Customer service vs customer support: what's the difference?

Given that they both feature slight variations of the same name, it’s easy to get customer support and customer service confused. But understanding the differences between the two can give you some clarity about which applies to your — and your business’s — situation. 

The similarities between customer support and customer service

Customer support and customer service are often used interchangeably as they both have an impact on a business’s retention rate and involve similar goals and processes. If done correctly, they foster customer loyalty, word-of-mouth referrals and more recurring revenue. 

Some of their broad similarities are: 

  • Both are customer-facing roles 
  • Both feature some of the same tools, like email, chat and video conferencing
  • Both share the same goal of increasing customer satisfaction and retention rates
  • Both are critical when it comes to fostering customer loyalty, which in turn leads to more referral traffic and better revenues

The differences between customer support and customer service

The difference between customer service and customer support is that customer service is an umbrella term and customer support is a very specific type of customer service for technical support requests.

What is customer service?

Customer service is the umbrella term that houses all the interactions your business has with your customers. Any business that interacts with customers (so, basically, every business) engages in customer service is some way or the other.

The goal of these customer service interactions is to improve customer satisfaction and help customers extract as much value from your product as possible. It’s why customer service is essential when it comes to closing the customer gap

Given that it encompasses every interaction your users have with your product, customer service is a long-term commitment, extending way past the initial sign up event. 

Just some of the things it encompasses are: 

  • Resolving account-related issues, such as those with billing and payments 
  • Resolving non-technical issues
  • Upselling 
  • Engaging with users who reach out with issues on social media 

Customer service agents typically have a broad understanding of the business and product, but are not always technically-trained specialists or subject experts. 

What is customer support? 

Customer support is a very specific subset of customer service. It involves support agents with in-depth knowledge of a particular product. Customer support is particularly relevant to SaaS companies, who often provide niche services to customers through a web or desktop application. These applications typically require some implementation and involve some sort of learning curve. 

Unlike customer service, where the goals are more transactional and the interactions are often more superficial, customer support interactions involve product or feature-specific support. They are most often reactive and targeted towards finding solutions to specific technical problems. The larger goal is to improve a customer’s experience of some particular product or feature and get them past roadblocks so they are more likely to adopt the product and continue using it in the future. 

Customer support teams are also often closely aligned with product teams as they work together to collect customer feedback and analyze customer experiences to improve a product. 

Some of the things customer support encompasses are: 

  • Reacting to and resolving technical support tickets 
  • Real-time troubleshooting through chat, emails or (even better) cobrowsing
  • Creating product documentation and onboarding resources
  • Conducting usability studies
  • Working closely with product teams on product development and improvement

Customer service vs customer support: the breakdown

Chart showing differences between customer support and customer service

Author

Shifa Rahaman

Content Marketing Manager

Contributor