What’s the Best Type of Customer Service for Your Business?

What’s the Best Type of Customer Service for Your Business?
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When choosing customer service “types,” businesses make one capsizing mistake: they start with channels. Instead, start with customer experience—then work backwards.

You could offer many types of customer service—different communication channels to fit different customer’s preferences. For example:

  1. Phone
  2. Email
  3. Live chat
  4. Knowledge base
  5. Social media
  6. In person
  7. Forums

But, with all those options, the real question is:

Which customer service types will help you retain happy, profitable customers?

In this article, I’ll tell you the types we’ve chosen here at Groove, why we favor them, and whether or not they’re the right choice for you.

Note: Too busy to read the full article?

This post includes a wealth of information that could easily serve as a reference for you (and your team!). We’ve gathered all the takeaways and best practices in a reference PDF you can download and save for later.

Download our reference guide: What’s the Best Type of Customer Service for Your Business?
Download our reference guide: What’s the Best Type of Customer Service for Your Business?

Start at the end: What experience do you want to provide?

Before you pick support tools and start training people how to use them, answer this question:

What kind of experience do you want to provide for customers?

To me, customer experience is the holistic impression your customers walk away with every time they interact with someone from your company.

Some of you support software customers.

Some of you have eCommerce customers all over the world.

Others of you have a local small business with customers who call in daily with questions.

Whatever your situation, start by defining your customer’s current expectations.

What do customers expect? What are they used to? How could you exceed those expectations?

What type of customer service do you provide?

There is no one best type of customer service.

Instead, you need to identify the type of interactions you’ll be having with customers—because they’ll be different depending on your business situation.

Over the years, our industry has developed four broad categories of customer service—each with a different focus:

  1. Customer service
  2. Customer support
  3. Customer success

Each are appropriate in different situations, and they’re not mutually exclusive.

1. Customer service: ‘Can I return this?’

Many founders (especially tech founders) call their initial hire a customer service specialist or representative, even if it’s really a customer support role.

Traditionally, customer service is the practice of supporting transacional purchases.

If you sell any kind of physical item, you’ll invariably have returns, shipping issues, food problems, and dozens of other common customer situations to deal with.

The return desk at most retail stores is called the customer service desk, for example. Even my local grocery store has a counter with a giant “Customer Service” sign hanging over it.

If you run an e-cCommerce store, most of what you do falls into this category.

The problems you resolve sound like this:

  1. “Can I return this?”
  2. “It didn’t fit.”
  3. “It’s the wrong color.”
  4. “The shipping says it was delivered but nothing showed up.”

All of those are classic customer service situations.

The goal here is to resolve issues and painlessly as possible—so customers will be comfortable buying from your business again in the future.

Tools to prioritize in customer service situations

When you’re doing transactional customer service, the speed at which you react is usually the most important factor to a customer’s satisfaction with the experience.

In this situation, prioritize tools that help you respond quickly. I recommend looking at these three first:

  • Phone support, which is especially common for local businesses
  • Email or help desk software to respond to customer emails
  • Live chat to interact with customers in real time

Customer service is the practice of providing support for transactional purchases. From the customer’s point of view, speed of resolution is vital to customer satisfaction.

2. Customer support: ‘I’m having a problem with…’

Like customer service, customer support is reactive.

The difference is this: Customer support is for ongoing users of your product or service.

Most software companies offer free customer support as a basic part of what customers receive when they sign up for the product.

In those businesses, sales and marketing may get the glory for signing up new customers.

But it’s customer support—in partnership with product development—who work to keep those customers month-after-month and year-after-year.

Common customer issues include:

  • Technical issues
  • Onboarding problems
  • Basic billing questions
  • Integrations
  • Bugs

Customer support teams often use multiple communication types to interact with customers:, including primarily email, chat, and social media.

It’s not always easy to figure out what’s wrong in customer support situations.

Many times, the customer doesn’t know the right way to use a feature of the product or is trying to find a workaround for a feature that’s not yet available.

Here’s a simple example of an email we send a lot from Support here at Groove:

A customer wrote in about a feature that wasn’t working as expected. When we looked into it, we found it was a bug in our software that was causing the issue.

So we fixed it and let them know.

Customer support teams also do a lot of this kind of work behind the scenes. coordinating feature requests and bug fixes in partnership with the development team.

They often help with prioritization and tracking of product changes and upgrades (like we do on our public roadmap).

Customer support teams are the front lines. They usually know the customer better than anyone else—because they interact so frequently with users.

The key thing to understand about customer support is that it’s relational, rather than transactional.

Whatever it takes to make the customer happy—that’s what support does.

Tools to prioritize in customer support situations

Speed of response is important in customer support situations, but it’s not the only thing to think about.

Instead, you’re working to maintain a relationship with a customer for the long-term, which means the way you respond to customers is just as important as your speed.

In this situation, prioritize tools that help develop relationships over time. I recommend looking at these three first:

  • Email or help desk software to respond to customer emails
  • Live chat to interact with customers in real time
  • Knowledge base to let customers find answers to common problems on their own

A customer support team’s primary goal is to ensure customers have a place they can go when they have a problem with your product. An accurate, helpful response is just as important as the speed of your response in support situations.

3. Customer success: ‘Did you know you could…?’

The job of customer success is to help customers fall in love with the product and the company that made it.

It’s proactive, not reactive. You’ll usually spend your time helping prospects and customers with:

  • Implementation
  • Onboarding
  • Upselling
  • Referrals
  • Adoption
  • Retention and renewals

When done well, customer success activities are revenue-generating.

Success team members will be actively working with customers and prospects to move them to additional products, higher subscription levels, or additional user licenses.

Tools to prioritize in customer success situations

From a tools perspective, customer success is similar to customer support—because you’re focused on developing relationships.

I recommend tools such as:

  • Email or help desk software to respond to proactively reach out to prospects and customers
  • Webinar software to host webinars or 1-on-1 training calls
  • Live chat to interact with customers in real time
  • Knowledge base to let customers find answers to common problems on their own

Customer success is about proactively helping customers get the most out of your product—including selling them on the value of upgrades and add-ons.

How we do this at Groove

Finally, as a real-life example, here’s how we have things set up at Groove.

In our organization, we have two teams with dedicated customer facing roles.

  1. Customer support
  2. Customer success

I oversee both teams and manage all team members on a daily basis.

We focus on friendly, responsive support

Most of our customers are small businesses or startups.

They are busy owners, founders, or department heads who don’t have a half-day to spend debugging software the way an IT department would.

I want everyone who interacts with Groove to have a friendly, prompt, professional customer experience.

We closely track three key metrics to measure our effectiveness:

  • First response time (we try to keep it under 2 hours)
  • CSAT
  • Net promoter score

The Groove customer support team

We have a global support team spanning all time zones, enabling us to support our customers no matter where they’re located.

Our team spends most of its time working from the Groove Inbox, helping customers increase the value they get from our products.

Sometimes that means we’re doing something simple—like helping people reset a password. We also provide support with technical problems, configurations, or functionality questions.

We also work closely with support operations, members from our development team that help us with backlogged bugs and feature upgrades that are priorities for customers.

More complex fixes go into our development cycle and are managed through our normal sprint cycles.

The Groove customer success team

Our customer success team handles all demo requests from customer prospects (which are important, since they provide a one-on-one chat explaining how Groove can solve business challenges for companies considering our products).

In addition, Success is working to add a new onboarding process to improve the experience for new Groove users. We’re also working to increase adoption through feature utilization sequences, new user onboarding, webinars, and office hours sessions.

In total, our customer success efforts are focused on making and keeping customers happy by improving the end-to-end experience of our customers, from demos all the way through to renewal

That includes demos, in-app walk-throughs, webinars, and anything else we think would help our customers get more out of Groove.

The secret to excelling at every customer service type

Here’s the secret to excelling at every customer service type:

Start by defining the exceptional experiences you want customers to have, then work backwards.

Too many companies start by thinking about flashy tool options on the market.

Or, they’re obsessed with transactional customer service metrics. Stuff like:

  • CSAT scores
  • Response times
  • Time to resolution
  • And on and on and on

You should measure some or all of those things.

But that’s not the place to start.

Instead, think about the exceptional customer experience you want to provide for everyone who uses your product.

That kind of focus goes well beyond choosing software to use on your CS team.

It’s about culture—the environment you, your team, your products create for your customers as they use your products and services.

First, define what kind of experience you want customers to have.

Then work backwards to create teams and best practices that help you achieve that result.

Lisa Foster
Lisa Foster Lisa heads up the customer success team. She's helped thousands of Groove customers achieve their goal—make simple support a reality. You can usually find her answering emails in Groove or running a demo or training.