You know you need to assist customers and provide great customer care to keep your business thriving. Having strong service and support can make a big difference in your customer-facing operations. But do you understand the difference between customer service and customer support?

Many small business owners use the terms interchangeably, but they are actually quite different, and require different skills for success. Whether you have customer service representatives, customer support agents, or both, it’s important to understand the different ways that both customer service and customer support contribute to customer satisfaction.

Read on to understand the real differences between customer service and customer support, and what’s needed to succeed with each of them.

Defining customer service vs. customer support

Customer service and customer support teams play key roles in any company, but they have some important differences.

In brief, customer service deals with the entire customer experience and aims to satisfy customers throughout the customer journey, while customer support has a narrower focus on helping customers solve technical problems related to a product or service. Now let’s take a deeper look at each field.

Customer service agents ensure an excellent customer experience

Customer service teams provide guidance to help customers get the most from a product or service, so they assist customers with non-technical concerns and questions. The goal of customer service is to ensure an overall positive customer experience at every touchpoint and all the way through the customer journey.

Customer service representatives act as the face of a company. They typically assist customers by answering questions about products or services, and providing information to help them make purchasing decisions. They also handle basic troubleshooting and resolve any issues that come up.

Strong soft skills like communication, problem solving, and empathy are essential for customer service agents to build rapport, uncover the root issue, and determine the best solution for this customer’s needs. To support these efforts, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology is increasingly being used to ensure that every customer interaction is as clear and effective as possible, seamlessly fitting into the toolkit of modern customer service.

Customer support representatives handle technical issues

On the other hand, customer support teams focus on handling more technical issues and providing ongoing assistance after a purchase or signup. Their main focus is on diagnosing and fixing technical difficulties to get customers back up and running as quickly as possible. Quickly solving customer problems leads to higher customer satisfaction.

Customer support agents work to troubleshoot problems for customers, answer questions about advanced features, and provide recommendations to improve the customer’s experience with the product or service. Support teams use customer support tools, knowledge bases and platforms to improve service quality and the speed of resolution.

Customer support teams need technical expertise to diagnose and fix problems. Soft skills are still important for support agents, as they need to communicate with customers experiencing frustration over tech issues. However, the primary focus is on resolving the technical problem, not relationship building or educating the customer on their journey.

Combining great support and service leads to the best customer care and journey. Small businesses should invest in both customer support and customer service teams to fully assist customers and enhance satisfaction.

The vital skills needed for excellent customer support and customer service

Your customer support and customer service teams both interact directly with your customers to provide help and assist them in their customer journey, but they need slightly different skill sets.

Customer service agents need soft skills

Customer service agents rely heavily on soft skills to guide customers and resolve issues. Some key soft skills for customer service include:

  • Active listening: actually hearing what the customer is saying and understanding their concerns.
  • Empathy: being able to see the issue from the customer’s perspective and relate to their frustrations.
  • Effective communication: explaining things clearly and ensuring the customer understands the solution.

Customer support representatives need technical expertise

While customer support agents also need good communication skills, they primarily rely on technical skills. A good customer support agent should have:

  • Problem-solving abilities, to discover what is causing the problem for the customer.
  • Technical skills, to troubleshoot issues and restore the product or service as quickly as possible.
  • Deep knowledge of your product or service, so that they can work out the most likely cause of the issue.
  • Soft skills, such as compassion and listening abilities, to improve customer satisfaction.

Ensuring that customer service and support agents each have the proper soft or technical skills for their roles will help ensure both customer happiness and problem resolution. Whether through phone, email or chat, your customer-facing teams are the face of your company. Investing in the right skills and tools for customer service and support can mean the difference between a frustrated customer and a happy, loyal one.

Customer support and customer service work together to improve the customer journey

While customer service and customer support teams have different focuses, collaboration between them fuels improved customer experiences. Support agents fix today’s issues, while service agents build relationships for the long run. Businesses need a combination of service and support to assist customers on their journey, guide them to the answers they need, and provide an exceptional experience from start to finish.

Cross-departmental collaboration between customer support and customer service teams contributes to:

  • Improved customer satisfaction. When teams share customer insights, they can anticipate needs and solve issues more efficiently.
  • Increased customer advocacy. Happy, loyal customers become brand ambassadors and recommend the business to others.
  • Higher customer retention. Customers who feel supported and cared for will continue to use your products and services.
  • A stronger brand. Consistently positive experiences shape how customers view your brand.

For small businesses, nurturing collaboration between customer service and support teams is key to success, and vcita can help you achieve it. vcita is an all in one small business management software that provides tools for both customer service and customer support teams, to help strengthen the relationship between your company and your customers.

Excellent customer support and service bring business success

While customer service and support teams have distinct roles, they share the common goal of increasing customer satisfaction and loyalty. Together, they help guide customers through their entire journey with a company by offering a helpful and human touchpoint at every stage. For small businesses, investing in dedicated service and support can make a big difference in keeping customers happy and coming back again and again. Strong customer service and support are key to gaining loyal customers and building a successful company.