7 TYPES OF CUSTOMER SERVICE: EXAMPLES OF WHEN AND HOW TO USE


When you really think about it, you realize that customer service is indeed everything. Innovation and technology are so great today that you can hardly find a bad product. 

Companies now compete to provide the best customer experience; the product aspect is pretty much settled. 

For every sector, the company that can provide the best customer service pretty much gets the lion’s share of the market.

Customer service comes in different flavors, each best suited for a different type of customer. 

In this article, we will explore seven types of customer service and their applications. Then we will also talk about how to choose the right kind of customer service for your business.

WHAT IS CUSTOMER SERVICE?

Customer service is any interaction, with the aim of serving, between a business and its customer either before, during, or after a transaction has occurred. It is the business’ way of keeping its customer happy and coming back for more. 

Here are seven types of customer service:

  1. Email Customer Service
  2. Phone Customer Service
  3. Live Chat Customer Service
  4. Social Media Customer Service
  5. On-Site or In-Person Customer Service
  6. Self-Service Customer Service
  7. Interactive Voice Response Customer service

Related Articles:

Why Improving Customer Experience is your 2nd Best Investment?

The 4 Types of Customer Interaction Explained

7 Types of Customer Service: Use Cases, Advantages and Disadvantages of Each

EMAIL CUSTOMER SERVICE

Emails have been around for quite a while and are by far the most common way businesses communicate with their customers. 

An email contact form is pretty much a staple on every ‘Contact Us’ page. The beauty of using emails is that everyone has one, and they are free to use.

Use Case

  • Emails are great when dealing with clients from other countries and different time zones since they can be sent at any time in the day at the sender’s convenience.
  • Emails are also the go-to choice for customers who do not want any direct interaction with a customer support representative.
  • When there is a need for a long-winded explanation of a particular issue, emails are typically preferred. It gives the sender enough time to think and construct their message carefully.
  • Email customer service is also great for individuals who are unable to speak as a result of an injury or a disability.

Advantages

  • Using email, the customer can reach out to a business at any convenient time. It doesn’t have to be during work hours or on a weekday.
  • Businesses can set up automated replies to common emails.
  • Emails can easily be referred back to at any future date should the need arise.

Disadvantages

  • With the right choice of words, emails can convey emotion, but for the most part, they don’t. 
  • Compared to some other forms of communication, emails can be slow.
  • Emails are not a suitable medium for resolving complicated issues. When there is a need for a back, and forth between the customer and the business, emails end up becoming time-consuming and convoluted. 

PHONE CUSTOMER SERVICE

Types of Customer Service

Everyone has a phone; need I say more. We all know how to make calls and appreciate the immediacy of getting your issues addressed by simply making a phone call. 

Businesses understand this and do well to provide their customers with phone support. These days, distance isn’t a barrier; international calls can be made just as easily as local calls. 

When customers know that all they need to do to resolve their issues is to make a phone call, they are more likely to contact businesses, which in turn will lead to better customer service. Also, we can’t overlook the personal touch of talking to an actual person.

Use Case

  • When a very serious or sensitive issue needs to be resolved, customers will prefer to talk to an actual person, so they can get immediate feedback.
  • For businesses where there is a lot at stake, phone calls are a better way to contact their customers since calls are better at appealing to their emotions than emails or text.

Advantages

  • It is a much faster way of communication; clients can quickly and easily explain their issues verbally. 
  • Individuals who aren’t tech-savvy enough to use other communication forms have no problem making a phone call.
  • The customer rep. can get a better assessment of the situation since they can read the client’s emotions through their voice.

Disadvantages

  • Poor network coverage affects the call quality, hence the clarity of the conversation.
  • Long wait times for clients since they are put on hold when there are no customer reps available.

LIVE CHAT CUSTOMER SERVICE

Live chatting is, for the most part, like emailing, but faster. As the name implies, it is ‘live,’ meaning that you can immediately start a conversation with a customer rep. 

Businesses today implement live chatting via their website; a customer can quickly begin a conversation via the company’s website. 

The advantage of live chatting is its speed. These customers want an immediate answer, so getting their queries addressed in minutes or seconds, depending on the customer rep’s availability, is critical.

Use Case

  • For customers who want immediate feedback but don’t want to go the route of placing a phone call.
  • Aside from customer support, live chat can be used by businesses for sales and marketing. Studies have shown that live chatting with customers can significantly increase the conversion rate.

Advantages

  • Customer reps can do more with live chatting. Support staff can easily converse with multiple clients at the same time.
  • Responses to common customer inquiries can be automated.
  • Every conversation with a customer is stored and can be called upon later to help handle any follow-ups with the client.

Disadvantages

  • It isn’t easy to assess the emotions of the customer through live chat.
  • Live chatting can be fast, but it doesn’t beat the directness of a phone call.

SOCIAL MEDIA CUSTOMER SERVICE

This is simply done by providing customer support through different social media platforms (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram). Businesses can engage with their clients on social media either via private chats or public comments.

These days, most people have social media accounts and spend the majority of their time online on those social media platforms. 

Businesses can take advantage of this by interacting with their customers in environments (social media) where they feel the most comfortable.

Use Case

  • Social media makes it easy for businesses to gauge customers’ response to their products and services.
  • Aside from communicating with its customers, companies can use social media to grow their brand awareness and market their products and services.

Advantages

  • Most social media platforms already have a live chatting function built-in, so businesses can easily engage privately with potential clients on social media.
  • Potential customers can get answers to their inquiries from the public replies posted on the company’s social media page. This way, customer reps don’t have to answer the same questions over and over again.
  • In the cases where questions are asked publicly, anyone can answer, either a customer rep or another customer.

Disadvantages

  • A dissatisfied customer can quickly hurt your business’s reputation by spreading negative feedback to other users on social media.

ON-SITE OR IN-PERSON CUSTOMER SERVICE

When a business’s agent or representative has to go to its customers’ homes or offices in order to attend to any issues, that is on-site customer service. On-site customer service is pretty much the only option for a lot of service-oriented businesses. Some examples of services that rely heavily on on-site customer service include electronics repairs, equipment installation, consulting, in-home services, etc.

Use Case

  • Suitable for businesses that offer maintenance, repair services, or other services that require physical contact.
  • Ideal for businesses that require in-person meetings.

Advantages

  • From the customer’s perspective, on-site customer service is very convenient since they do not have to leave their space; the businesses come to them.
  • The in-person interaction with its customers allows brands to get to know their customers much better.

Disadvantages

  • From the business’s perspective, having to visit every one of its customers can be quite time-intensive and expensive.

SELF-SERVICE CUSTOMER SERVICE

Content provided by businesses to help their customers resolve issues on their own constitutes self-service material. These materials can be in the form of instructional videos, documentation, tutorials, guides, tools, infographics, and many more. Providing self-service content for its customers can be quite beneficial to a business, as it helps reduce support costs.

Use Case

  • Gives individuals with special needs or disabilities access to information in a format they can understand.
  • Suitable for individuals who prefer to resolve issues on their own and avoid any friction caused by interaction with a customer rep.

Advantages

  • The availability of self-service facilities reduces the stress on other channels of customer service.
  • Irrespective of the time of the day, or day of the week, self-service material is always accessible to anyone who seeks to use it.
  • Self-service content can be presented in different formats; audio, text, images, video, and also in different languages.

Disadvantages

  • Putting together self-service material that exhaustively addresses every possible customer need will require a lot of effort.
  • Self-service content will require constant updates to keep the information up to date with new developments.

INTERACTIVE VOICE RESPONSE (IVR)

An Interactive Voice Response system is an automated telephone system that interacts with callers using a series of pre-recorded voice messages. Callers get to select the information they want to hear via their keypad. 

If you have ever called the customer support of any company and you are greeted by a voice that reads out a menu that can be accessed by pressing different keys on your keypad, that is IVR. Even more impressive is the IVR system’s ability to route a customer’s call to the right customer rep who specializes in resolving issues related to what the customer selected from the IVR’s menu.

Use Case

  • An IVR system is a must if your call center constantly gets swarmed with calls from customers. If done right, an IVR system can help improve customer satisfaction. 

Advantages

  • It helps reduce the number of times customers are put on on hold when they call customer support.
  • IVR comes in handy when there is an influx of customer calls and a shortage of available support agents.

Disadvantages

  • Interacting with an Interactive voice response system can be off-putting for many customers, especially when they want immediate feedback or want to solve a complicated problem not addressed by the IVR system.

CHOOSING THE RIGHT CUSTOMER SERVICE TYPE FOR YOUR BUSINESS

What to consider When choosing the right type of customer service channel for your business? The answer is quite simple and can be put thus, “Be where our customers are.” 

That’s right; it’s your duty as a business to seek out the platforms where most of your customers spend time and establish your presence on those platforms. 

That being said, the type of customer service you adopt will depend on the type of business you do, the number of customers you have, and of course, what your customers want and feel comfortable with.

Whatever you end up going with has to be an omnichannel approach. These days, people are not confined to one platform. Everyone is pretty much everywhere. 

It is in your best interest as a business to be present on those platforms where your customers are. You do not have to be on all platforms because that may require a lot of time and resources to manage effectively, or it may be nearly impossible if you run a small operation. 

Just select a few platforms based on the number of queries you get; the more questions you get from a particular platform, the more attention you ought to pay to that platform.

If your customer demographic is heavily skewed towards the older generation, it is expected that you utilize channels that can be easily accessed by the older generation; phone calls and emails. 

If your business appeal more to a younger audience, social media customer service may give you the most mileage.

Also, you can either be reactive or proactive in your customer service efforts. 

The reactive approach means that you have to wait for your customers to get in touch with you before acting to help them. 

The proactive approach is anticipatory in nature; you have to be able to predict potential customer issues and solve them before the customers knew they even existed or before the customer reaches out to you. 

If you want to stand out in today’s fierce business landscape, going proactive in your customer support will do your business good.

References and Further Reading

FreshChat Blog. 5 Types of Customer Service (and which one is best for your business)

Emidio Amadebai

For the past 2 years, I have been working as the head of Customer Experience, Sales, Marketing, and Customer Finance at an international pay as you go solar home system company working in rural areas in Africa. After my previous 7 years working in B2B, IT&Telecoms industry, as a Service Delivery and Project Manager, having worked with Vodacom, Huawei, and other multinational companies. My job is to make sure we improve the lives of thousands of families, with access to electricity, utilities (radio, TV, lights), doing our very best so that they get the best-in-class customer experience, and succeed in acquiring the products for themselves.

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