Customer support vs. customer service: What is the difference?

Surbhi

Jayadeep Subhashis

October 20, 20236 min read

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User experience and customer experience. 

Touchpoints and interactions. 

Customer journey and customer lifecycle.   

These phrases, though often used interchangeably, actually hold distinct meanings.  

And now, let's add another pair to the mix – customer support and customer service.  

Have you ever found yourself using the term interchangeably in the past? No worries, you're not alone.   

In this blog, we'll explore the definitions of both customer support and customer service, understand their similarities, and, most importantly, grasp how they differ – complete with examples. Armed with this insight, you'll be ready to kindly correct anyone who might misquote these terms in the future. 😊   

Table of Contents

What are customer service and customer support?  

Customer service is the support you provide customers over voice, chat, SMS, email and social channels. It plays a pivotal role in the customer journey, spanning from pre-purchase to post-purchase stages, significantly influencing customer satisfaction and retention rates.

Here are some common customer service activities:   

  • Addressing customer questions, concerns and inquiries 

  • Sharing product details, features and pricing details 

  • Guiding customers through the purchasing process and tracking orders 

  • Onboarding new customers and resolving general, non-technical issues 

  • Managing return requests, exchanges and refunds 

  • Offering personalized suggestions and recommendations 

Customer support falls under the umbrella of customer service. Its primary objective is to assist customers in resolving technical problems that might arise while utilizing your product or service. It's particularly prominent in industries like Software as a Service (SaaS), Information Technology (IT), eCommerce and banking, where intricate technicalities often demand expert assistance. 

Examples of a few common customer support activities:   

  • Guiding customers through the installation and setup process of software and devices 

  • Assisting customers in diagnosing and resolving technical issues 

  • Managing customer requests for refunds, returns or exchanges 

  • Employing advanced technologies to facilitate remote support, guaranteeing uninterrupted service delivery. 

Similarities between customer support and customer service   

Customer experience has become a strategic focal point for businesses grappling with rising call volumes and escalating customer expectations. Customer support and customer service teams intertwine their efforts to deliver a comprehensive customer experience, and this is precisely where the similarities between them lie.  

Customer-centric approach: Both customer service and customer support are centered around creating a positive customer experience. This entails being helpful, approachable, and promptly attending to their requirements.   

Problem resolution: Customers frequently reach out to customer service or support for assistance with queries or issues. In both roles, the aim is to swiftly and effectively resolve these concerns.   

Proficient communication: Representatives in customer service and customer support must adeptly communicate with customers, both verbally and in writing. This involves the ability to clarify complex ideas in a clear and concise manner, along with the skill of active listening to comprehend the customer's needs.   

Drive customer satisfaction: Customer service and support play pivotal roles in driving customer satisfaction. A positive interaction with either function increases the likelihood of customers being content with the company, thus fostering continued business relationships.   

Benefits of customer support and customer service  

Effective customer support and customer service provide businesses with various benefits. Let’s take a closer look at these benefits:   

Customer support   

  1. Quick resolution: Customer support excels in resolving customer issues quickly, ensuring that problems do not persist and customers continue to use products or services without long-term interruptions. 

  2. Improve reliability: By constantly addressing and resolving technical issues, customer support helps ensure reliability and trustworthiness. This also enhances the reputation of your brand. 

  3. Customer loyalty: Prompt and effective after-sales service fosters customer loyalty. Customers who know they can rely on your support team to solve problems are more likely to stay loyal to your brand.   

  4. Enhanced customer experience: A good customer support experience ensures positive brand perception and a high retention rate. 

Customer service   

  1. Strong customer relationships: Customer service is dedicated to developing and nurturing good customer relationships. This, in turn, creates a long-lasting relationship of trust between the brand and the customer.  

  2. Higher satisfaction: Customer service teams increase customer satisfaction levels through personalized engagement and solutions. Satisfied customers remain loyal and refer others to your business. 

  3. Customer-centric approach: Customer service teams tailor their approach to individual customer needs, demonstrating a commitment to customer-centricity and enhancing the brand's reputation. 

  4. Positive brand image: As you grow, exceptional customer service can elevate your brand image, improve your customer retention and become your strongest competitive advantage. 

Key differences between customer support and customer service  

Understanding the nuances between customer support and customer service is vital for businesses aiming to provide comprehensive customer experiences. Let's delve into the key differences that set customer support and customer service apart:  

Aspect 

Customer support 

Customer service 

🎯 Focus 

Technical assistance and issue resolution  

Building relationships and meeting needs 

🧏🏻 Interaction type 

Primarily reactive, addressing problems, etc. 

Proactive and reactive, always solution-centric  

⁉️ Nature of inquiries 

Technical issues and troubleshooting 

Product selection, information and assistance 

🦾 Approach 

Troubleshoots issues as they arise 

Anticipates needs and provides personalized solutions 

📊 Outcomes 

Rapid issue resolution and minimized downtime 

Increased customer loyalty and satisfaction 

✅ Emphasis 

Issue resolution with technical expertise 

Interpersonal skills and empathy to understand and solve customer needs 

⛳ Immediate goal 

Resolve the current issue and restore functionality 

Exceed expectations to achieve customer satisfaction 

🏆 Long-term goal 

Enhance product reliability and functionality 

Foster customer loyalty and repeat business 

Role of customer support in issue resolution and technical assistance 

 Customer support teams play a critical role in the customer experience landscape by focusing on troubleshooting and problem-solving. Here's a detailed breakdown of their responsibilities: 

Technical issue resolution 
Customer support teams are the first point of contact when customers encounter technical problems. They possess the expertise to diagnose issues and guide customers through solutions, ensuring a swift resolution. 

Glitch and malfunction handling 
When glitches or malfunctions occur, customers rely on the technical acumen of the customer support team to address these issues effectively. The customer support team uses their knowledge to pinpoint the root cause and provide appropriate fixes. 

Prompt and efficient problem solvers 
Customer support's primary goal is to resolve issues promptly and efficiently. This not only minimizes customer frustration but also maximizes the customer's uptime, ensuring they can use the product or service without extended interruptions.  

Role of customer service in building relationships and enhancing satisfaction 

 Customer service takes a broader perspective, emphasizing the nurturing and maintenance of relationships with customers. Here's an in-depth look at their roles:   

Understanding customer needs 
Understanding customers' needs, preferences, and expectations is paramount for customer service teams. By gaining insight into what matters to customers, they can tailor their interactions and solutions accordingly. 

Proactive customer engagement
Unlike customer support, which waits for customers to initiate contact, customer service teams proactively engage with customers. They reach out to seek feedback, offer assistance and ensure that customers feel valued throughout their journey.

Personalized solutions 
Customer service teams are trained to engage with customers on a personal level. They go beyond cookie-cutter responses and find creative ways to meet individual customer requirements, often exceeding their expectations.  

Watch now: How personalized experiences can drive business growth 

Enhancing satisfaction 
By focusing on building strong relationships and providing personalized support, customer service contributes to higher levels of customer satisfaction. Satisfied customers are more likely to remain loyal and recommend your products or services to others. 

  
Learn More: How to preserve the human touch in customer service   

Limitations of customer support and customer service   

While customer support and customer service offer great benefits, they also come with limitations that businesses need to be aware of.   

Customer support   

  1. Response type: Customer support primarily responds to customer-initiated questions or problems. It may not always be the first to identify and solve problems before they impact customers. 

  2. Limited resources: The primary focus of customer support is issue resolution and technical support. It may not be equipped to handle extensive customer engagement or relationship-building efforts. 

  3. Resource intensive: Providing effective customer support can be resource intensive, requiring trained staff and technical systems to handle customer queries effectively. 

Customer service   

  1. Skill diversity: Customer service teams need a broader set of skills, including sales and marketing skills, to interact effectively with customers. Finding individuals with these skill sets can be difficult. 

  2. High resource utilization: Like customer support, maintaining strong customer service can take a lot of resources as it involves ongoing engagement efforts, personal contact and information that will be collected. 

  3. Fails to address technical issues: Although customer service aims to enhance the overall customer experience, it may not always be so effective in solving specific technical issues or troubleshooting problems. 

  4. Potential for over-individualization: In the quest to personalize solutions, customer-facing teams can risk becoming too personal, and carelessness may result in poor performance or inappropriate responses. 

Examples of customer support and customer service scenarios   Customer support scenarios   

  1. Troubleshooting technical issues: A customer's smartphone suddenly stops working, they contact customer support to diagnose and fix the problem remotely. 
     
    Example: When a customer encounters some issues with their iPhone, where the camera app keeps crashing every time the system is opened, they contact Apple's customer support. A customer support representative will guide them through the troubleshooting steps. 
     
    The latter may also ask the customer to reset their phone's settings, and this way, the issue will be resolved without the need to step into a physical store. Here, Apple's customer support showcases technical expertise in addressing device-specific problems.   

  2. Providing software or hardware assistance: A user encounters difficulties while setting up a new software application and seeks customer support assistance to navigate the process. 
     
    Example: Let's say a customer faces challenges installing a new software application on their Windows laptop. They reach out to Microsoft's customer support, and the technician remotely accesses the customer's computer to diagnose the issue. 

    The support agent guides the customer through installation and ensures the software runs smoothly. Here, Microsoft's customer support demonstrates proficiency in resolving software-related problems.   Customer service scenarios   

  3. Assisting with product selection: A customer walks into a retail store to buy a laptop but is unsure about the specifications. A customer service representative will guide them through the options after the former lays out their needs. 
     
    Example: A customer enters a Nordstrom store to look for a dress to fit an evening charity event. A customer service associate will approach them and inquire about the event's theme and the former's preferences. 

    The service associate then suggests dresses that match the customer's style and event requirements. Here, the associate's personalized assistance exemplifies Nordstrom's commitment to helping customers find the perfect outfit.   

  4. Handling billing inquiries and changes: A customer receives an unexpected charge on their credit card statement and contacts customer service to clarify the situation and request a correction. 
     
    Example: A customer notices an incorrect charge on their Amazon Prime subscription and contacts Amazon's customer service. The representative promptly reviews the customer's account, identifies the error, and refunds the unauthorized charge. 
     
    Here, Amazon's customer service not only addresses the billing concern but also safeguards the customer's trust by resolving the issue swiftly.   

Tips for great customer service and support   

  • Empathy and active listening 
    Show empathy by understanding and acknowledging customers' concerns. Practice active listening to comprehend their needs and emotions fully. Respond with care and consideration, making them feel valued and heard. 

Read more: How to show empathy in customer service   

  • Omnichannel service 
    Offer support and service across various channels like phone, email, chat, social media and self-service portals. Cater to diverse customer preferences and make it easy for them to reach out using their preferred communication method.  

Good to know: Catering customers on their preferred channels is now easy. Modern omnichannel customer service software helps you deliver consistent, personalized service every time — by unifying case management across 30+ digital channels on one central platform and giving agents a 360-degree view of the customer. 

  • Timeliness 
    Respond promptly to customer inquiries or issues. Quick responses demonstrate that you value their time. Regardless of how exceptional your company's product or service may be, causing customers to lose time due to a lack of information or delays in customer service responsiveness can have a negative impact on long-term loyalty.  

  • Use Technology Wisely 
    Leverage tools and software for efficient tracking of customer interactions, which can lead to more personalized support. With the advent of contact center AI and the latest call center technologies, you can equip your agents with advanced tools and drive efficiency, significantly improving key metrics such as first-call resolution, average hold time, customer satisfaction rate and net promoter score.   

Do you know: Advanced tools like agent assist software allow you to automate routine tasks and provide AI-powered assistance to your agents in real-time. This way, they can resolve issues faster, stay productive and, most importantly, feel empowered. 
       

  • Measure Performance 
    Track customer service metrics to gauge the effectiveness of your customer service efforts. By tracking call center KPIs, you can identify areas where you can improve your customer service.   
    For example, if the average call queue time is too high, you can take steps to reduce it, such as hiring more agents or implementing a new call routing system.   

Conclusion

Concerning customer-centricity, understanding the distinction between customer support and customer service is crucial.   

Customer service orchestrates seamless communication across touchpoints, ensuring that each interaction exudes professionalism and empathy. From the initial engagement to post-purchase interactions, your customer service team should transcend mere transactional exchanges, making customers feel genuinely respected and valued. Needless to say, it forms the foundational pillar for customer satisfaction and loyalty.  

On the other hand, customer support stands as the vanguard of technical expertise and expedient solutions. Its strength lies in the adept handling of intricate product details. In times of need, it swiftly diagnoses and rectifies technical complexities. This specialized facet of service assures unwavering reliability, alleviating concerns and boosting confidence in your brand.   

By leveraging Sprinklr, you can enhance your customer service and support capabilities and provide a comprehensive customer experience platform that sets you apart in the competitive market.  

Elevate customer satisfaction by integrating Sprinklr Service's comprehensive customer service software, ensuring a seamless and cohesive experience for customers. 

Schedule a demo with our experts or register for a 30-day Free Trial today!

Frequently Asked Questions

Customer support focuses on resolving technical issues and providing assistance for product functionality, while customer service centers around building relationships and meeting customer needs through personalized interactions. 

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