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What is Customer Service Software? Analysis of Features, Benefits, and Pricing

Category: B2B News

This article has been updated with some of the latest information on key trends and technological innovations on customer relationship management (CRM) software for 2019 to ensure its continued relevance and usefulness to readers.

What is Customer Service Software?

Customer service platforms are applications that manage customer queries and concerns as well as store contact information and customer data. These serve as organizational networks that help you deliver the services needed to satisfy the needs and wants of your customers.

Quality products and services are not the only factors to secure customer loyalty. As an entrepreneur, you know that it is crucial for you to provide them with reliable customer service as well. However, queuing requests, accommodating inquiries, and resolving problems can be difficult if you are handling all of these manually. This is where customer service software comes in.

To help you further understand what is customer service software and its role in your operations, we will be discussing several key points in this article that tackle the benefits, features, and other aspects of these platforms.

What is customer service software

The quality of the customer experience your company provides has a massive impact on the profitability of your operations. As you can see on the infographic provided, poor customer experience causes clients to never do business with a company again (56%) or tell family and friends about their negative experience to discourage them from patronizing your brand (52%). This is why it is crucial that you provide prompt and personable services to make sure that your customers keep coming back to do business with you. Moreover, this can solidify your reputation as a trustworthy brand that is proactive in assisting customers, helping you secure more prospective clients along the way.   

Source: www.providesupport.com

However, customer service can be overwhelming if you don’t have the right tools to consolidate messages, queue requests, and respond to your clients. This is where customer service applications come in. These allow you to improve communications with your clients and build more meaningful relationships with them. Utilizing these customer service tools can be extremely helpful in meeting consumer expectations and optimizing customer experiences.

Moreover, it relieves your customer support agents of tedious administrative responsibilities as well as repetitive back-office tasks. But before you invest in one, let us first answer this question: “what is customer service software?”

Oftentimes, these apps are equipped with features such as multi-channel communication, ticketing system, customer management, and performance analytics. Some providers of this software also have customer self-service tools like knowledge databases and online forums to allow them to get the information they require on their own.   

With these functionalities, you will surely have no reason not to implement this system to improve your customer service efforts. To guide you as you choose the most ideal platform for your system, we will be discussing some of the different types of customer service applications you can choose from as well as the features you should look for, and the potential issues you might encounter.

Customer Service Software Best Practices

The definition of customer service software may mention that this type of platform will allow you to boost sales by improving how you engage and interact with clients. However, it is important to note that these applications are not some magic solution that will do everything for you. You need to do your part to optimize your customer support efforts by following these best practices for your operations:

  1. Know Your Standards. Sometimes, it is not enough to simply have a streamlined workflow for your customer service efforts. Before you go about with your operations, you need to first define the standards you want your customer support team to abide by. Prepare a set of clear-cut rules that will help set your customers’ expectations and compile these in a document that all of your employees can access. This will help them understand and gauge if they are doing well in handling customers. Moreover, you can use this to train new support agents and measure your employees’ performance.
  2. Make It Easy for Customers to Reach You. Apart from hiring competent customer support agents and having a phone number that your clients can reach at all times, it is also important for you to be wherever your customers are. This means giving them the option of contacting you through the communication channel of their choice. These channels could be email, live web chat, social media, video chat, or online forums. By having an omni-channel customer service center, you make it more convenient for your clients to get in touch with you.  
  3. Return Messages Promptly. 2018 Harvard Business Review study found that customers consider quick response as good service, even if it’s for a customer complaint. Businesses can acquire higher value for their brand if they consistently reply fast. This is why it is important for you to return messages as promptly as you can. Make sure to give them the information they need on the same day or, in case you don’t have the details yet, be sure to let the customer know that you’re working on it. This way, you engage customers while they’re interested in your brand and keep them coming back.
  4. Collect Data From Your Customers. Being well-informed about the interests and preferences of your clients is crucial to providing a personalized customer experience. Take advantage of each interaction you have with leads or customers by asking the right questions to fuel your database. These will help you establish a more productive dialogue between your business and customers as well as give you the opportunity to get feedback.
  5. Follow-Up After the Sale. Make sure your customers don’t forget you after their purchase! Get in touch with them after the sale to thank them for their business. You should also use this to update them about what’s new on your menu of services and products. This way, you can encourage purchases or upsells as well as secure customer loyalty in the long run.

Freshdesk is one of the best customer service solutions available on the market because of its comprehensive functionalities.

Examples of Customer Service Software

With the definition of customer service software explained, we can start discussing the solutions available on the market. There are plenty of software providers that offer comprehensive products at different price points, so it should be easy to find one that suits your company once you have ample information about each solution. Here are some top examples of customer service software. Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to the products mentioned on this article. You could take a look at our list of top 20 customer support tools for more options.

1. Freshdesk

Freshdesk is a cloud-hosted customer service software built to meet the demands of small startups, large enterprises, and everything in between. It provides users with robust features such as multi-channel support, help desk ticketing, integrated game mechanics, smart automations, and self-service portals. Moreover, the software has great API functionalities to allow users to customize the platform according to the needs of their operations. You can check the solution closely when you sign up for a Freshdesk free trial here.

2. Salesforce Essentials

Primarily a CRM software, Salesforce Essentials also serves as a customer support solution for small businesses. It consolidates customer information for a unified contact database, combines different communication channels to streamline operations, and automates routing to eliminate repetitive tasks. Moreover, this platform is equipped with artificial intelligence to help you get a 360-degree view of your customers, agent performance, and overall productivity.  If you want to know more about the features you can easily sign up for a Salesforce Essentials free trial here.

3. LiveAgent

LiveAgent is a helpdesk support platform that combines multiple channels into compact package to enable a more efficient customer support system. Offering tools for businesses of all sizes, the software consists of different modules for ticket management, social media support, and live chat. It also has gamification tools and performance reporting options to help you monitor agent productivity. You can sign up for a LiveAgent free trial here.

4. Vision Helpdesk

Vision Helpdesk serves as an all-in-one help desk solution that boosts customer support services for companies of all sizes. Intuitive and easy-to-navigate, this platform supports email, phone, social media, and  ticketing systems. It is also equipped with workflow automation, collaborative features, client management, ITSM modules, and help desk gamification. Moreover, users have an option to deploy this software on-premise or as an SaaS. You can sign up for a Vision Helpdesk free trial here.

5. TeamSupport

TeamSupport is a customer service suite created to streamline departments for a faster and more effective support response. This cloud-hosted platform is equipped with functionalities for multi-channel support, collaboration, customer self-service, and performance management. It also has an intuitive help desk interface with custom dashboards, ticket automation, and SLA management.

6. LiveChat

Trusted by reputable companies such as Ikea, Tesla, and Mcdonalds, LiveChat is a chat software and help desk application built for service teams. It combines the power of online sales and marketing, web analytics, and live customer care options to provide you with an integrated customer service system. The platform also offers a full suite of customization options, making it easier for you to completely personalize your user experience.

7. Zoho SalesIQ

Zoho SalesIQ is a customer support platform offering built-in functions for sales intelligence and sales management. Built to boost marketing strategies and lead conversions, this platform provides tools for personalized chat, automated translations, visitor engagement, as well as CRM data-based triggers. Moreover, Zoho SalesIQ can easily integrate with a number of native and third-party applications for easier configurations.

8. Wix Answers

Wix Answers serves as an all-in-one help desk hub for small to medium-sized businesses. A free cloud-hosted platform, this provides a robust ticketing system, comprehensive call center, and an integrated help desk in order to streamline your customer service efforts. This even allows users to modify the platform to suit their branding. In addition, the software is equipped with great reporting tools in order to give you in-depth insights into your operations.

9. SysAid

SysAid is a help desk platform created specifically for large businesses. Offering a full suite of configurable and scalable features, this solution can serve as both a help desk system and IT service management software. With it, you get access to functions such as ticket management, patch management, customer monitoring, knowledge base creation, and workflow automation.  In case there are certain functions that you need that the platform doesn’t have, you can always integrate it with third-party applications.

10. ConnectWise Control

ConnectWise Control is a support software designed for technical assistance teams. Offering cross-platform compatibility and robust customization, this solution also has features for simplified file transfers, remote access, remote meetings, and device monitoring. The new version of this platform even offers out-of-the-box issue resolution methods, drag-and-drop data transfers, and intuitive UI.

Honorable Mention: Wowdesk

Wowdesk unifies all customer support processes for streamlined resolution of customer concerns. This omnichannel customer service desk platform lets you engage customers across various channels to help you maintain consistent interactions at all times. It also lets you create automation rules to eliminate mundane tasks and accelerate your service desk operations. Other notable features are its customer self-service portal, knowledge base management, ticketing, and analytics, to name a few.

Benefits of Customer Service Software

“Why use customer service software?,” you might ask. Companies of all sizes and industries can reap plenty of benefits by using these solutions for their operations. It helps them improve overall customer service by making themselves available to clients at all times. Moreover, these allows them to resolve any technical issues and accommodate service requests in a more efficient and streamlined manner. To help you get a more concrete idea of the advantages of customer service software, we have compiled some of its key benefits for you:

  1. Simplifies Customer Support. From answering phone calls and responding to inquiries to accommodating service requests and ensuring all tickets are managed on time, customer support involves a number of tasks that may become overwhelming as your business grows. On top of that, you also have to monitor the productivity and performance of your agents. Using a customer service systems, you can address all of these in a one platform and simplify your entire process without hassle.
  2. Improves Client Relationships. Customer service platforms are created to help you help your clients faster and more efficiently. They are often equipped with contact databases with complete customer information as well as dashboards that provide you with a 360-degree view of your operations. Because of this, you can optimize how you address the concerns of your customers and greatly improve client relationships, securing customer loyalty in the long run.
  3. Boosts Team Collaboration. It is crucial for your agents to stay on the same page about different aspects of your operations to avoid any inconsistent information that may confuse clients. This is why customer service solutions offer unified information databases and centralized workload views in order to boost your team collaboration. There are even platforms with built-in discussion tools so that agents may seek advice from fellow staff members while accommodating service requests and inquiries.
  4. Optimizes Request Prioritization. With the volume of customers contacting companies on a daily basis, especially for large enterprises, it can be quite easy to overlook any requests from customers. By using a customer service solution, you can queue all incoming requests and make sure that everything is accomplished as quickly as possible. This is done through efficient call and email routing, ticketing systems, as well as social media management.
  5. Centralizes Conversations. The wide spectrum of communication options available today requires companies to manage multiple channels to be able to serve their customers better. This means, apart from accommodating phone calls and emails, they also need to accommodate people via different social media networking sites. To help you consolidate all the customer information on these different channels, customer service platforms lets you facilitate and store your customer interactions in one place. It makes it easy for agents to pick up conversations where other agents left off without missing a beat.
  6. Lightens the Workload of Your Agents. Many types of tasks can be automated in customer service platforms. Be it call routing, updating contact databases, or collecting feedback, the platform may be programmed to handle these. Aside from relieving your agents of repetitive tasks and administrative responsibilities, a lot of customer service platforms are equipped with autoresponders and bots that can be programmed to answer common questions that your agents will otherwise have to repeat for multiple customers.

Salesforce Essentials offers an intuitive interface that will help you reap all the benefits that customer service platforms offer.

Types of Customer Service Software

There are different types of customer service software depending on your preferred method of communication. Certain platforms may only accommodate traditional modes of communicate while others may support multiple channels. Some solutions may also offer self-service options while other tools may not. So, if you’re wondering “how does customer service work”, then the answer will largely depend on what type of platform you choose to invest in. To help you further understand this, here are some of the most common types of customer service platforms:

  1. Live Chat. Live chat systems allow users to provide customer support to website visitors in real-time. Offering chat routing, performance tracking, and chat queueing tools, it functions just like any other type of customer service tool. However, this is designed to handle online messaging. These often blend seamlessly with websites and mobile applications. Moreover, it can be programmed to perform automated responses using bots.   
  2. Phone System. Often utilized in call centers, phone systems are one of the most traditional forms of customer service solutions. As the name suggests, this handles all customer interactions via phone. It is equipped with IVR, call transfer, call routing, and call recording. Like other types of customer service tools, this also offers performance reporting tools that help you keep track of operations and employee productivity.
  3. Ticketing System. Commonly used by IT teams and technical support personnel, ticketing systems are email-based solutions that consolidate your customer service data. It collects all requests from different sources of your preference and manages them in one location. From there, you and your agents can prioritize, track, and follow-up on service requests and queries with ease.
  4. Integrated System. An integrated customer service tool often combines the different types of mediums into a single platform. It should offer modules for live chat, phone, ticketing, and social media management. On top of that, it should have be able to accommodate self-service options that you can set up according to the demands of your clients. These may take the form of knowledge bases or community forums.

LiveAgent is a great example of an integrated customer service system as it can support different communication channels.

Features of Customer Service Software

So, what does customer service software do? These aim to manage inquiries and service requests from your customers in a streamlined manner. It is often equipped with a number of tools to help you tackle different customer support responsibilities. Some of these key features are:

  1. Multi-Channel Support– Customer interactions may take place in a variety of communication channels. This feature is what allows agents to consolidate the management of these conversations in one place. Whether you receive service requests and inquiries via phone, live chat, mobile application, email, or social media, this tool will help cut down the time spent on finding past interactions and switching from one channel to another.
  2. Customer Management – Making customer information and company data easily accessible to your agents can greatly boost their efficiency when they assist your customers. This is exactly what customer management aims to do. This tool records customer details, monitors interactions, and analyzes customer engagement. After which, it stores these in a single database that your agents may look up when they need it.
  3. Workflow Automation. There are plenty of back-office responsibilities involved in customer service. Using workflow automation tools, users may easily automate routine workflows that may otherwise eat up a huge chunk of your agents’ hours. From distributing requests and assigning cases to managing feedback and monitoring performance, the platform may programmed to handle these the way you prefer.
  4. Performance Monitoring. Customer satisfaction relies greatly on the performance of your agents. This is why it is crucial for you to monitor their progress. To help you do this with ease, customer service platforms have performance monitoring tools. This allows you to get measure the productivity of agents, the feedback of clients, and critical business KPIs. In turn, it is easier for you to pinpoint the ways how you can improve your operations.
  5. Integrations. It is almost impossible to find a software solution that will have all of the tools you need from the start of your business to its expansion. To help you make sure you are getting the tools you require for your operations, customer service platforms often have integration capabilities. These will allow users to link multiple applications to the platform and build an integrated environment tailored to their operations.
  6. Self-Service Features. Clients need reliable customer support 24/7. However, companies can’t always be there to accommodate their requests in real-time. In cases like these, having self-service options is a good solution. Some customer service software accommodate these by providing users with knowledge bases, online forums, and self-service portals that companies may set up depending on their needs.
  7. Security Features. A lot of confidential company information and customer details are stored in your customer service system. This is why many customer service software providers offer security features such as role-based permissions, single sign on options, user access controls, SSL encryption, password protection, and more.
  8. Collaborative Workspace. You and your agents need to collaborate if you want to serve your customers effectively. To facilitate this, customer service software offers tools for file sharing, ticket management, in-platform discussions, and more.

Vision Helpdesk is a full-featured platform that can provide you with all the essential customer service tools you require.

Buying Factors to Consider

There’s more to the process of choosing a software than simply making sure it has all the features you want for your operations. To help you out, we have listed down some of the factors you should consider when purchasing a customer service solution for your company:

  1. Price. Companies have different financial capacities. This is why it is best for you to figure out what your budget and billing preference are before you start assessing products. As yourself if it is more convenient for you to pay on a monthly basis or a yearly basis as well as if a per user pricing or a per team pricing is more suited for you. You should also make it a point to ask the vendor if there are any additional fees for installation, license renewals, and others. By doing so, you won’t be inconvenienced by surprise charges or have to spend over your budget in the long run.
  2. Customer Support. No matter how good a software is, it is inevitable for you to run into technical difficulties or glitches every now and then. And when you do, you will need reliable technical support. You need to accommodate your customers so it is pertinent that your customer service platform is fully operational at all times. To ensure this, find out if your prospective vendor offers proactive technical support.
  3. Compatibility with existing systems. Surely, you have already invested in quite a few business systems for your company before you even choose a customer service tool. This is why you need to find a software that can blend with any software ecosystem. By doing so, you will avoid having to replace your existing systems with ones that are supported by your new customer service tool.  
  4. User-friendliness. There are systems that offer advanced yet complicated features that are quite difficult to learn. This may come easy for agents who are used to these types of platforms but if your team members are not tech-savvy, these may be counterproductive to your operations. It is important that you choose a user-friendly system that you and your agents can easily use to your advantage. There are plenty of systems out there with low learning curves but can still provide you with robust capabilities. This takes off a great amount of time and effort from the implementation phase.
  5. Scalability. It is natural for your business to expand as time goes by. This is why it is important for you to find a software that will grow with your company. As much as possible, choose one that can scale up and down depending on the changing needs of your growing business. This will help you avoid having to go out of your way to look for a new software or spend time learning a new system.

TeamSupport is an example of an affordable, scalable, and user-friendly customer service software.

Pricing of Customer Service Software

The cost of customer service software often varies depending on the number of contacts you expect to handle monthly, the types of features you require, and the scalability of the platform. More often than not, these are charged on a per user basis but there are those that offer plans for teams, business sizes, etc. To help you get a better idea of these pricing schemes, here is how the top solutions stack up against each other when it comes to pricing:

  1. Freshdesk. Freshdesk offers a Sprout plan that is available for free. This is inclusive of all the basic functions of the system, making it a good option for startups and small businesses. The vendor also offers different plans priced according to the number of features you want for your operations. Prices range from $25/agent/month to $99/agent/month. Users may opt to have these billed annually to get discounts.
  2. Salesforce Essentials. Unlike the other platforms on this list of examples, Salesforce Essentials offers two different plans at the same prices. However, these have different feature sets. Both Sales Cloud Essentials and Service Cloud Essentials are available at $25/user/month and is billed annually.  
  3. LiveAgent. Live Agent offers plans depending on the modules you require for your operations. The Ticket plan costs $9/agent/month, the Ticket + Chat plan is  $29/agent/month, while the all-inclusive package is $39/agent/month. These are all inclusive of 24/7 customer support.
  4. Vision Helpdesk. Vision Helpdesk offers different pricing options depending on the type of license you prefer and the sets of features you require. Their SaaS Cloud licenses ranges from $15 to $60/agent/month. They also offer recurring licenses that cost from $10/agent/month to $40/agent/month. For one-time licenses, you can expect to spend anywhere from $200/agent to $800/agent.
  5. TeamSupport. TeamSupport has two straightforward pricing plans for small businesses, large enterprises, and everything in between. There is a Support Desk package that costs $50 per agent per month and an Enterprise package priced at $65 per agent per month. These are both billed annually and bundled according to the number of features it supports.
  6. LiveChat. LiveChat offers pricing packages for small offices, full-time support teams, customer service departments, as well as Fortune 500 companies. These are bundled according to the number of features you need and how advanced the capabilities you require are. Prices range from $16/seat/month to $149/seat/month when billed annually.
  7. Zoho SalesIQ. Zoho SalesIQ offers a free plan for small teams with a maximum of two operators. This is inclusive of the basic functions of the platform as well as 100 chat sessions/month and 30 days of storage. The vendor also offers paid plans bundled according to the number of operators you have, the amount of storage you require, and how advanced the features you need will be. Prices range from $19/month to $129/month.
  8. Wix Answers. Wix Answers is completely free to use if you use their website builder software. However, certain charges may apply for premium widgets and integrations.
  9. SysAid. SysAid, unlike the other platforms on this list, only offers their pricing plans by quote. This is to ensure that you will only be paying for the features you need–no more, no less.
  10. ConnectWise Control. ConnectWise Control has a Single Tech License option for small companies which is available for free. They also offer multiple tech licensing plans ranging from $19/month to $45/month when billed annually. These packages are priced according to the number of access agents you need it to accommodate, the number of sessions per tech, and the number of features the platform has.

LiveChat is an intuitive customer service system offering pricing plans for companies of different spending capacities.

Potential Issues

Customer service systems are great additions to your business’ software solutions. However, as with any other software solution, these have its shortcomings. Before purchasing one, it is important to prepare for the inconveniences or problems that you might encounter as you implement your first customer service application. Some the potential issues that users have with these platforms are:

  1. Security Breaches. Cloud-hosted platforms store all of your information online. From customer data and contact information to company productivity and profitability, all of your confidential information will be accessible online. This makes your data vulnerable to threats such as malware, spyware, adware, viruses, rootkits, ransomware, and browser hijackers. To resolve this, it is important to choose a platform with robust security tools like two-factor authentications, password managers, or encryption options. In addition to that, you may add a supplementary security application that will allow you to do routine checks of your system for good measure.
  2. Extensive Changes to Your Current Processes. Prior to investing in a customer service application, you probably already built an approach to addressing customer concerns as well as accommodating inquiries. As you implement an automated system for this, however, you might find that your platform does not have the capacity to adapt to your current business processes. This might force you to make extensive changes to your operations and prolong the implementation period. If this is going to be a big problem for you, you may opt for systems with more flexible workflow automation options or applications built for configurability.
  3. Overwhelming Amount of Support Tickets. If you’re new to using a ticketing system, then, you might find it hard to keep up with the amount of support requests and queries that pile up in your queue. This may become a problem especially for growing businesses with an increasing number of customers as well as large enterprises. In case this happens to you, you may find platforms with self-help options or integrate it with such applications. This way, all you have to do is set up a knowledge base or community forums for recurring client issues that your customers may access to get the information they need.

Zoho SalesIQ is one of the customer service platforms that offer robust tools to help you counter these potential issues.

Conclusion

Today’s business landscape requires companies to provide its customers with convenient and efficient ways to reach them. This is why the purpose of customer service software is to equip organizations with the tools needed to meet these customer support demands. With this at your disposal, you no longer have to worry about overlooking service requests, jumping from one communication channel to another, or getting accurate agent performance reports. These can even help you set up self-service options that allow your customers to have 24/7 access to the information they require, making customer support simpler for your agents and more efficient for your clients.

Hopefully with this guide, you were able to get a clearer perspective as to what is customer service software, what they can do, as well as how to pick one for your company. Of course, it is important to note that this is not the only type of platform that can help you boost the efficiency of your workplace. Be sure to check out our best productivity tools of 2019 to help you check out which applications you should add to your arsenal of business tools.

By Louie Andre

B2B & SaaS market analyst and senior writer for FinancesOnline. He is most interested in project management solutions, believing all businesses are a work in progress. No stranger to small business hiccups and drama, having been involved in a few internet startups. Prior to his for-profit ventures, he has had managed corporate communications for a Kansas City-based Children International unit.

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