- Customer support tools are critical in managing relations with and inquiries from your customer base, but there are many options.
- There are at least six types of tools, from live chat to phone support. Determining what types your customers expect and will benefit from is the first step.
- Tools range in price and capability, so consider your budget, take advantage of free trials, and talk to you rteam and customers before committing to a contract or long-term subscription.
Are you upgrading your business’s customer support service? There are an incredible number of free and subscription based customer support tools that can help you with the task. Here, we discuss the importance of customer service software, the types of tools available, and some of the best products on the market.
Do small businesses need customer service software?
Customer service apps are not only the domain of large businesses and corporations. No matter the size of your business, customer support tools will help you save time, prioritize inquiries, and ensure all staff deliver the same level of service. Developing excellent customer service practices is the perfect way to set yourself apart from the competition and build a loyal customer base.
Types of Customer Support Tools
Customer support tools come in all shapes and sizes; some are dedicated to a single purpose, while others offer multiple functions. The main types of support tools are:
- Customer community – Set up an online community where your customers can interact and provide peer-to-peer support.
- Social media management – Handle all your social media queries in one place. Set up automated responses.
- Knowledge base – Create an easily accessible online knowledge base where customers can search for answers.
- Live chat and messaging – Let your customers connect directly with a trained member of staff who can answer their questions.
- Emails – Set up a ticket-based email system to organize queries and assign tasks to different team members.
- Phone support – Make contacting your company by phone as fast, easy and affordable as possible.
Live chat, email and phone support tools are the most basic customer support options, but also the most important. At the very least, your user base must have a reliable way to get in touch with a member of your support team when issues or questions arise. These three types of tools – and multi-function support tools – will be the focus of this article.
Here are seven of the best live chat, email, messenger and phone support tools.
Function: Live chat only
Olark is a dedicated live chat tool. Unlike others of its kind, Olark allows businesses to customize their live chat features to suit their brand, and automatically change chat language based on location. This tool is incredibly versatile, integrates well with most other customer service software and provides real-time chat metrics.
Olark has one standard plan, which costs $17 per month.
- Auto language change
- Review previous chat transcripts
- Auto response
- Customizable design
2. HubSpot Service Hub
Function: Full service desk
This all-in-one customer service app works best alongside other HubSpot tools, though it can also be used with other software. This tool allows users to program automatic responses to enquiries if there are no human representatives available. It also benefits from a shared inbox facility, which makes it easier to manage large scale communication between your business and customer base.
HubSpot Service Hub has three plans, as well as a free option:
- Starter: $45/month
- Professional: $360/month
- Enterprise: $1200/month
- Program bot responses
- Shared inbox facility
- Ticket-based email system
- Customer experience analysis tools and reporting
- Built-in customer feedback surveys
Function: Direct message, message channels, phone calls
Slack is a communication tool with a broad range of features well-suited to customer service. The app’s channel facility can be used to create dedicated IT support and HR support groups, where customers can easily connect with the right member of your team. Slack also allows you to create dedicated in-house channels for different departments of your business. This will make it easier to resolve queries quickly, through communication and collaboration.
Slack offer three price plans, which are:
- Free: $0 per month
- Pro: $6.67 per month per person
- Business Plus: $12.50 per month per person
- Enterprise: Contact for customized plan and price
- Live chat
- Direct and group messaging
- Community forums
- Customer surveys
- Make voice calls
4. Jira Service Desk
Function: Full service desk
Jira Service Management is a comprehensive customer service hub that is particularly well-suited to IT professionals. It claims to have everything an IT service desk needs “out of the box” and compellingly, includes ITIL certifications. This tool lets users attach notes, documents and other files to tasks. It also uses a simple ticket-based task assignment system.
Jira Service Management has three standard plans:
- Free: $0 per month (for three agents)
- Standard: $20 per month, per agent
- Premium: $40 per month, per agent
- Live chat
- Ticket-based email system
- Automated responses
- ITIL-certified processes
Function: Email and live chat, call center support
LiveAgent is a dedicated and comprehensive customer service tool. It can be set to notify your customers when a live agent is available to save them from the frustration of a long wait. It can issue automatic responses and deliver reports on chat activity through your website. This software is best suited to smaller businesses with 10 employees or less. It integrates well with many other popular customer service tools and platforms.
LiveAgent offer a 14-day free trial, and a basic free plan. Their higher-level price plans are:
- Message only: $15 per agent per month
- Message and live chat: $29 per agent per month
- All-inclusive: $39 per agent per month
- Ticket-based emails
- Live chat
- Automatic responses
- Integrates well with other software
- Surveys and feedback management
Function: Phone calls and text messages
Channels is an all-in-one phone system designed to help businesses improve customer support. It supports toll-free telephone numbers, international phone numbers, call recording and call monitoring. Channels connects your customers with your support team directly from your website at no cost to them. It can also be used to send and receive instant messages.
A subscription to channels costs $24 per month for 5000 web calls (3 users) or $62 for unlimited (5 users) when bills annually. There is also a limited free version that may be suitable for very small businesses.
- Compatible with most customer service software
- Customers make calls for free
- Call monitoring feature
- Call history and recordings storage
- Text messaging
Function: Email and live chat
HelpDesk is a ticket-based email tool which receives and organizes email correspondence in one easy-access centralized hub. In addition to all basic email functions, HelpDesk lets staff members share support updates with customers to keep them in the loop regarding the status of their query. Conveniently, it also tracks response time, customer satisfaction, and the time spent working on individual support requests.
- Starter: $4 per month per agent
- Team: $19 per month per agent
- Automate repeat tasks
- Analyse team performance
- Send update notifications
- Customizable dashboard
Tools for Customer Service Training
If you’re hoping to improve your customer support service or onboard new employees, consider implementing training sessions. This doesn’t have to be costly or time-consuming, thanks to staff training and e-learning software. Purchasing an “out-of-the-box” course may be expensive and overkill for smaller businesses. If you’re working with a small team or wish to tailor your customer service practices to match your brand, consider using a bespoke e-learning tool. Here’s an example:
Lessonly differs from the other apps on this list, in that it is designed to facilitate staff customer service training. The training platform is ideal for onboarding new team members and for upskilling your existing staff. Lessonly helps you create bite-size training sessions in as little as 10 minutes and is renowned for being user friendly. Users can design multimedia training sessions, involving mock-tickets, chat simulations, videos and quizzes.
Lessonly’s pricing varies and is based on team size.
- Create bespoke training content
- Mock-ticket & chat simulations
- Track staff progress
- Integrates with most other customer service tools
- Well designed and engaging
Other Noteworthy Customer Support Tools
We’ve focused on customer service tools which facilitate phone, email and live chat correspondence. Here are some other noteworthy tools with different customer support functions:
Choose The Right Tool for The Job
Not all customer service tools are right for every business. Consider the size of your enterprise, budget, and core customer service requirements when making a decision. If possible, take advantage of free trials that let you and your team test drive the tools before making an investment.