Good Customer Service? The 11 Types of Customer Service

Customer Service (CS) is support put available to a company’s customers, either before or after their purchase (or both), to guarantee that they have the best experience possible and achieve customer success.

What to Look Forward to in This Article

About Customer Service
The Purpose of Customer Service
11 Types of Customer Service
Important qualities of Customer Service
What Makes Good Customer Service? 
6 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service
Why is Customer Service important for the success of your business?

The Definition of Customer Service 

In one of my previous articles about customer service (and customer experience), I defined customer service as an aspect of the customer journey that focuses on contact between a brand and a customer in order to assist the customer with his necessities.

I would expand my definition to accommodate the fact that customer service now breaks the barriers of direct contact and extends itself to other forms of assistance such as customer service forums, for example. 

Although these forms of assistance usually follow direct contact, that rule has been changing since customers are leaning more towards self-service. 

Studies have shown that 40% of consumers prefer self-service over human contact. And 73% of customers would rather use a company’s website, instead of social media, SMS and live chat for support.

What is the Purpose of Customer Service? 

The primary function of Customer Service is to support customers. 

Although it establishes contact between your brand and your customers, and it allows you to build a reputation for your brand, through means of palpable representation of your values and your policy, it ultimately serves as an aid to your customers in their experience of your products and/or services. 

The 11 Different Types of Customer Service 

Customer service tends to vary based on the means through which the interaction happens. The types of CS are: 

1. Walk-in Customer Service

If you ever went to a store with a “broken” item, after your purchase, in hopes that they could help you fix it, you have benefited from this type of service. 

With the evolution of technology, it’s become less commonly used. Still, many big companies have one walk-in help post for situations where customers can’t reach them by any other means. 

Older customers still rely on and trust this type of service more than in the modern ones, and companies also get a better chance of getting to know their customers through this means. Yet, it requires that the company has a physical location, and that can be costly.  

2. On-site Customer Service 

Another type of in-person CS, yet in this case, the CSR is the one who goes out to meet the customer to resolve their issues. 

It usually applies to more technical issues, to things that can’t easily be transported to walk-in CS posts or even system installations. For instance, if your washing machine has a problem or you want to install cable tv in your new apartment. 

It’s more practical and affordable for the customer, especially when it doesn’t require additional costs (such as transportation fees, for example). Yet, it can be pretty costly for the company as all the extra expenses that don’t fall on the customer fall on the company.

3. Phone Customer Service:

It’s the type of service where a customer calls a company’s helpline. Almost as old as in-person CS, this type is beneficial for older generations and not very tech-savvy people. It also helps with complex issues that need to be resolved with urgency and yet detailed guidance. 

It’s easy and fast for customers, but it can quickly become annoying if they deal with network issues, poor call quality, and long wait times.  

4. Email Customer Service

I’m pretty sure that you’ve more than once received follow-up emails after purchasing something online. 

It’s easy and fast, and it’s the most common way of communication between businesses and customers now, especially with the immense popularity that online shopping has gained. 

They are an excellent option to break distance barriers for international customers. They are great for issues that require long-winded explanations, yet the communication is relatively slow, and it’s tough to convey emotion through them. 

5. Live-chat Customer Service

Live chats, just like emails, allow your customers to explain their concerns to your representatives, yet because it’s live and in real-time, it’s faster than emails and thus more effective for those who need quick solutions. 

This type of CS allows your reps to multitask and help more than one customer at once (by going back and forth between conversations), especially since written answers can be combined with automated responses when it’s a FAQ. 

But just like emails, it’s hard to convey emotion through them. 

6. Chatbots

Chatbots are an automated version of the live chat, in which the customer reps don’t need to participate as it works through AI (artificial intelligence). 

They respond to quick, commonly asked questions, and they are available for customers 24/7, which is a tremendous advantage since customers who go for it don’t have to go through the hurdle of hold times. 

The only downside is that you can never solely base your CS on chatbots because they don’t deal with complex questions, nor are they empathetic or understand human emotions. 

7. Self-service

Consists of content created by the brand/company itself, such as videos, tutorials, FAQs, and guides with instructions to help the customer use their products. It’s easy, autonomous, and flexible, as it’s always available for customers whenever they need it. 

A great example of this type of service is IKEA, the furniture and decor store.I once bought a wooden bunk bed from them, and a friend and I put it together in one afternoon, thanks to the instruction guide that came with it. 

Trust me, we didn’t think it was possible until we did it, and the feeling of satisfaction that came with it had me in IKEA, shopping for new items for the following weeks of my decor saga.  

8. Communities and Forums

Forums are regulated by the customers themselves, with almost no intervention from customer service representatives, except when a moderator and regulator are necessary (usually if things are out of control). 

Not all businesses can adhere to this type of CS; they require a big community of active customers who have a mutual interest in sharing their experience and helping each other. 

From the company’s perspective, it’s impossible to control since speed and quality depend on the customers themselves.  

One example of this type of CS is the Apple Forums. When I have dealt with issues with my phone or computer, I have found solutions in these forums and pretty quickly since I only had to google it.  

9. Social Media Customer Service: 

It’s all about providing customer service through social media, either through responding to customers’ questions on your social media pages or even on their pages. 

Many North-American companies are masters in this type of service. Companies such as Wendy’s and Amazon go out of their way to respond to their customers’ tweets, sometimes in a matter of seconds, even if they are not directly tagged at them but merely mentioned. 

It’s easy and cheap, and accessible as most customers nowadays are social media users. Yet, it’s risky as one bad review or comment can ruin a brand’s reputation and jeopardize its growth. 

10. Video-call Customer Service: 

Now, in addition to phone call CS, there’s also video call CS. These have all the advantages that phone calls have, with the addition of allowing live demonstrations, which help customers with complex issues despite the distance. 

They also give more in-depth insight into the issue and the customer’s emotions. 

11. IVR (Interactive Voice Response) Customer Service:

IVR’s are the equivalent of chatbots for phone calls. They are also automated and guide customers through a series of pre-saved replies to bring solutions to pretty standard matters. 

They don’t require CSR participation, but they may end up in a phone call if an issue can’t be resolved just by following the instructions. 

Read more about the types of Customer Service and their pros and cons in my article about the 7 TYPES OF CUSTOMER SERVICE where I provide examples of when and how to use each type. 

Types of Customer Service Infographic

TIP #1: To guarantee better performance, you can assign each type of CS to different customer service reps, according to their natural skills and inclination. That will allow you to specialize each in a specific area, maximizing their results and the overall customer satisfaction.

Make sure that they learn how to communicate in all types. That can be valuable in situations where they need to deal with customers through a different means than they usually do, which often happens when your business is multichannel.

Three Important Aspects of Customer Service

The most important aspect of CS is customer satisfaction

The whole concept of CS came to be from the necessity to assist customers who weren’t immediately satisfied just by the buying experience. Whether because something unexpected happened with the product/ service they bought or because they didn’t have all the knowledge required to enjoy it truly, these customers needed guidance from an insider, someone with expertise. 

That takes us to the second most crucial aspect of CS: a qualified team. As I’ve mentioned before, the CS team (of which the CSR is part) represents your brand in the customer’s eyes. How they choose to handle the customers and their issues will be perceived as actual proof of what your brand stands for. 

Having the best channels, the best marketing, and even the best product all goes down the drain if your customer service is terrible, and the only people who can prevent that from happening are your CS team. 

Another essential aspect of CS is the channels put available to your customers. As seen on the previous point, CS can be done through many channels, yet not all options fit the type of service you offer or your specific type of client. Choosing the right channel is therefore of great importance for CS.

What Makes Good Customer Service?

Good customer service is a combination of principles such as empathy, attentiveness (and attention to details), timely and proactive work, and a positive attitude (towards the customer). All principles ultimately form and pace a good relationship with the customer. 

What makes good customer service is a collective effort of the CS team and all the departments in the company to embrace the principles of good CS and deliver the type of service that will exceed customer expectations. 

Good customer service also is a result of a compromise to keep improving by listening to the customer before and after any interaction has been established between the brand and them. 

As said in an article by My Perfect Resume on this subject, Good customer service typically means providing timely, attentive, upbeat service to a customer, and making sure their needs are met …”

6 Ways to Provide Excellent Customer Service 

To provide the kind of CS that will hook your customers, you should invest in the following steps: 

1. Being clear of your vision and values and ensuring that your team knows them by heart and stands by them

That builds a sense of community within the company and it also consistency in your team’s type and quality of interactions with your customers.   

2. Training your team 

Writing a CS speech/script to serve as a guide for basic interactions. That also guarantees the consistency of your services and increases their quality.  

3. Investing in quality staff, services, and technology 

Even though it may cost more, it costs you even more, to lose customers for lack of quality, as nothing hurts a company’s reputation and sales more than poor service.  

4. Expanding your channels and betting on an omnichannel

That approach gives your customers plenty of options to contact you and adds to their comfort and satisfaction.  

5. Checking in with your customers and listening to their feedback 

Make your customers’ feedback your primary measurement for customer satisfaction because no other metrics are as telling as their own opinion about your product and services.

6. Leverage Feedback and Iterate

Guided by your customers’ feedback and data analytics. Also, making an effort to expand with the times, adjusting your strategies as the world or business and technology evolves. 

Why is Customer Service Important for The Success of Your Business? 

“In the past, people chose which companies they did business with based on price, or the product (…) offered, but today the overall experience is often the driver.”

The world now is customer-centric. A company’s success is more measured by its capacity to retain (satisfied) customers than by the number of one-time sales it can make.  

If according to U.S. Small Business Administration reports, almost three-quarters of customers admit that being mistreated makes them leave a company, and customer service is the means through which those statistics change, it’s evident that CS is of central importance for a company. 

Customer service is not only essential but crucial to the success of your brand as it impacts the overall satisfaction of your customers and that, in itself, affects all the other vital aspects of the company, such as: 

  • Sales 

Customer satisfaction creates fidelity, and that is positive for your company’s sales. Happy customers will more likely continue to do business with your brand and bring in more customers through word of mouth.  

  • Finances 

Increased sales increase your finances. Additionally, suppose your customers are so happy that they become regular customers.

 In that case, your company will progress financially since regular customers, compared to new customers who need to be drawn in through expeditious marketing, are the ones who generate a company’s recipe. 

  • Reputation 

Good customer service builds up your company’s reputation.

If your customers are happy with how they are treated, they will most likely leave positive reviews about your company, talk highly of it and recommend it to their family and friends. 

Investing in marketing will no longer be necessary because your customers will freely market your company with the advantage of the humanness of their testimony. 

  • Ability to Retain and to Get New Customers 

Customer satisfaction, good rapport, positive word-of-mouth marketing, and your company’s good reputation will come as a consequence of your customers’ satisfaction. It will also keep them around and bring in new ones (with the potential of becoming loyal).

  • Employee Satisfaction 

For instance, if your finances are in place and everything is going smoothly, to the point where your customer service reps feel like their work is paying off and they are making a difference in people’s lives, they will be more satisfied. 

You could also give them a raise in salary to motivate them if your profits increase thanks to their commitment to quality and good service.

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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