I’m Colin Waters and I’m the Director of Customer Experience at The Feed. You might know me from my experience at BrüMate, where I was the Associate Director of Customer Experience. In three years, I worked my way up from answering tickets and being on the front line with customers to overseeing the entire customer experience team.
My different roles have shown me the various ways to adapt your customer service to fit your team’s and customer’s needs.
In this article, I’ll walk you through the different types of customer service, support channels, strategies, and philosophies you can offer based on what your company requires.
4 types of customer service + when and how to use each
Customer service is kind of like a sandwich. You’ve got your bread or the necessary foundational elements like a great customer service strategy and philosophy, and then you’ve got your support channels which can be more varied and customizable, like the sandwich fillings.
We’ll start with support channels, which you can take care of first, and move onto the strategies and philosophies of customer service. Let’s get into it!
There are many different support channels out there. But instead of offering them all — which can actually harm your support team in the long run — take a look at your customer service responsibilities, resources, and business needs to figure out which channels make the most sense for you.
Here’s a rundown of the different support channels you can offer and what they’re best used for.
Email is flexible in terms of the type of customer inquiries they’re best for (most of them!) and turnaround time, unlike more instantaneous and short-form support channels like live chat and social media.
Provide email support if…
- Customer inquiries are lengthy and detailed. Email is best suited for comprehensive responses that can handle file attachments and additional resources like images, videos, and links.
- Your operating hours are flexible. Customers can reach out to your support team outside of regular business hours, no matter their time zone.
- You deal with sensitive issues. Email provides a private platform for discussing sensitive matters that customers might not want to share publicly.
- You provide technical support. You can easily share resources like documents, videos, and screenshots in a continuous conversation that would be harder to do through other support channels like voice or social media.
Social media customer service is fairly new. However, as 26% of people learn about a product through social media, it’s a good idea to follow the trend and use your social media platforms to not only assist new customers, but take note of feedback.
Provide social media support if…
- You want to reach a younger audience. With Gen Z on apps like TikTok and Instagram, offering your presence and assistance where they are in their free time can boost exposure and conversions.
- Your marketing strategy is social media-focused. Take advantage of the brand recognition you’re getting by personally connecting with followers and getting them closer to your brand.
- Many of your brand mentions are on social media. Mentions are a fantastic way to build a connection with your followers and turn them into customers, exhibit how your brand prioritizes customer service, and collect criticisms to pass along to your team.
- You have a product or service that’s going viral. Get excited with your customers, or provide important information like restock timing or shipping delays.
Live chat, chatbots & automation
If your main source of traffic comes from your company’s website, using live chat or chatbots can easily capture your customer inquiries and lessen the load for your team. Sometimes, however, chatbots may provide inconsistent answers — that’s when using automation to create templated conversations will be your best option.
Provide live chat, chatbots, and automation if…
- You receive a lot of customer inquiries. A chat widget with automatic responses or a chatbot is one of the easiest ways to decrease tickets that contain the same inquiries.
- You’re a small team. With fewer hands on board, routing tickets to AI and automatic responses can keep your customer service reps focused on more complex issues.
- It’s the holiday season or peak hours. Getting a barrage of tickets, especially on Black Friday-Cyber Monday when most people are hunting for sales, can be a nightmare for customer service teams. Let a chat widget be your first line of defense.
- You sell personal or specialized products. Think of products like skincare and health supplements when most of your consumers will need to divulge personal information to get the answers they need. With live chat, customers can resolve their worries with an empathetic agent on their side.
A help center (also referred to as a knowledge base) is a collection of self-service resources that customers and employees can use to resolve questions and issues. They can contain FAQs, troubleshooting guides, instruction manuals, video tutorials, and more.
Provide a help center or knowledge base if…
- You update or change your products regularly. If you release new versions of your products or services every year, a one-stop hub to update documents will be extremely helpful.
- You sell specialized products. If your products need additional explanation before using them, a knowledge base can answer all customer questions and curiosities.
- You want to optimize your website for SEO. On top of being a helpful resource hub, a knowledge base can point eyes to your website. In turn, it earns your brand more exposure and new customers.
On BrüMate, our Help Center is made with Gorgias. It’s organized in sections like FAQs, shipping, and returns and exchanges which can be modified when our product lineup expands.
Voice, messaging & SMS
Voice support can still be an extremely valuable channel when you want to resolve tricky situations. In fact, 42% of Americans still prefer to resolve customer service issues via phone conversations.
Provide voice support if…
- You deal with technical and complex issues. Having a support agent empathize and understand a customer’s problems is crucial not only to boost customer satisfaction but also to lay out solutions in a clear way.
- You serve customers internationally. Language barriers can make written communication difficult. With voice support, it can be easier to resolve issues when you can talk through instructions in real-time.
- Your customer issues are time-sensitive. Offering phone support can give customers an option to resolve urgent issues within minutes, instead of waiting for an email or social media reply back.
Depending on your goals as a customer service team, there are a few strategies you can choose from. In my experience, employing a mix of strategies allows you to adapt to more types of customers, resulting in higher customer satisfaction.
Let’s look at the four customer service strategies, omnichannel, proactive, self-service, and personalized. I’ll go through what they are, their purpose, how to employ them, and my experience with each strategy at BrüMate.
What is it? Omnichannel customer service is offering support on multiple channels to create a seamless customer service experience.
Purpose: To make your support as accessible as possible, so all customers can reach you from whichever channel they prefer.
How to implement it: Use a helpdesk that can combine support channels.
At BrüMate, we use Gorgias to combine all customer conversations in one tool. Our main channels are email, social media, and live chat.
Using Gorgias as a single source of truth for all of our channels helps to ensure that our customers get consistent responses. And, it means that all messages from a customer, regardless of channel, are visible in one place and can be handled by the same agent.
What is it? Proactive customer service is an approach to customer service that anticipates customer needs and meets customer expectations.
Purpose: To lessen the effort customers need to make to find answers to their questions.
How to implement it: Monitor your most common customer tickets and implement resources in advance to avert future inquiries.
We work closely with our marketing and digital teams to deflect issues as they come in and solve them at the root. For example, based on customer feedback, we might add more details to our product pages, update language at checkout, or highlight specific reviews.
What is it? Self-service support is a customer service approach that empowers customers to independently find solutions to their problems using available resources and tools.
Purpose: To speed up resolution time by allowing customers to find answers on their own without waiting for an agent.
How to implement it: Provide self-service options (like a Help Center, automated responses in chat, or ways to easily track orders) at all customer touchpoints, from pre-sales and product inquiries to order status emails and returns.
On the BrüMate website, we display helpful self-service resources in the Gorgias chat widget so that it’s easy for folks to get the help they’re looking for quickly.
We strategically show links for customers to check order status, get warranty or return information, or learn more about the products that would best fit their lifestyles.
We also leverage this area to highlight new products or call out any major issues at the moment (i.e. preorders, shipping delays, etc.) and drive those back to more detailed help center articles and resources.
What is it? Personalized customer service focuses on personalizing customer interactions.
Purpose: To enhance customer satisfaction by customizing interactions to each customer’s preferences and needs.
How to implement it: When interacting with customers, adjust to their voice, acknowledge their history, and suggest solutions relevant to their preferences.
A majority of the BrüMate customer base is female and, fittingly, the majority of our Customer Experience agents are female as well.. This takes empathy to a new level since our team knows exactly what our customers are going through, whether they’re a mom of three or a college student. We’re also big brand ambassadors which helps make the connection more individualized.
What are your priorities when it comes to customer service? Do you prioritize speed? Or would you rather go slow and build out from there?
The way you approach customer service will dictate the overall customer experience. Like customer service strategies, your team can follow more than one philosophy. But make sure to pick one philosophy as your north star to create a clear path towards your goals.
Below are four customer service philosophies that can help establish brand loyalty.
Since BrüMate’s CX team is still pretty small, our core philosophy is to build a strong foundation. Delivering good customer service starts with making sure you’ve got all your bases covered, so you can prevent headaches along the way. Make it easy for the customer to find you early in their experience and that CX is a valuable resource along any point in their journey.
When I’m onboarding new agents, I want them to take their time learning our process. For instance, our team is very particular with naming conventions for ticket tags and Macros. While some will find it tedious, the upside is anybody could come in — agent or not — and start answering tickets without too much guidance.
The customer is (not) always right
As a customer service representative, it’s easy to realize that the customer is not always right. Products wear down over time, delays happen, and unpredictable changes come up. The goal is to prepare your team to handle difficult situations that still align with your brand’s values.
For example, I’ve had to deal with a customer being irritated because we couldn’t cancel an order a few hours after it was placed. From their point of view, cancellations should be a given. They were unaware of the complex behind-the-scenes process and that our team will start fulfilling an order immediately after it is placed.
We started educating customers on our order fulfillment process and giving them insight on the reason the cancellation was no longer available. Fortunately, the context allowed them to cool down and forgive the inconvenience. We also provided them with options once the item was delivered.
Balancing human support & automation
Automation is handy for handling smaller customer hiccups. It’s important to note, though, that the best customer service balances automation with human touch.
When customers reach out to the BrüMate support team, we try our best to keep them with the same agent until their ticket is resolved. This way, their experience with BrüMate is tied to a personal connection. On occasion, I have a few customers who I prefer to work directly with to resolve their issue to ensure they are satisfied with their experience. They are even willing to wait until I’ve returned from vacation due to this level of personalized touch.
Surprise and delight
The concept of "surprise and delight" is a philosophy that makes the customer experience unexpected but delightful. This can come in the form of exceptional, personal customer service (like at BrüMate!) or through gifts and discounts.
Our customer support team at BrüMate plays a pivotal role in building strong relationships. We like to turn the perception of customer service upside down and give customers a pleasant experience. It's an amazing thing to hear when customers mention our agents by name because we've gone above and beyond to build a connection with them.
Customer support as a revenue center
Many people think of customer service teams as a way to resolve problems. I see our team as a marketing and revenue driving machine that can take it a step further by taking a sales approach. This means support’s main goals are to divert unsatisfied customers by using methods of upselling and cross-selling.
Your team should be experts and help close orders. Incentive your team to be one part customer service and sales. I guarantee you’ll see results!
With a help desk you can deliver support whenever, however, and wherever you need
Gorgias makes multitasking look like a breeze. Its simple user interface makes it easy for new and experienced agents to use. You can speak to multiple customers at one time across different channels and integrate with ecommerce tools like Shopify, Affirm, and Yotpo without leaving the window.
Take a look at what Gorgias has helped some of my other favorite CX brands do:
- Pit Viper’s first response time and CSAT skyrocketed to 4.9
- Oger boosted its first response time by 69%
- Kulani Kinis saved $400K in refunds by using Gorgias and Loop Returns
If you’re ready to join me and these other amazing companies using Gorgias, book a demo today.