Customer Service vs. Customer Support: What’s the Difference?
Talking about the difference between customer care and customer service can definitely feel like splitting hairs. Even the biggest companies often use the terms interchangeably, so it can seem like a matter of word choice rather than an important distinction to make.
So does it really matter if there’s a difference between customer service and support? And if there is a difference, isn’t it quite subtle?
In truth, understanding the nuances of customer service vs. customer support can be tricky, but once you have it figured out, you’ll set your business up for greater success. You’ll be able to deliver even more value to your customers and develop a stronger sense of customer loyalty. And who doesn’t want that?
What is Customer Service?
Before we get into the differences between customer service and customer support, let’s spend a moment defining each term. Customer service is a term that encapsulates a wide variety of interactions your business makes with your customers. Each interaction is aimed to help and give advice to the people who buy your services or products, ensuring that the customer walks away happy and satisfied.
Customer service might take place before, during, or after a purchase. It includes the sales process, delivery, installation, tech support, and more. Your company might offer a customer service hotline, email, live chat, or in-store customer service counter.
Every company should care about delivering world-class customer service, since this aspect of the company will most heavily influence customer satisfaction and loyalty. For some stand-out companies, customer service almost becomes a product of its own, drawing in new customers who want to support the company simply because of the way they treat their clientele. Truly great customer service creates a human connection and makes the relationship about much more than just a transaction.
What is Customer Support?
Now that we’ve explained customer service, you may be wondering where customer support falls in relation. So what is customer support? Customer support is just one type of customer service interaction, and not all companies may have a need for it. This type of customer service is most commonly found in technology or eCommerce companies, and usually involves more technical issues, troubleshooting, and actively working to improve a product.
So while a restaurant might offer customer service when helping customers book a reservation, purchase a gift card, or leave an online review, they probably wouldn’t have a reason to offer customer support. Their customer needs are purely transactional—they want to order a meal, sit in the window seat, or complain about a bad experience at the restaurant. But they don’t need help learning how to install software or troubleshoot a technical problem.
In contrast, a company that sells software as a service (SaaS) or technology like cameras and computers would need a customer support team to help customers who need help installing or using the software. Likewise, an eCommerce company would need a customer support team to help users who are having trouble navigating the site or end up with a faulty tech product.
The Difference Between Customer Care and Customer Service
With the definition of customer care and customer service squared away, let’s dive into the nitty-gritty: How do these terms differ, and what do they have in common?
Customer service focuses on helping customers throughout the entire buying and ownership experience. The focus is on customer satisfaction, rather than improving a product. Every type of business has a need for customer service agents, from retail and banking to technology and eCommerce. Most customer service inquiries have fairly direct answers and solutions. Customer service can be measured in terms of KPIs like average response time, first contact resolution, and other transactional metrics.
On the other hand, customer care or support is a specialized category of customer service. This type of service is focused on the product more than the customer relationship. The department usually requires more experienced agents with specific knowledge of a product or service. Only certain companies will have a need for a customer support team, usually in the realm of eCommerce and technology.
Customer service agents will spend their time solving technical problems that don’t always have a clear solution. The position involves a great deal of troubleshooting and finding solutions to new problems. Customer care agents might also play a role in improving the product, documenting product flaws, and conducting studies on behalf of the business.
Does It Matter What You Call It?
With a greater understanding of the differences between customer service and customer care, you’ll be more equipped to decide which type of service you need to offer your customers in order to develop customer loyalty and raise satisfaction levels.
So while some companies may toss around the terms interchangeably, you now know that yes, it does matter what you call it! The nuances of the two terms will help you deliver the most effective form of customer service to your specific audience. You’ll also have an easier time honing in on how to improve your customer service or customer support.
Tips For Improving Customer Service
Customer service is at the heart of every great company. Here are some tips on how to improve your customer service department.
1. Be an Active Listener
Sure, you’re listening to your customers, but are you really hearing and understanding their point of view? Train your agents to use active listening skills to better help and connect with customers.
2. Use Positive Language
Sometimes, customer satisfaction comes down to word choice. Using positive language helps your customer see the good side of the situation and naturally makes them feel more pleased with the experience.
3. Accept Fault
Every customer can see through it when you try to avoid taking the blame. Mistakes happen within every company, and if you’re at fault of something, it’s best to own up to it and make it right.
Tips For Improving Customer Care
Improving customer service is all about the customer relationship, while customer care is more focused on improving the product. So how can you improve your customer care department? Here are a few ideas.
1. Develop Soft Skills
It’s easy to let your customer care agents focus on technicalities, but they’ll still need to develop soft skills in order to effectively help customers work through their problems with the product.
2. Measure Business-Related Metrics
While customer service metrics are usually related to handle time, wait time, etc., the customer care department should measure metrics such as churn rates and net promoter scores.
3. Focus On The Why
Many customer care departments focus on how to solve a problem, rather than why they’re solving a problem. Don’t lose sight of why you’re there, why the customer is having a certain issue, and why you want to improve the product in the first place.
Do You Have Room For Improvement?
By understanding the details of customer service vs. customer support, you’re ready to tackle problems within each department and find ways to improve. So take some time to reflect and brainstorm: Where do you have room for improvement?