support evolved as new technologies and communication channels emerged.

One key development was the creation of call centers in the 1960s, which allowed businesses to centralize their customer support operations and provide assistance over the phone. In the 1990s and 2000s, the widespread adoption of the internet led to the rise of online customer support, including email, live chat, and social media.

The customer support industry growth

Today, customer support continues to evolve with the introduction of new technologies such as artificial intelligence and chatbots. However, the underlying principles of customer support remain the same: providing excellent service and support to ensure customer satisfaction and loyalty.

The difference between Customer Support and Customer Success

Customer Support

Customer support is all about being there for your customers when they have questions, problems or issues with your product or service. 

It's usually reactive, meaning that the support team responds to customer inquiries as they come in, and tries to resolve any issues as quickly and effectively as possible. 

The goal of customer support is to help customers use your product or service to the best of their abilities and resolve any problems they encounter along the way.

Customer Success

It's all about unlocking the full potential of your product or service, ensuring your customers achieve their goals and experience the maximum benefits.

To do that, you need to possess an empathetic understanding of their needs and provide them with the resources and guidance they need to be successful. This involves working closely with your customers to unearth areas where you can help them improve and achieve their desired outcomes.

Your customer success team will be a supportive partner every step of the way, deftly navigating your customers through any challenges they might encounter and guiding them confidently towards the path to success.

Customer support can be categorized as

  • Self-serving – Enables customers to find answers to their problems on their own.
  • Anticipatory – Identifies and addresses customer problems before they happen.
  • Responsive – Addresses customer problems when they arise.

All customer support types fall into one or more of these categories. These types are:

  • Email, phone, and social media support - Customers request help over one of these platforms and receive assistance from the support team.
  • Automated emails - Used to send solutions to groups of customers with the same problem or warn the user base about the problem with the product and how to solve it before it affects them.
  • Knowledge base - A section with helpful resources, tutorials, common problems, and FAQs that customers can access on their own.
  • Community forums - Lets customers ask questions and provide answers to other customers. They are moderated by the support team and also help the community with problems.
  • Automated chatbots - Programmed to detect common user questions and provide answers. They are used for low-priority problems and provide instant answers.
  • Live chat - Lets users have real-time conversations with the support team through the website or product.

Companies usually include more than one type of support in their strategy to cater to different customer needs.

Responsibilities of customer support

  • Assisting customers with their questions, concerns, and issues regarding the product. 
  • Managing support tickets by their urgency and category of the problem for them to be addressed efficiently.
  • Documenting customer interactions in a database to identify patterns and quickly answer repeating questions.
  • Updating product knowledge base with new features, use cases, and customer questions.
  • Understanding the product features, how customers use them, and how issues with them are solved on a technical level.
  • Monitoring customer satisfaction through conducting surveys and analyzing customer behavior.
  • Providing feedback acquired by interacting with customers that are used to make the product and team better.

What are essential skills for customer support?

  • Empathy: The ability to understand the customer's problem and emotions.
  • Problem-solving: Being able to quickly identify the problem and solve it using all resources available.
  • Communication: Keeping the situation calm and explaining the solution to the customer’s problem. It refers to both verbal and written communication.
  • Product knowledge: A deep understanding of the company’s product and its technical aspects, as well as information that can be helpful to the customers.
  • Positive attitude: Being able to keep themselves and the customer calm despite the situation at hand.

Customer support team structure

The structure of a customer support team isn’t the same in every company but depends on its size and goals and the type of problems customers have the most.

The standard structure looks like this:

  • Customer support manager oversees the entire customer support process, from creating and implementing policies and procedures to analyzing customer satisfaction levels and making adjustments. They also work on collaborating with other departments that are in contact with potential/current customers.
  • Customer support team lead works with representatives and manages their day-to-day workflow providing guidance and helping with difficult issues. Their main goal is to ensure all customer queries are resolved and that customers are satisfied.
  • Customer support representatives work directly with the customers to answer their questions and resolve their issues.
  • Technical support specialist provides technical assistance with problems the support team cannot fix. These are deep software issues that usually require collaborating with the development team. This role is separate from the representatives and works directly under the manager.

Examples of great customer support

Mindmesh has an extensive knowledge base with tutorials on every feature and how they can be used by customers with pictures and videos provided. 

HubSpot has an active online community where customers can connect and help each other.

Slack has a dedicated Twitter profile, “@slackSupport,” to assist its customers with their questions.

eBay’s chatbot is trained to help users find products they need and answer any common questions.

Apple’s customer support knows every aspect of their devices and offers support through phone, chat, and appointments in their stores.

Zappos personally replies to every support email creating a better connection with its customers.

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Article FAQs

What are 3 skills for customer support?
Communication: Being able to communicate effectively, both verbally and in writing, is essential for customer support. This includes active listening, asking questions to clarify issues, and using clear and concise language to explain solutions. Problem-solving: Customer support often involves troubleshooting technical issues or resolving complex problems. Being able to think critically, analyze data, and develop creative solutions is a must. Empathy: Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It's a crucial skill for customer support because it allows you to connect with customers on a personal level, build rapport, and provide support that's tailored to their unique needs.
What is the work of customer support?
It's all about being there for your customers when they need you the most, being responsive to their needs and providing top-notch service that meets and exceeds their expectations.
What’s the difference between customer service and customer support?
Customer service focuses on customers' overall experience with the product throughout the whole customer lifecycle. This includes onboarding, resolving concerns, taking feedback, and retaining customers. Customer support focuses only on resolving concerns.
What’s the difference between customer support and customer success?
While customer support aims to help customers resolve problems and provide assistance with the product, customer success is more proactive and focuses on customers' desired outcomes. They work with customers to understand their goals and guide them on how to use the product to achieve them.
What is customer support experience?
It is the quality of the whole support process a customer has with the support team. A customer can have a positive or negative experience leading to an increase or decrease in their satisfaction with the product, which later impacts the whole customer lifecycle.

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