Mind the gap: The difference between customer service and customer support

Mind the gap: The difference between customer service and customer support

Ishita Bagchi

Ishita Bagchi

Published on

8 minute read

It is easy to confuse the terms "customer support" and "customer service". We use them interchangeably and miss out on the crucial distinctions that these two have.

Both customer support and service help in improving customer experience. Hence, the confusion. By understanding the differences, we can develop better strategies for creating positive customer experiences.

First, Let us pick the terms one by one.

What is customer service?

Customer service is the help and direction a business offers to customers before, during, and after they make a purchase.

Customer service is a broad term that describes all sorts of service delivery offered by businesses.

It includes both customer support and customer care. Support focuses more on specific problems, whereas care prioritises forming relationships with customers. Both of these methods almost guarantee client happiness.

Customer experience (CX) is a crucial component and should be the top goal of customer service teams.

The main aim of customer service is to ensure that the initial experience or interaction of a customer with your business is a positive one.

What is customer support?

The group of employees responsible for helping clients and customers with issues with your products or services is known as customer support.

The purpose of customer support is to improve the user's interaction with your product. Making sure customers are successful in resolving whatever problems they have is what matters most in the end.

Depending on your company, industry, and target market, customer support may take diverse forms. However, one thing that is common for customer support across industries is being helpful.

The support representative's job is to become a customer champion and to influence the direction of their company's product, marketing, R&D, and other initiatives.

Building trust is the foundation of good customer support. That’s because trust affects everything from brand and marketing to customer loyalty and retention.

Ultimately, customer support boils down to:

  • Building trust
  • Demonstrating empathy
  • Being truthful
  • Setting clear expectations
  • Focusing on facts and insights for customer support

The difference between customer service and customer support

Even though customer support and service are used interchangeably, they are different from each other.

They might look similar because:

  • Both customer service and support are aimed at helping customers.
  • Both of them aim at improving factors like customer satisfaction, conversion rates, etc.
  • The channels that both use are similar. These include emails, live chat, chatbots, phone calls etc.

However, customer support is a subset of customer service that aims at

  • handling feedback and reviews
  • documentation of all the calls and tickets for data and insights
  • solving problems during product usage
  • technical support
Tabular differences between customer service and customer support

Let us take an example to understand the difference clearly.

Let’s picture this: You walk into a store to buy a watch. There would be a customer service executive who will help you in choosing the product in mind. They will describe the product features, and tell you if there are any offers.

They will also suggest additional products like extra bands that will go with the watch. And they will finally take you through the billing process. They also help you with returns or exchanges of your products and the overall buying process.

This service that is provided by them is known as customer service.

The customer receives what they require, but there is no more feedback or information regarding the experience.

But now let us assume that there is some technical issue with your watch or you are unable to figure out how to fix the battery.

In that case, you will reach the help center of the company where a customer support team will help you with your issue.

When you raise a ticket stating that you are facing some issues with the product, a customer support executive will take note of it.

They will then contact you using your preferred mode of communication, for instance, emails, phone calls or live chat etc. And then they will help you in solving the issue.

The customer support executive will also follow up a few days later to ensure that you are not facing further problems.

This is the specific work that customer support executives do to help customers.

But how to understand if you are improving your customer service and support delivery?

This is where surveys come into the picture. Using various surveys and feedback mechanisms, you can get insights into your customer experience.

For instance, Twitch has an option of live viewer feedback where viewers can send feedback to the channel creators using a survey containing 1 to 3 questions. This is a real-time and reliable way of getting feedback from your customers to improve your service delivery.

Similarly, after a customer support executive helps a customer in solving their issue, companies send an email asking them for their feedback on how their experience was.

These surveys are generally supposed to be simple and short so that your customers are willing to take them. Longer and complicated surveys generally discourage customers from responding.

Using data from these surveys, you can calculate important metrics like CSAT scores, NPS etc. You can head over to this link to know more about such useful metrics or KPIs.

Tips to help you deliver better customer support and service

We've learned that customer support and service are very different terms. Let's look at what can help us make sure our customers have the best experiences possible by adopting an integrated approach to customer support and service.

Empathise by understanding customer sentiments

Empathy and understanding of the customer’s sentiments can go a long way in improving your customer service and support delivery.

Only delivering good products and services is not enough. When you treat your customers well and handle their issues successfully post-purchase, they feel heard.

Knowing how to treat your customers and trying to building relationships with them is important for your business growth. This will create a positive brand image for you.

Ensure adequate product knowledge

Product knowledge is one of the most important aspects of customer service.

  • Your representatives won't be able to deliver quality service if they don't fully understand the products that your business offers.
  • Having strong product knowledge helps increase customer happiness.
  • It will also mostly improve brand perception and provide customer service representatives more confidence in their daily tasks.
  • When your customer support team is aware about the products, they can explain to their clients how the products will suit their needs.
  • When clients are assisted in choosing the best option and given the confidence to do so, there are high chances that your sales increase.

Aim for clear communication

Communication is crucial for better customer service delivery. That’s because it builds and maintains trust between the customer and the company.

Clear communication can reduce misunderstandings, increase customer satisfaction, and increase the chances that customers would refer a company to others.

Being flexible in how you communicate with your customers is also important.

For instance, offering an integrated channel where customers have the option to choose their mode of communication can be one way of offering flexibility in communication.

Another example can be offering options of multiple languages in your customer support system.

Your target audience might not speak one uniform language. So having options in the languages that your team is fluent in can be helpful for your customers.

Have a problem-solving mindset

A problem-solving mindset is more than just being able to fix technical issues or provide solutions to customers’ queries. It is about being

✅ Patient

✅ Polite

✅ Prompt

When it comes to customer service, customers demand more from companies than just a quick fix for their problems. According to survey findings, only 43% of respondents are pleased with refunds.

And 50% said they appreciated feedback that included an apology, empathy, or other form of non-monetary recompense. Only 60% of respondents said that receiving both made them happier.

Active listening, followed by acknowledgment of customers’ complaint and then finally following up on it is the basic foundation of having a problem solving mindset.

P.S. If you are looking for more such tips on customer service and support delivery, read here.

Examples of companies delivering excellent customer service and support

Walmart

Walmart takes their customer service and support very seriously. Their aim is to make the buying process for customers simple and easy. They do it in-person, online, on a mobile device, or through a combination of all three.

The motto of Walmart is helping customers save more which they have termed as “Every day low price guarantee.” This shows that they are a customer-centric company.

The sheer variety of products along with low prices that Walmart offers is one of their greatest advantages which attracts customers.

Another example of their good customer service is providing additional benefits to their loyal and long-term customers.

Walmart walks the extra mile to make their customers feel special and important.

One time when a regular customer of Walmart turned 100, Walmart customer service executives got together, got him a cake, and celebrated his birthday.

Walmart’s customer support team also takes a very proactive approach in handling customer issues. Whenever there is any issue, they immediately take to their social media and inform their customers about the issue.

walmart customer support example


They also offer timely replies to their customers whenever they tweet to Walmart with their issues. Their Twitter bio in fact says that their customer support team is available 24x7 for all sorts of help.

walmart twitter page screenshot

Trader Joe’s

Trader Joe’s gets customer service right by

✅ Having attentive employees

✅ Quick response times

✅ Personalised customer experience

Their customer service executives are so attentive to clients' needs that when asked about a product, they bring it over right away, open it, and engage in a taste test to determine if the consumer likes it.

Trader Joe’s takes customer service to another level.

They even offered home delivery to an old man stuck at his home during a storm even when Trader Joe’s doesn’t have a delivery option. Within 30 minutes, Trader Joe’s delivered everything at the man’s doorstep with all the groceries that his daughter requested for her father who was stuck because of the storm.

Trader Joe’s also takes all of the customer feedback very seriously. This shows how personalised their customer service is.

Their customer support team makes it a point to pay attention to all the feedback that they get about their products.

Another instance is of a customer who tasted a specific cookie flavour in a Southern California branch of Trader Joe’s. Then she requested to have that same soy cookie cream flavour in their Nevada branch.

And Trader Joe’s did it. They stocked up on that flavour which she requested.

Moreover, Trader Joe's will also return your money for any product you are dissatisfied with, even if you have already opened and used it.

P.S. Click here to read about more such inspiring customer experience stories.

To summarise…

Customer service and customer support are not isolated from each other. They practically depend on each other. Excellence on both fronts can take your business to greater heights.

You need to offer post-purchase support to ensure that your customer’s queries and complaints are taken care of. Otherwise, you might lose out on those valuable customers that you have gained with your excellent customer service during their visit to your store or website.

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