13 customer service types: How to choose the right one?

Aksheeta Tyagi

September 21, 202311 min read

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Aldous Huxley once mused “There are things known and there are things unknown — and in between are the doors of perception.”

In the world of business, think of types of customer service as these intricate, varied “doors”.

Each door isn't just a barrier or entry point, but a testament to a unique story, a distinct need, a particular interaction.

In Huxley’s perception, not all doors open the same way, nor do they reveal identical vistas.

Similarly, no two customer service experiences can be precisely replicated. Each type, each variant, offers a unique lens, a different approach to the vast world of customer understanding.

Yet, here’s the conundrum: Which door to knock on? How do you pick the right entry for your narrative? Which path will reveal your customers’ truest sentiments?

Let’s journey together as we explore different customer service types and how to choose the right one that fits to tell your tale the best.

Table of Contents

What is customer service, really?

Customer service is the set of actions a business takes to support customers before, during and after buying or using a product or service. It involves various communication methods to assist customers, answer questions, resolve issues and guide them in using the product.

At its core, it's a symbiotic exchange of value: companies decode user behavior while customers extract product utility.

And if you peel back the layers, you’ll see that it, in fact, stands as a reflection of your brand’s ideology.

Every interaction, response and resolution becomes a mirror — showcasing how much you value your users, listen to their feedback and commit to their satisfaction.

Why is customer service important?

Customer service isn't just a company's "helpdesk." It's a brand's heartbeat, capturing the essence of its values. Each interaction molds perceptions, with ripple effects beyond a single transaction.

  • Meaningful, authentic customer service improves customer satisfaction.

  • Beyond offerings, great service anchors users for the long haul and turns them into brand advocates

  • Consistent, personalized cross-channel service makes customers feel valued — two-thirds even expect this from you.

  • Exceptional service is frugality in action — long terms savings outweigh service overheads.

  • Business growth is tethered in good service. In fact, American brands that lead with their service experiences also generate 2X the revenue.

Customer service is an investment with dividends in loyalty, word-of-mouth and sustained relevance. Identifying and setting the right customer service objectives helps you consistently stay in your customers’ good books.

13 popular customer service types

An e-commerce store might rely more on social, whereas an ed-tech company might benefit more from live chat. What types of customer service are right for your business? Here are 13 of them for you to check out.

Traditional support

Traditional support allows customers to walk into offline stores or service centers to get direct help. While the digital world dominates today, there's still merit in this classic approach.

Physical touchpoints aren't obsolete. Especially for tactile goods. Imagine a customer strolls in keen on buying a camera. Not only can they gauge its weight, but they also click, adjust settings and witness its features firsthand.

Doubts? A knowledgeable staffer is right there, translating tech jargon into simple information.

However, businesses offering brick-and-mortar support are now rare. If your product isn’t bound by a four-walled space, you can simply set up a cloud contact center to serve customers virtually.

  • Pros: Personalized touch, instant feedback, clear communication

  • Cons: Limited hours, high costs, long waits, tough to scale, variable service quality

Phone support

Even today, phone support remains an enduring classic. The personal touch in a voice conversation cannot be understated. It's the warm, welcoming voice of a human agent at the other end solving customer’s WiFi troubles or upgrading their airline seat.

Immediate and personal, but sometimes, customers might find themselves lost in a loop of jazzy hold music. However, call center automation levels up phone support with conversational IVR that can gather caller information, detect sentiment and route callers to subject-matter experts.

  • Pros: Direct communication, fosters trust, allows for in-depth troubleshooting

  • Cons: Prolonged wait times, potential for miscommunication, can be resource intensive

Know more: Call center technologies that have reshaped phone support

Email support

As businesses move online, they're seeing the real value of email. It's not just a side tool anymore.

Emails give a clear record of chats, making everything open and honest. They're great for complex issues that need lots of back-and-forths, including attachments or links.

A few technologies that make email a lucrative customer service type:

  • Automated ticketing: When a customer emails about, say, a failed payment, this system automatically logs it, ensuring that it doesn’t get lost in the influx of daily emails.

  • Canned responses: Think of frequently asked questions like "How do I reset my password?" — a pre-drafted, yet personalized, response speeds up the resolution.

  • Prioritization algorithms: Pinpointing urgent queries from regular ones, ensuring timely interventions.

Smart responses for customer emails on Sprinklr

Plus, with email, you can chat with customers across time-zones without needing an immediate reply. But here's a tip: don't make them wait over a day for an answer; it could negatively impact customer satisfaction.

💡 Expert intel: Use email management software that helps you set up DKIM authentication to maintain the integrity of your communication. As phishing scams rise, businesses must inspire trust in their email interactions. DKIM offers a digital seal of approval, verifying the sender's domain and preventing email tampering.

Let’s assume a digital-only bank "BankSecure,"

As they handle financial transactions and account details via email, there's a constant risk of phishing attempts, with malicious entities mimicking their communication. Implementing DKIM allows BankSecure to send emails with a verifiable stamp of authenticity.

When clients receive notifications, they can trust the content, avoiding potentially harmful phishing traps and safeguarding their financial assets.

  • Pros: Establishes traceable record, simplifies sharing, versatile with automation

  • Cons: Can lead to prolonged exchanges, lacks personal touch, absence of emotive cues

Live chat support

A swift aide in the world of digital immediacy, live chats pop up just when users need them the most. Think of it as the digital equivalent of a store assistant. Live chats provide real-time, on-the-spot human guidance.

Say a user hesitates while purchasing a pricey gadget.

The system senses indecision, immediately launching a live chat with a human agent. They can then offer insights, perhaps, into the product’s warranty or a limited-time discount to ensure the conversion doesn’t slip.

  • Pros: Instant query resolution, better engagement, seamless visual support, real-time feedback

  • Cons: Network-dependent, peak-hour agent scarcity, potential technical barriers

Check out this video to know when to use live chat as a customer service type.

Social media support

Today's customers vocalize online. And you can’t just afford to be responsive. You need to stay perpetually switched on, translating insights into swift actions and having the savvy to see what’s around the digital bend.

  • Real-time engagement: It's instantaneous. A complaint, a shoutout, or even a random tag on Twitter can be instantaneously addressed. This immediacy, when used right, can shift perceptions from indifferent to loyal.

  • Crisis management: The digital realm remembers. One misstep or delayed response can go viral, turning into a PR nightmare. But, with effective social media crisis strategies, businesses can navigate these rough waters, addressing concerns publicly and managing damage.

  • Community building: Beyond troubleshooting, social platforms provide a canvas to build a community. Engaging in lighter moments, celebrating customer stories or even hosting AMA (Ask Me Anything) sessions can deepen brand-consumer relationships.

  • Mentions monitoring: Social media monitoring is like acting watchdogs. It helps you continuously scour platforms, catching any brand mention - direct or subtle. A user might post on Facebook, "If only [Your product] had this feature". Catching such desires early lets your product development team innovate. Or imagine if someone vocalizes dissatisfaction with your food product, you can quickly route the right person to handle the complaint.

Proactive monitoring to address mentions and queries

Essentially, social media customer service is knowing when to listen, when to step in and when to pave the way forward.

  • Pros: Active customer reach, brand transparency, younger demographic engagement

  • Cons: Public criticism, constant monitoring, overwhelming request volume

💡 Sprinklr tip: Worried about managing too many social channels? Simplify! Use a social care solution that zeroes in on your customers' favorite channels and use the intel for smarter agent assignments. Plus, with smooth channel switches, you won't drop the ball. Prioritize and deflect – and keep the conversations flowing without missing a beat.

FAQ pages

Starting as a go-to corner on websites, FAQ pages and self-service portals have evolved into a digital repository of information.

They're not just about "Why isn't my password working?" anymore. Imagine a user struggling to integrate an API; they can hop onto the portal, sift through knowledge base guides, watch a quick demo or even engage with an interactive flow chart.

And while FAQs preemptively tackle common roadblocks with concise answers, customer self-service might house in-depth guidebooks or nifty infographics. Together, they're your 24/7 customer service powerhouse, without the on-call staff.

  • Pros: Self-help, 24/7 availability, consistent info

  • Cons: Limited issue coverage, impersonal, navigation complexity

FAQ pages showing multiple help articles

Chatbot support

When your customer is burning the midnight oil and needs answers, chatbots step in. These tireless, AI-powered teammates work around the clock, ensuring no question goes unanswered, no matter the hour. Here's the inside track on why they're a must-have for your business:

  • Natural Language Processing: Besides the rule-based ones that follow a script, there are conversational text and voice bots that can seamlessly translate "I'm stuck with this feature" into actionable solutions, bridging language and phrasing gaps.

  • Conversational analytics: Conversational analytics sifts through chat threads, surfacing emergent themes — app hitches, UI confusions, login hiccups or payment concerns. You can use this intel to tweak and refine your strategy and systems.

  • Integrations: With integrated data, chatbots can cater suggestions based on a past user behavior. Customer doesn’t remember the jacket they saw last week? The chatbot does, and it might just have a discount code for them!

Go beyond the basics: If you want to deploy a chatbot across your channels without the tech hassles, consider no-code omnichannel chatbots. These bots are channel-agnostic and can be easily built and deployed on multiple customer service channels.

  • Pros: 24/7 availability, rapid responses, consistency in information

  • Cons: Lack of absolute empathy, potential for misinterpretation

Want to know how to use them to power up your customer service? Check this video out.

Video support

Video support utilizes real-time visual communication, enabling a seamless, immersive customer experience. It brings the human touch to digital interactions, incorporating facial expressions and body language, which text or voice can't capture.

A few use cases where video shines as a type of customer service:

  • Complex setups: Real-time visual aid trumps written or audio instructions for setting up intricate equipment

  • Product demos: For high-tech gadgets with nuanced features, a live demo goes beyond a manual's scope

  • Consultative selling: Personalized product suggestions based on visual evaluation, like suggesting a skincare product after analyzing skin concerns

  • Specialized training: For products that come with a steep learning curve, step-by-step video training helps users master products

Video customer service works the best to offer clarity where words might falter, especially for complex issues.

  • Pros: Personal touch, visual demo, geography transcendence

  • Cons: Good internet need, user anonymity loss, tech barriers

Community forums

Thriving brand community

Customer communities are where users discuss, share solutions or raise product-related topics. Honestly, it’s collective wisdom at its best. These platforms act as a brand's mini-Reddit.

For example, within niche tech communities, sharing unique hacks or findings builds a sense of unity and product allegiance. Say a user finds a unique workaround to a software bug. Sharing it on forums ensures the whole community benefits, reducing similar future tickets.

  • Pros: Peer-to-peer solutions, community-building, cost-effective

  • Cons: Unverified info, potential misinformation, demands moderation

Read more: How community moderators and customer service work in tandem to elevate customer experience

In-app support

This customer service type delivers immediate user assistance within the application’s ecosystem.

Instead of hunting for solutions externally, users access the embedded support tool — often a chat bubble or support link to fetch answers. That’s how in-app support minimizes disruptions and renders seamless customer engagement.

Let's consider a telemedicine platform, "HealthConnect".

When patients schedule virtual consultations, ensuring a glitch-free experience is important.

If a user struggles with secure document uploads, HealthConnect’s in-app support guides them. Rather than risking missed appointments or breaching data confidentiality on third-party platforms, users get quick, secure in-app solutions — which is absolute in healthcare.

  • Pros: Contextual assistance, user engagement, app retention

  • Cons: Potential UX disruption, update needs, app-user limitation

On-site support

What can you do when your customer hits a roadblock that just can't be sorted remotely? That's where on-site support shines.

Imagine a state-of-the-art home theater system acting up.

Sometimes, customers need a pro's hands and eyes right there. The experts can dissect the problem, tweak the settings or maybe reconfigure the setup.

While digital assistance is great, there's something reassuring about having an expert on your doorstep, with tools and expertise, ready to fix complex challenges in real-time. It's direct, it's efficient and it's tailored to the task at hand.

  • Pros: Personalized, complex issue handling, trust-building

  • Cons: Expensive, logistic challenges, geographical limits

Augmented & virtual reality

In types of customer care, AR and VR take immersive guidance to an incredible level. Customers no longer just hear or read solutions, they live them. AR and VR add an empirical dimension to support — turning passive interactions into dynamic experiences.

  • Guide users in setting up complex machinery with AR visuals overlaying each step

  • Conduct interactive AR workshops, where real-time annotations enhance hands-on learning

  • Simulate real-life test scenarios, let them use a product in a virtual space, to grasp its full scope

Not all businesses need to implement this type of customer service as AR/VR works best for fine-grained use cases — like the ones I gave above.

  • Pros: Immersive, detailed walkthroughs, innovation

  • Cons: Device needs, learning curve, integration costs

Know more: How 4 leading brands are using AR and VR for memorable customer experiences

Feedback and review

You need to monitor, listen and take action on your feedback and reviews in time.

When customers rave about a new feature, it's a cue to amplify it. A slew of criticisms? It signals an opportunity to fix or upgrade something.

For example, before their strategic shift, Heartland Dental waded through a sea of online comments the old-fashioned way. They chose to unify their conversations, they could now smoothly track feedback across multiple platforms and intervene in time. This efficient oversight allowed them to spot and swiftly tackle negative reviews.

The result? Rescued relationships with 1,400 patients annually and a whopping $700,000 saved.

Read more about their incredible feat here.

Pro tip: Only 48% of the customers consider using a business with at least four stars. To ensure yours shine bright with reviews soaring high, get smart about managing your feedback. Use review management software that lets you filter the feedback based on criteria like star rating, sentiment, keywords and product name. Use this intel to effectively route concerning cases to the right experts.

  • Pros: User insights, data-driven decisions, continuous improvement

  • Cons: Survey fatigue, biased feedback

Ratings and reviews given by customers

How to choose the right customer service type for your business?

Let’s talk about Prada and how the brand chose the right blend of customer service types to delight its clients.

The name, the game, and the fame of this iconic fashion brand echo in every Hollywood event. Prada is known to never compromise on the quality of anything that bears its name.

Its customer service is no exception.

Prada’s top priority is to build a service engine that captivates customers across every touchpoint. Anchored in three strategic anchors, its approach to customer service is worth telling.

Anchor 1: Digital-first renaissance

When the world pivoted digital, Prada seized the day. It brought its focus on extracting tide-changing insights from a solid AI-led analytics and reporting tool. Fashion Week murmurs, market trends — these insights steered real-time strategies, connecting and applying past learnings to today.

Anchor 2: Conversations that sell

Prada realized that the best way to serve and rope in customers with stellar service is through social commerce. Prada's agents waltzed across platforms — Facebook, Instagram, live chat — responding to social chatter with personalization. Conversational commerce helped Prada turn chats into conversions on the same channels.

Anchor 3: A truly unified approach

Prada realized it had to eliminate silos from its stunning portfolio of luxury brands. It opted for a customer service solution that unified each bit of information on customers in a central hub — where campaigns, insights and care came together. Prada's identity resonated consistently with a cohesive brand voice across channels and no more fragmented efforts.

Prada went beyond serving; they crafted experiences. Their old, unchanging ways turned into lively pictures that charmed millennials and Gen Z. Luxury's talk shifted, going from clothes to weaving exciting stories of connection, care and shopping.

Read the complete story here.

And you know what helped Prada be the beacon of service that it is today?

Sprinklr ✨

Get a free 30-day no-strings-attached trial today.

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