Customer Support vs. Customer Service - What's the Difference?

August 19, 2019

Customer support and customer service are terms that are often used interchangeably. Both are customer-facing roles that are designed to help maximize the value that a company offers - but while the two terms are similar, they don't describe the same thing.

Separating customer support vs. customer service may seem arbitrary, but making the distinction can actually be helpful. By understanding the difference, you can define job responsibilities more effectively and make smarter hiring decisions.

Let's talk about each of these roles.

The role of customer service

Customer service is a term that broadly describes how your company interacts with customers to help them get the most value from working with you. Service interactions aren't product-specific. They're meant to augment your core offering by making it easy and productive to do business with you. Common examples of CS include answering billing questions and proactively checking in with customers.

Customer service reps play many different roles for an organization. Outside of providing detailed product support, they're involved with every customer inquiry a company receives. That means they need to understand various aspects of the business and be able to pivot quickly when speaking to customers - it also means they need to be able to put themselves in a customers' shoes.

Often times, good customer service simply means understanding a customer's issue enough to route them to the right person. By making sure that customers' needs are effectively addressed by the proper department, service reps can help maximize the value they're getting for their investment.

So what's customer support?

Customer support is a product-specific, technical service function. These reps help customers learn how to use a company's offering and troubleshoot/resolve issues if and when they come up. To be effective, they need to have a deep knowledge of how their product works, understand common use-cases for it, and provide feedback to the teams that are responsible for fixing problems and making improvements.

Ultimately, support teams act as the intermediary between customers and those who make product decisions. When they're set up correctly, not only are they helping customers get the most value they can from a product - they're helping their companies create additional value for all customers with future updates.

While customer support roles are more technical, their scope isn't limited to having detailed product knowledge. Support reps need to combine their expertise with the traits that characterize all customer-facing employees. Technical challenges are usually more complex than the average customer service ticket, so it's important for support reps to actively listen to how customers describe their issues if they want to resolve them quickly and effectively. It should also go without saying that support reps should be able to empathize with customers and make them feel heard - that goes a long way towards improving satisfaction and retention.

To Wrap-Up

While both customer support and customer service exist to keep customers happy, the key difference between the two is their scope. Customer service reps are generalists that need to have a widespread knowledge of customer touch points so they can answer common questions and direct them to other teams when it's needed.

Customer support reps are responsible for making sure customers get the most value they can from a company's product. This requires them to help with troubleshooting and resolving issues, but it also means understanding best uses for a product so they can recommend new features.

Understanding the role of customer support vs. customer service can help you hire more effectively for each role, and give customers more capable points of contact depending on the challenges they're facing.

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