Customer service software is integral to any company’s tech stack today.
Especially since the quality of your customer care ties directly to your bottom line. Strong service leads to longer-term customers, positive word-of-mouth and a more productive team.
But providing personalized and speedy service is easier said than done by hand. That’s where service software and automation via AI can do a ton of heavy lifting. These tools can break bottlenecks, boost productivity and delight customers at crucial moments.
Below we dig into why customer service software matters and tips for choosing a tool.
What is customer service software?
Customer service software refers to tools that streamline and automate tasks for support teams. These tools create positive experiences and inform brands on how to improve their service.
Here’s a snapshot of what these tools can do:
- Manage customer queries across channels (social media, email, website chatbots)
- Route, assign and prioritize support tickets
- Identify service bottlenecks
- Assess the performance of your customer support team
- Track customer service metrics (CSAT, FRT)
- Generate responses to queries (and automate replies)
- Provide resources via knowledge bases and support portals
Companies that benefit most from customer service software typically tick two boxes:
- They have large customer bases (think: 100s of queries per day)
- They have a complex product or service
As a result, the most common adopters of these tools include:
- Enterprise companies
- SaaS companies
- Ecommerce companies
- IT companies
- Mid-level B2C manufacturers or service providers
However, companies of all shapes and sizes can benefit from customer service tools. It all depends on your company’s priorities and the scope of the service you offer.
Why is customer service software critical for business success
Weaving yet another tool into your software stack might be daunting.
The thing is, customer service software is a must-have for modern companies.
Recent Sprout Social Index™ data highlights the high stakes of social customer service alone. Consumers today don’t just expect a personal experience. They expect a quick resolution, too.
A staggering 70% of consumers expect personalized responses from reps. Meanwhile, over two-thirds of consumers value how fast brands respond to them.
Swift responses directly impact customer acquisition and retention alike. Customer service software helps brands improve both. Not to mention ensuring no queries slip through the cracks.
From faster response times to comprehensive service, here’s what the right tool can do for you.
Improve the customer experience to encourage long-term loyalty
Making a positive impression on your customers is and will always be a top priority.
Quick and comprehensive service can do the trick. Putting tedious tasks on autopilot means giving each customer more individual attention. This aligns with a customer experience strategy that results in long-term loyalty.
Boost your customer support team’s efficiency
Like it or not, the average consumer’s expectations are high when it comes to service.
Food for thought: 39% of consumers expect brands to respond to them on social media within the first two hours. Sixty-nine percent of consumers expect a response within the first day.
When you’re juggling hundreds of queries, even the most dedicated teams can leave people hanging. Thankfully, there are tools to boost customer service efficiency via automation.
For example, consider how tools can help your reps respond faster by:
- Generating responses and resources via chatbots
- Routing tickets to the right people through automated workflows
- Using conversational AI to provide stellar service around the clock
Gain invaluable business insights
One of the biggest benefits of AI customer service is uncovering trends. This includes sentiment analysis, unsatisfactory responses and your top reps. Having a pulse on all of the above informs how you can improve your customer experience and eliminate bottlenecks.
Track the performance of your service team and strategy
Consider how software can align your business’ customer experience with concrete KPIs. Doing so objectively answers whether you’re meeting customers’ needs or not.
For example, most customer service tools track a range of customer service metrics like:
- The volume of queries received
- Response time
- Response rate
- Resolution rate
Benchmarking these metrics can uncover opportunities to improve your service and optimize your customer service team’s processes.
Social customer service software
Below, we dig into a list of customer service tools, starting with tools focused on social media.
Sprout Social’s suite of tools is built to handle cross-channel customer care on social media. This includes features that empower teams to exceed expectations when it comes to response time.
Having all of your customer interactions across social media in one place is a game changer when it comes to productivity. This ultimately leads to comprehensive, personalized service.
The ability to delegate across channels likewise saves time and reduces stress among your support team. Collaborative features coupled with powerful team analytics can likewise help your reps stay on target and keep a pulse on what’s working (and what’s not).
All of the features above give businesses the means to provide the best support possible.
Freshdesk’s customer service suite is designed to resolve tickets at scale.
The platform empowers customers with self-service features such as guided widgets to lead users to relevant answers via your company’s knowledge base. Freshdesk also uses generative AI and automated workflows to route requests to the right reps.
Unified tickets coupled with collaborative features and data tracking, Freshdesk’s tools can handle a high volume of customer queries for big teams.
With so many features and functions, customer service software can get pretty complex. Front acknowledges this upfront, instead offering users a tool “with the familiarity of email.”
The platform automates tasks such as routing and handing off tickets while emphasizing a fair balance of work among reps. Like the other tools on this list, Front supports cross-channel communication with customers. Features such as customer history profiles and in-app note-taking empower reps to personalize service without having to dig for context.
Full-stack customer service software
Integrating service tools with your CRM is a no-brainer for the sake of more comprehensive customer care. Not to mention a more complete understanding of your performance metrics.
Below are solutions that are either built into or integrated with some of the biggest CRMs.
Salesforce Service Cloud
Saleforce Service Cloud’s status as a CRM powerhouse speaks for itself and the platform’s service suite doesn’t disappoint. The platform is up-to-date with self-service AI features such as predictive analytics and generative responses which can easily be edited by reps before being sent out.
Hubspot Service Hub
As noted earlier, expectations regarding response times are high.
As a result, HubSpot’s service suite acknowledges the need for an “always-on” service strategy. The platform supports a variety of knowledge base and portal features to help customers get answers around the clock. Coupled with your CRM data and customer inbox in one place, users can provide personalized service with less bouncing around.
Zendesk is best known for its in-depth knowledge base capabilities. Like HubSpot, the platform strives to provide a meaningful self-service experience to open reps’ schedules to provide personalized, one-on-one customer care. Zendesk’s AI bots, content recommendations and routing are all designed to reduce support costs and likewise reduce ticket volume.
Zoho Desk’s strength as a customer service tool is providing context to incoming tickets and analyzing them after they’re resolved. For example, Zoho’s Zia AI assistant handles responses by identifying self-service resources that are helpful (and keeping track of the resources that aren’t). The platform also offers sentiment analysis, ticket tagging and automated prioritization.
Intercom’s emphasis on chatbots makes it notable among our list of customer service tools.
The platform boasts the ability to resolve half of users’ customer questions instantly through its AI-powered assistant, Fin. The bot is built to handle repetitive tasks and pulls from support content to resolve queries. This makes for an “always-on” support strategy and likewise frees up more time for reps to handle in-depth issues one-on-one.
Call, chat and IVR customer service software
Below is a breakdown of customer service tools emphasizing calls and voice features.
LiveAgent offers a self-described “simple” solution that doesn’t skimp on features. The platform handles queries across channels but perhaps most notable is LiveAgent’s call center software. Call-routing, unlimited call recording and call-back requests are all built into the platform.
Living up to its namesake, Aircall’s platform is ideal for businesses that are frequently on the phone with customers. The platform’s AI features include call summaries and phrase detection to identify trends among customer queries. Aircall’s breakdown of analytics can likewise inform teams where they might be dropping the ball with calls.
How to choose the best customer service tools for your business
Picking the “best” tool for your business requires context.
For example, are you laser-focused on social media customer service? Do you already have a comprehensive knowledge base? Will your software integrate with your CRM?
To wrap up, here are some points to consider before investing in customer service software.
Think about the size and scale of your business
This applies to both the number of customer queries you handle and their level of complexity. Some SaaS companies might be able to use automation to route people to a knowledge base. On the flip side, a service-based business might primarily one-on-one calls with customers.
Either way, brainstorm the features of any given software that can support those requests.
Reflect on the types of customers you work with
Not all customers are equal when it comes to the support they need. Likewise, different industries have totally different expectations when it comes to customer care. Ask yourself:
- Do your customers primarily communicate with your business via email or social media? What about your website? This highlights why providing an omnichannel customer experience ensures you have your bases covered.
- Do your service calls involve sensitive information (think: medical, financial)? If so, such customers will probably want (or need to) speak to a person in real time versus a chatbot. The same applies to urgent concerns that can’t wait.
- Do customers typically need special attention on a case-by-case basis? Or can their needs be largely served by a knowledge base?
Acknowledge your product’s (or service’s) complexity
Piggybacking on the point above, consider that not all service concerns can default to AI. While automation can help customers pick out plans or understand product features, human oversight and interventions from actual reps are crucial. Especially if your product is complex or requires specific, personalized instructions or steps.
Most customer service tools gather massive amounts of data. That said, what happens to it after the fact? What insights can you pull from your numbers and trends? This is yet again where AI can save the day. For example, AI-driven social media sentiment analysis offers a detailed understanding of customer pain points and opportunities to overdeliver as a company.
Ready for the future of customer service with AI?
The importance of customer service can’t be overstated. Going above and beyond results in long-term, loyal customers and positive word-of-mouth to grow your brand.
The key is having the right tools to meet the needs of modern customers. Features like omnichannel support, generative AI and sentiment analysis can all help make it happen.
All of these features (and more!) are baked into Sprout’s social media customer service suite. If you haven’t already, check out what Sprout has to offer to give your customer experience a boost.