Customer Support vs. Customer Service: 5 Key Differences

Customer support and customer service are often used interchangeably, even though they have some notable differences. Understanding customer support vs. customer service is key to employing the right strategies to meet customer expectations across your business. Since your business success depends on customer satisfaction, you will want to invest time in developing each team appropriately.

We cover five differences between customer support and customer service to help you offer the best customer experience during each interaction.

Key Takeaways:

  • Customer support is individual interactions that solve technical issues.
  • Customer service is a broad term for all customer interactions within your business.
  • Customer support is fast and transactional, and customer service is intentional and relational.
  • Customer service requires a proactive strategy, while customer support is reactive.
  • Not all departments need customer support, but everyone should use customer service.

Defining Customer Support and Customer Service

Customer support and customer service aren’t islands within your business. Instead, they often rely on each other during customer interactions. Understanding their unique roles in your business can help you train and equip your reps with the right tools to succeed in their specific duties.

Below are two quick definitions that help you differentiate the two terms before diving into specific ways these teams operate.

What is Customer Support?

Customer support is individual interactions your business has with customers to resolve specific issues. You can define customer support as the “how” of your business. These interactions instruct your customers how to solve problems.

Some customer support examples include:

  • Troubleshooting
  • Help manuals
  • Frequently asked questions pages

What is Customer Service?

Customer service is the umbrella term for all customer interactions and communications. They answer the “why” of your business. For example, they will tell customers why they should choose certain products or perform specific actions.

Customer Support vs. Customer Service Example

The following example shows inbound customer support and service in action:

When a customer calls your business asking for suggestions on the best solution for their business needs, they speak with customer service. However, when they call your business because their software has a glitch they are trying to resolve, customer support will talk them through actionable steps for resolving the issue.

How Customer Support and Customer Service are Similar

The most significant factor uniting the teams is their interaction with customers. Customer support and customer service aim to improve the company’s customer satisfaction rate. However, how they go about achieving this is different.

Both teams also look similar in the tools they use to carry out their goals and tasks. For example, customer service and customer support both use:

  • Phone communication
  • Customer chat
  • Email
  • Customer data

5 Ways that Customer Support and Customer Service Differ

These five aspects of customer support and customer service make each team unique. Use these differences to build strategies specific to each department’s end goals to help them be more effective in their jobs.

Comparison of customer support vs. customer service

Image from Zendesk

1. Specific vs. General Interactions

Customer support and customer service involve different types of interactions depending on the customer’s needs.

Customer support involves individual interactions with a single goal in mind. Your team must be laser-focused on solving those short-term issues. For example, they might resolve malfunctioning tech or diagnose platform bugs.

Customer service uses a long-term view when interacting with customers. Their interactions are broad and can cover any number of communications or activities aiming to connect with customers to improve their general experience with your business.

2. Technical vs. Relational Support

Customer support tends to be more technical. Your technical support team will often require more training to troubleshoot and resolve complex issues. They work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure your products and services run smoothly for customers.

Meanwhile, customer service needs team members who understand the customer experience and identify each customer’s intent. They must use their people skills and pleasant attitude to create meaningful relationships with customers as they answer questions and educate them about your brand. About 75% of customers want a personalized customer experience from a team of knowledgeable customer service reps who understand each customer’s unique journey.

3. Resolution vs. Satisfaction Goals

The metrics each team uses to measure their success will differ because of their unique goals.

On the one hand, customer support will measure their success by the number of issues they can resolve on their first interaction. They also aim to provide speedy service. About 75% of customers say quick resolutions as the top factor of good customer support.

Fast response times are the most important attribute of the customer experience

Image from SuperOffice

On the other hand, customer service measures their success by their customer satisfaction rate, which they often calculate using surveys and customer feedback. For example, they might aim to maintain a five-star rating from their interactions.

4. Fixed vs. Widespread Within your Business

All businesses will have a customer service team and customer support team, but not all departments need support from both teams when handling customer inquiries.

Customer service covers all businesses and all departments. For instance, you need a customer service representative that can answer questions about products, billing, and your business practices.

However, not all departments need a customer support team. Customer support will remain fixed within areas that can experience technical issues, like product malfunctions or website troubleshooting.

5. Reactive vs. Proactive Service

Your strategies for customer support and customer service should either be reactive or proactive, depending on the department.

Customer support waits for customers to approach them with problems and questions. They don’t go seeking issues where there aren’t any. Therefore, your customer support strategy should focus on its response time so that customers aren’t left waiting too long for a solution, and your team isn’t held up with a customer who prevents them from helping others.

Conversely, your customer service department is proactive because they are always looking for new ways to support customers throughout their sales journey. For instance, when a customer walks into a physical store, store associates are often the first to approach customers and ask them how they can help. The same applies to all types of interactions. 

Customer service can be proactive by asking for feedback, sending chats online when new visitors come to their sites, or emailing customers with helpful reminders. An effective customer service strategy aims to resolve any concerns before they arise, so your customers don’t go to your competition or leave unsatisfied.

Improve Your Customer’s Experience

Customer support and customer service are both important for a positive customer experience. Even though they are separate departments, they rely on each other to achieve a common goal of improving your business’s customer satisfaction rate.

Contact us to learn about our customer lifecycle solutions to improve your customer care strategies.

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