Customer Service

9 Types of Customer Service [Pros and Cons]

Almost 70% of customers hang up when they cannot reach a support agent. But phone support is not the only type of customer service to offer. How else can you support your customers?

Here’s a fact—

Nine out of ten consumers want omnichannel customer service.

They also want to switch between communication channels smoothly (e.g., phone to chat to email), the CX Transformation Benchmark Study from NICE inContact reveals.

What does this mean in practice?

One type of customer service won’t cut it.

It will only limit your customers’ chances of getting in touch with you. It can also make you look suspicious.

Your customers deserve the best customer service. Luckily, there are several ways in which you can deliver it.

In this article:

  • Seven types of customer service based on communication channels
  • Two types of approach-based customers service: reactive and proactive
  • How to choose the right type of customer service for your business
  • Pros and cons of each of the nine customer service types

Not exactly what you were looking for? Check these!

1. Phone Customer Service

Are people still using this type of customer service? Absolutely!

About 40% of customers like to resolve issues on the phone. So, phone support is far from being dead. But a call center has its shortcomings too, e.g. an automated phone system.

Statistics about the phone as a customer service channel

About 56% of customers have found the automated phone system frustrating. Why? Because it made it hard for them to reach the human agent.

When dealing with an issue, your agents must present impeccable customer service skills. They also need technical knowledge to understand the customers’ problems.

Plus, you’ll need to consider such factors as your agents’ working hours, standardized greetings, and routing rules.

Phone Customer Service: Pros

  • Personalized experience for each customer
  • Takes less time than typing or email exchange
  • Easy to use for different generations
  • More natural human-to-human interaction

Phone Customer Service: Cons

  • Long or unspecified hold times
  • Heavily dependent on the quality of reception
  • Agents can’t handle multiple phone calls at the same time
  • Possible high charges for international customers
  • Time-consuming and frustrating operator transfers

Which Business Sectors Should Consider Phone Customer Service?

This type of customer service still works great for some businesses.

If you believe in creating personal connections with customers who call you—phone customer service is for you.

It will also work for businesses and institutions that handle complex cases. The phone will allow them to answer all the questions the customer may have in one go.

If you work in B2B or B2C sectors that deal with high-priority or sensitive requests, the phone, again, is the right choice.

Infographic about best industries for phone customer service

2. Email Support

Email customer service is still king. 

About 54% of customers said they had used email customer service channels last year.

Statistics about email customer service

The number of email users is also staggering. Nowadays, 4.3 billion people all over the world use email.

Customers choose email customer service because they believe it’s the fastest way to resolve their issues.

Businesses that provide this type of customer support must remember to respond as soon as possible (not later than within 24 hours).

If your agent cannot answer the customer during this timeframe, they should inform the customer about it.

If you don’t want to give an email address on the company website, you can add an online contact form. Web forms serve the same purpose as sending emails.

Email Support: Pros

Email Support: Cons

  • Time-consuming 
  • Difficult to personalize experiences
  • Difficult to read emotions
  • Easy to miss

Which Business Sectors Should Consider Email Customer Service?

Many B2B companies are fine with email for customer support.

That’s because the issues they deal with are risky. Agents may be unable to resolve them on the spot with a few clicks (e.g., product security update). They need more time to find solutions and emails can give them that.

Email customer service is a good option for companies with a large pool of foreign customers. That’s because their customers can send their queries at any time of the day or night.

Infographic about best industries for email customer service

3. On-Site Customer Service

This type of customer service is very convenient for customers as it’s delivered to their door.

A customer service representative arrives at the customer’s site to deliver a service in person. The type of on-site service could vary. It could range from training to conducting regular product maintenance to medical treatment impossible to deliver remotely.

This type of customer service is not convenient for the company, though.

On-site customer service can be a tedious process. It requires close collaboration between the customer service team and an on-site service rep. But that, of course, depends on the service.

Plus, during the pandemic, on-site service poses a health risk to the representative and everyone around.

Suggested reading: Virtual Customer Service During the Coronavirus Crisis

On-Site Customer Service: Pros

  • Field expertise display
  • Natural face-to-face interactions
  • Convenient for customers

On-Site Customer Service: Cons

  • Expensive and time-consuming
  • Requires an on-location support team

Which Business Sectors Should Consider On-Site Customer Service?

One-on-one customer service makes sense only when on-site presence is necessary.

B2B/B2C services such as medical therapies, beauty and wellness, appliance repairs, and inspection would be hard to deliver over the phone or any other medium.

Infographic about best industries for on-site customer service

4. Social Media Customer Service

Social media support is exactly what it seems to be. You get it via social media, such as Facebook or Twitter, for example.

To make social media customer service viable, you’ll have to keep an eye on messaging, comments, and group discussions.

That’s because you never know when someone feels like telling the digital world how unhappy they are with your product. 

Of course, if anything like that ever happens, you should act immediately.

If you can’t afford dedicated staff to resolve social media queries, you can integrate a live chat with FB Messenger. This way, you’ll receive direct messages sent via social media channels straight to the live chat inbox.

Social Media Customer Service: Pros

  • Integration with live chat apps
  • Product community groups
  • Customer-to-customer help

Social Media Customer Service: Cons

  • Public negative reviews and comments

Which Business Sectors Should Consider Social Media Customer Service?

Social media is an excellent choice for online businesses as companies can interact with their audiences in various ways (e.g., comments, posts).

To respond faster to direct messages, they can integrate live chat with the platform of their choice, like Zendesk for example. Live chat integration, coupled with chatbots, will speed up chats, bookings, and orders.

Infographic about best industries for social media-based customer service

5. Customer Self-Service

Customer self-service is suitable for customers who prefer to look for solutions on their own.

Such customers are usually knowledgeable enough to search for the best answers by themselves in a dedicated FAQ section, for example. Or, they could be shy individuals who would rather not talk to customer service agents.

To make the most of this type of customer service, your support agents need to know your customers’ needs and typical questions they have.

You’ll also need to ensure a great UX and SEO of your self-service sites. The goal of such a customer service solution is for your customers to find your blog or knowledge base quickly and easily.

But customer self-service isn’t only beneficial to customers.

According to Harvard Business Review, one company found that customer self-service could save millions of dollars in maintenance costs.

By enabling just one in twelve customers to self-troubleshoot their problems, the company would save $10 million in less than 18 months.

Customer Self-Service: Pros

  • Accessible 24/7
  • Combines various resources
  • Can be multilingual
  • Customer-friendly
  • Low maintenance (in case of infrequent product changes)

Customer Self-Service: Cons

  • High maintenance (in case of frequent product changes)
  • Labor-intensive in case of a complex product 
  • Requires good writing skills
  • Impossible to cover all scenarios

Which Business Sectors Should Consider Customer Self-Service?

Customer self-service works well for any industry. But it could be more useful to companies that offer a wide range of services or complicated products.

It’s also a good option for public institutions that deal with many regulations and formalities. The advantage is that the self-help resources can be available in several languages.

Infographic about best industries for self-service

6. Live Chat Support

Live chat is arguably the best solution businesses have in their arsenal against the increasing customer churn.

Why?

It’s a good mixture of what’s best about email and phone customer service. But unlike those two, live chat allows you to help your customers proactively in real-time.

It means that you can offer your help before your customers ask for it. Out of all the support types we’ve mentioned so far, only live chat and chatbots allow for proactive customer service in real-time.

Statistics about live chat as one of the best types of customer service

Due to its unique advantages over the phone and email channels, live chat has a tremendous satisfaction rate of 92% among customers.

Speed, convenience, and many other live chat benefits boost satisfaction and conversion by a whooping rate of 20%!

Read the following comparisons to find the best solution: Best Free Live Chat Software Intercom Alternatives 10 Best WordPress Chat Plugins

Live Chat Support: Pros

  • Supports handling several customers
  • Canned responses to automate repetitive replies
  • Web chat conversation archive
  • Customer-friendly
  • Proactive customer service
  • Website integration and high customization
  • Integration with various third-party apps
  • No frustrating operator transfers

Live Chat Support: Cons

  • Difficult to read emotions
  • Faster than email but slower than a phone chat

Which Business Sectors Should Consider Live Chat Customer Service?

It’s inexpensive and easy to use, making it a perfect match with small business owners who support customers by themselves.

Public sector institutions can also greatly benefit from a live chat type of customer service. For example, many public libraries offer the “Ask a Librarian” service. It lets patrons chat with the librarians.

Infographic about best industries for live chat customer service

7. Chatbot Customer Service

Chatbots are tireless round-the-clock virtual assistants. They can answer customers’ questions, help with shopping, collect feedback, and much more.

For consumers, the most significant benefit of chatbots is that they can receive support 24/7. They also don’t have to talk to anyone and still get the help they need on the spot.

The BI Intelligence study has found that 48% of consumers care more about whether a chatbot can solve their issues than whether it has a personality.

Companies love chatbots because chatbots can help them save up to 30% on their customer support costs.

Chatbot Customer Service: Pros

  • 24/7 customer support
  • Zero customer wait-time
  • Cost-effective
  • Transfer of chats to live support agents
  • Reduced number of queries to solve

Chatbot Customer Service: Cons

  • Limited in independent query solving
  • Conversation design requires logical thinking

What Business Sectors Should Consider Chatbots Customer Service?

Lately, all sorts of businesses have been adopting chatbot technology, including B2B and B2C ones.

Best industries for chatbot use

The top five industries profiting from the use of chatbots are real estate (28%), travel (16%), education (14%), healthcare (10%), and finance (5%). But chatbots will also work incredibly well for e-retailers, bloggers, and artists.

Infographic about best industries for chatbot customer service

Suggested reading: Chatbot for Business: How They Work & What They Do

8. Proactive Customer Service

This type of customer service isn’t as much about a specific communication channel as the company’s approach to its customer base. In this sense, it differs from the customer service types we’ve covered earlier in this article.

This type of customer service is about identifying and resolving issues before they escalate and become problems. The focus here is on customer success. For that reason, the majority of consumers like proactive support.

About 68% say that proactive customer service improves their perception of a brand. Another 87% are happy when a company proactively contacts them about customer service issues.

You can deliver good customer service proactively in two main ways:

  1. Solving an issue in advance
  2. Providing self-help resources

Proactive Customer Service: Pros

  • Higher customer loyalty and a better service experience
  • Lower volume of issues and requests
  • Trust and strong customer relationships

Proactive Customer Service: Cons

  • Annoying to some customers

Customer Service Types That Allow for a Convenient Proactive Support

  • Self-service
  • On-site
  • Live chat
  • Chatbots

9. Reactive Customer Service

Reactive service comes after a customer files a complaint, experiences a problem, or feels generally dissatisfied.

Reactive support is usually more stressful as support agents are dealing with negatively charged people. It also makes a less positive impact on the customer experience and brand perception.

Reactive Customer Service: Pros

Reactive Customer Service: Cons

  • More workload for support agents
  • May increase the churn rate
Infographic about the differences between reactive and proactive customer service

Check out the article Proactive vs. Reactive Customer Service: Pros and Cons. It will give you more insights into these two types of customer service. Plus, it will show you how you can use chatbots and live chat to serve your customers proactively—and effectively.

Different Types of Customer Service: Summary

One of the golden rules of customer service says: “Be present where your customers are.” 

Here’s a list of all customer service types you can choose from:

  • Phone customer service
  • Email customer service
  • On-site customer service
  • Social media customer service
  • Customer self-service
  • Live chat customer service
  • Chatbot customer service

Plus, two types of customer service that are not defined by the communication channel:

  • Proactive customer service
  • Reactive customer service

The sheer number of customer service options can be overwhelming. But remember that you do not need to be present on every channel out there.

It would be hardly possible anyway.

But here’s what you CAN do:

  • Find the channels that work for your customers best. Then, build your customer service options around these channels.
  • Keep an eye out on emerging channels. Adopt those that gain popularity among new customers and save the company’s time and money (e.g., live chat, chatbots).
  • Be proactive and solve issues before they escalate. It will improve your brand reputation and customer satisfaction metrics.
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