What is customer service software?

Customer service software empowers businesses to provide a better customer experience.

There are many metrics and key performance indicators a business may use to gauge success, but all of them come down to one simple question: How well is your organization helping your customers achieve their goals?

Customer service software is a term used to describe the tools and platforms businesses use to better manage and improve the customer experience. More specifically, these tools may help manage customer support requests—collecting, analyzing, assisting with, and reporting on cases. Businesses may also use customer service software to manage or integrate with customer communication channels, including chat, text, email, and social media.

Backed by effective customer service software, many businesses are able to better coordinate the efforts of teams of service agents. This results in improved efficiency and shorter customer-support response times.

What is support software?

Is customer service software different from customer support software? No; they’re actually the same thing. Some organizations may make a distinction between the two, but in practice both customer service and customer support software fulfill the same role: to help you manage support and service requests from a single, central location.

Types of support software

Customer service and support tools may take many forms. Customer service case-management systems, online forums, automated call-back systems—each are designed to improve the customer-support experience. That said, most customer service tools fall into at least one of the following categories:

Phone support tools
While the advent of digital communication technologies has given rise to a number of internet-based support channels, the telephone remains one of the most widely used methods for contacting customer support. Phone-support tools, such as call-center software, allow agents to effectively organize and address multiple support cases at once, routing calls to properly skilled agents, automating certain tasks, and still providing knowledgeable, personalized service. Computer telephony integration (CTI) tools are also valuable. CTI makes relevant customer information immediately available to call-support agents, supporting inbound and outbound calls and integrating with existing platforms.

Automated agents
AI and automation have the potential to significantly improve customer support, by resolving customer issues and providing solutions, without having to involve a human agent. Automated agents are able to free up support personnel from basic support requests, leading to improved agent productivity and faster issue remediation.

Customer relationship management
A logical extension of the shared inbox, CRM functions more as a database of customer information. Agents use CRM software to organize and recall data associated with customers and their history, providing a more consistent and informed service.

Case management software
Case management is often integrated with CRM, and shares similar objectives. However, case management focuses more on the cases, or support requests, themselves. Agents are able to create cases and access all relevant information from a single platform.

Workflow software
Taking automation further, workflow software integrates across disparate systems, routes cases and tasks to the right teams, and automates entire, multi-stage business processes. Workflows optimize customer service interactions and help organizations achieve better, more consistent business outcomes.

Self-service software
Rather than wait on hold for customer support agents—or even automated agents—many customers prefer to look for solutions on their own. Self-service portals are designed to provide customers with access to a searchable knowledge base and other resources a customer can use as an alternative to traditional support requests.

No matter the company, no matter the industry, an improved focus on customer support is always an advantage. Customer service software allows organizations to offer better support and a more positive customer experience. Here are six quantifiable benefits of adopting customer service software, as addressed in a recent Forrester study:

Increased web contact

Better online support options lead to a decrease in telephone contact, and an increase in web contact. This provides customers with a better experience on their own terms, boosting customer satisfaction, and allowing agents more time to focus on solutions, and less time answering phones.

Phone contact fell from 20% to 10%, while web contact grew from 40% to 90%.

Increased number of customer renewals

Customers are more likely to want to do more business with your company if you can provide seamless, effective support. Customer service software helps make service more efficient, which can lead to increased customer renewals and retention, and more revenue overall.

Improved service contributed to a 0.5% improvement in customer renewals, or $1.6 million in revenue.

Increased ROI

Every new business technology is an investment, one that should be expected to pay for itself. Customer service software provides a significant return on investment.

Revenue generated through customer service software across three years compared to cost of investment resulted in a net present value (NPV) of $8.75M and an ROI of 176%.

Improved Net Promoter Score

Customer service software offers a competitive advantage, potentially leading to a significant increase in Net Promoter Scores.

Customer service management advances contributed to a 12-point increase in NPS.

Reduced operational costs from legacy solutions

Customer service software brings together and improves upon the functionality of many different legacy technologies. Switching to a unified customer service platform reduces operational costs.

Customer service software provided annual savings of approximately 20% over legacy solution cost.

Increased efficiency

Self-service options deflect support requests from agents and lead to increased employee efficiency. This leads to substantial potential gains.

Across three years and adjusted for risk, customer service software resulted in a 30% increase in interdepartmental efficiency, accounting for $4.1 million PV.

Anyone in the organization who helps respond to customer problems or requests can and should use customer service software when it resides on a single platform. Typical CRM-based software limits usage to contact center or front-line customer service agents. This means that when cases or tasks move beyond the contact center, front-line users lose visibility, and communications are managed manually. This slows down case resolution. CSS provides the answer, by giving employees across your organization a reliable tool for coordinating customer-service tasks. Whether from finance, engineering, billing, operations, or any other line of business, users across departments should have access to the software.

Leading CSS software provides the tools and resources any organization may need to improve their customer experience. Best-in-class customer service software includes these key solutions:

  • Agent workspace
  • Case and major issue management
  • Knowledge management
  • Omni-channel capability
  • Intelligent routing
  • Visual task boards
  • Customer data management
  • Service-portal options
  • Visual workflows and automation
  • Surveys, reports, and dashboards
  • Issue resolution
  • Service catalog
  • User communities
  • Agent-assist options
  • Advanced work assignment
  • Knowledge API
  • Agent mobile applications
  • Agent workspace third-party integration
  • Problem management
  • Proactive outage notifications
  • Walk-up experience for CSM
  • Engagement messenger
  • Configurable workspaces

Additionally, options may also include:

  • Predictive intelligence
  • Performance analytics
  • Virtual agents
  • Proactive customer service operations
  • Customer project management
  • Service-aware install base
  • Agent affinity
  • Playbooks
  • Messaging
  • Outsourced customer service
  • Industry data models
  • Messaging channels
  • Estimated time to resolve

Not all customer service software options are the right fit for every business. Finding the best solution means having a clear idea of the kind of support experience you want your customer to have. Identifying customer needs and goals, and aligning those goals with your own objectives will help inform your choice of customer service software.

Here are several suggestions to ensure that you find a customer service software solution that fits your customers and your business.

Identify pain points

Different tools offer different capabilities, but all should focus on providing better support for your customers. Make note of where your customers—and your agents—are experiencing bottlenecks in the resolution process. You can then begin developing an idea of what kinds of jobs you want your customer service software to perform.

Take inventory of your resources

Your choice of customer service software may depend heavily on your available budget. Likewise, other resources such as the number of agents, availability of your IT department, presence of other tools, etc. may limit your options when it comes time to choose.

Make a list of essential features

Are there any deal-breaker features you should be considering—capabilities that, if absent, will disqualify the customer service software from your list of options? If the system needs to be able to automate intelligent interactions or integrate with an existing set of tools, making note of this before you start your research can help you narrow down your choices more effectively.

Research your options

Dive into user reviews and recommendations from leaders in your industry. See which organizations are using which solutions, and look for honest insights into their effectiveness. As you uncover promising candidates, make a list of your top favorites. If possible, you may also consider putting in an inquiry with an analyst firm or asking third-party partners for their opinions.

Conduct a business value assessment

Budget isn’t always completely cut and dry. If you’re considering a CSS solution and you’re not sure whether you can justify the cost, a business value assessment may help you reach a decision. Working with vendors to understand what kinds of problems a CSS can solve and what kind of a return on investment you can expect, you should be able to better quantify your outcomes.

Take advantage of demos and trials

With a handful of top possibilities, it’s time to go to the source. Check out demos, sign up for free trials, and contact service agents to get a more accurate user experience from the customer service software options you’re considering.

Decide

At the end of the day, you’re going to have to make a final decision. Fortunately, if you’ve done your research and know your needs and resources, then you should be able locate a customer service software solution that’s right for your business.

How effectively you help your customers achieve their goals is the ultimate indicator of business success. Customer service software provides the tools and the resources to optimize your support offering, creating a better customer experience in the process.

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