Customer Support vs Customer Service

At first glance, customer support and customer service seem to be referring to the same thing. Support and service are practically synonymous terms, right? 

Well, not exactly. 

Customer support and customer service are not interchangeable terms, and knowing the difference isn’t just a game of semantics. Understanding the differences between the two can do a lot of things: it can minimize confusion, reduce customer churn rates, and improve the customer experience by bolstering the accuracy and speed at which issues are resolved. 

In this article, we’ll get into the nuances between the two terms and why understanding the distinction matters. 

What is Customer Support?

Customer support refers to a wide range of services that help customers in handling or optimizing their product, including installation, planning, troubleshooting, maintenance, and updating or upgrading of their products and services. 

Customer support teams often handle technical issues, and they’re support members who are typically experts in IT or the specific product/service that they represent. Additionally, customer support teams are expected to write and maintain FAQs, troubleshooting guidelines, and other knowledge base documentation. 

Beyond the technical aspects that usually come with companies who provide software, support representatives need to be experts on the product line. If they’re assisting customers to assemble or fix products, they also need certain soft skills to communicate, understand, and guide customers in an effective and pleasant manner. 

What is Customer Service?

Customer service is more broad and dynamic compared to customer support. It’s more of an umbrella term that is aimed at improving the customer experience throughout all customer interactions, including before and after making a purchase. Customer support, then, is one part of your customer service department. 

In fact, depending on what product or services you’re providing, some companies choose not to have a separate customer support team, deferring all technical or product-related questions to their customer service agents. This all comes down to how technical your products and services are, as well as how big your company size is.

Some of the roles and responsibilities of customer service representatives include answering inquiries, taking in calls or messages, managing social media content, and providing both proactive and reactive assistance. Examples of proactive assistance might include utilizing a customer’s purchase history to provide a recommendation or sending out emails for special offers and holiday wishes. 

Customer service representatives need a lot of the same soft skills as customer support agents, but there’s more of a holistic emphasis, a need to understand the bigger picture when it comes to customer service. 

Your customer service representatives will be the very first point of contact to most of your customers. They’re the ones who decide what is the best way to move forward in helping this customer, including whether or not the assistance of a customer support agent is needed. 

Customer Support vs Customer Service Comparison

Below is an outline of the major points and differences between customer service and customer support. 

Customer Support 

  • Direct and straightforward assistance with technical problems .
  • Reactive respondent when customers have specific product problems or issues.
  • Product-centered focus.
  • Support representatives utilize both soft and hard skills to assist customers.
  • Representatives need to be constantly learning about new technologies and advancements.

Customer Service

  • First point of contact; directs customers to the appropriate department.
  • Provides reactive and proactive assistance in improving customer experience.
  • Customer-centered focus
  • Agents may need technical skills, but most of the time only soft skills will be necessary to assist customers.
  • Agents need to learn more about their customers, including transaction history and personal information, to better assist them.

Why Customer Service and Customer Support Matter

Part of why the distinction matters between the two has to do with  accuracy. You don’t want to call a certain team or department something that it isn’t. 

If you have a group of members dedicated to the straightforward, technical or product-centered issues, then you should refer to them by your support team. If you’re referring to your department that overlooks all interactions with customers and aims to improve the customer experience, then you should refer to that department as customer service. 

More than accuracy, though, understanding the distinction could improve your customer experience and improve relationships with your customers.

Gladly’s 2020 Revenue Report found that, along with personalization, more than 70% of customers said they value knowledgeable agents in a customer service experience. In fact, customers’ #1 driving factor to make a repurchase was how knowledgeable an agent is of their products and services. 

This means that, for some companies and for some products and services, it’s well worth it to allocate resources to a customer support team. And if you don’t think that’s necessary, then it’s incumbent on your customer service team to properly train all staff and respondents to deal with product-based questions. 

Other Resources

Final Thoughts: Customer Support vs Customer Service

The distinction between customer support and customer service is more than just a difference of names. It can lead to greater efficiencies, improved customer experiences, and better trained agents. 

At Gladly, we’re focused on helping customers achieve success by bringing them closer to their customers as people, not as issues or tickets. Gladly’s all-in-one platform will completely transform the way you do customer service by personalizing every step of the customer experience and focusing on the human aspect of customer service. Revitalize your approach to customer service with Gladly today.

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