When replying to questions, complaints, and follow-ups, it’s easy for a small business to lose track of all the conversations across different channels.
Because let’s face it, if you’re managing a small business, you’re probably pressed for time and resources.
And while you may be among the lucky few to have more than one person for customer service, things can expand quickly—so your employees must wear many hats to keep up.
Good news is, there are ways to provide a stellar customer experience while making your employees feel a tangible weight has been lifted off their shoulders.
One of the best ways to lighten the load on a small, overworked customer service team? Invest in the best customer service software.
From tracking requests to speeding up communication and resolution, the right customer service software can boost your efficiency and help you gain more referrals. Given the hectic nature of a small business, you can certainly do with some help when it comes to juggling multiple customers. The good news is that there’s plenty of software out there that’s well within reach of the average small business owner.
In this post, we’ll look at:
- What customer service software is
- A few different types of customer service software
- The 6 best customer service software solutions for small businesses, categorized by type
- How to choose a customer service software that’s right for you
What does the “best” customer service software look like?
Basically, customer service software are types of digital programs that help companies track, organize, and address customer issues and questions.
These programs typically include functionality like live chat and ticket management, but the very best apps and tools let your company truly meet customers where they are. This means you and your team can easily manage their calls, emails, chats, social media interactions, and more—all from a single platform.
The best customer service software for your business should give you some clear benefits. Here are just a few:
- Free up time: A lot of these programs can help you cut down on some of the more repetitive, manual tasks… like manually scouting five different channels for complaints and questions.
- Personalize your interactions with customers: Customer service software can act as a database that lets you keep track of customer details. Imagine how much more personalized your conversations could be when you’re aware of their names, past interactions, and even their preferred communication channels.
- Improve collaboration: From managing tasks to having video meetings, a good customer service app will make it easier for you to brainstorm with your team and provide more seamless customer service.
- Analyze performance: Can you see the trends and results of your efforts? Your software should be able to get this data and call center metrics for you.
3 types of customer service software
Customer service software—and most importantly, their features and benefits—usually fall into the three categories listed below.
1. Communication software
This is usually the software that lets you serve your customers via text, phone, email, chat, and video messages. The best communication tools bring everyone in your team together in a single platform—often, also with screen sharing, file annotation, and message alerts.
Learn more about how to provide good online customer service.
2. Help desk / ticketing software
Help desk or ticketing systems allow you to track customer interactions through support tickets. These tickets are essentially interactive records that provide a holistic view of every customer support request, making it easier for you to monitor and resolve more complicated issues.
Invite multiple team members to your help desk software to collaborate on customer service tasks.
3. Live chat software
Like an instant messaging app, live chat software lets you interact directly with customers in real time. This usually happens through a set of predefined rules set up in the software application.
One of the most common rules involves people who’ve browsed a certain page for a specific period. The software will automatically present them with a prompt inviting them to ask you any questions they may have.
More modern live chat tools also let you do things like route chats, send canned responses, and create custom forms to collect your visitors’ information.
Now, let’s look at a few tools in each of these categories, along with how they can help enhance the customer experience.
The 6 best customer service software for small businesses
Bonus: Contact center software
Want to take control of your customer experience on WhatsApp—while tracking questions that are coming in through Facebook Messenger? You can use RingCentral’s tightly integrated customer engagement features to get it done.
RingCentral’s contact center product can help you boost your first contact resolution rate, tackle messages across multiple communication platforms, and make sure your whole team is looking at the same customer information. Here’s a quick clip of how it works:
If you want to prioritize requests from your VIP customers, you can do that through RingCentral’s integrations with leading CRM (customer relationship management) tools. This lets you tag sensitive or special customers so that automatic distribution systems deliver their requests at the front and center of the support queue.
RingCentral is also equipped with features that give you insights into customers’ perception of your business. For example, you can use customer surveys to identify trends in service that pop up over time. Use the platform’s integrated messaging features to circle up with your team and decide what needs to improve based on those trends: The social media service quality? The call response time? The chat prompts? Everything? (Heads up: it’s pretty often “everything.”)
Much like RingCentral, HubSpot Service Hub lets you access your call, chat, and email interactions all in one place in a user-friendly system.
Each interaction is enriched by the integrated CRM, so you get contextual information about the customer’s journey with your business. Plus, the built-in help desk allows you to turn chats and emails into tickets that can be easily tracked, structured, and prioritized.
HubSpot Service Hub can also be used to automate customer marketing emails, collect customer feedback via surveys, and conduct 1:1 screen-sharing sessions with customers. You can even integrate it with HubSpot’s marketing and sales software to generate leads for your business. Overall, it’s a decent communication tool to use if you’re looking to up your customer service game.
Of course, you’d still need to connect it with a fully featured communication tool like RingCentral if you want to access certain features like HD video conferencing with in-meeting chat (HubSpot’s own tool only lets you create 1:1 screen-sharing videos to send via support tickets):
Help desk/ticketing software
Trusted by over 150,000 businesses, Freshdesk lets you streamline conversations from across channels so that you can identify trends and assign tickets accordingly. Unlike other customer service tools, this help desk software also has a few features for team productivity and internal collaboration. These include team inboxes to collectively manage your most important tickets, canned responses for common support requests, and the ability to split tickets with various tasks into sub-tickets so that multiple teams can work on them in unison. How’s that for customer service teamwork?
The tool is also equipped with AI features that allow you to do away with repetitive, mundane tasks. For example, you can configure its support bot (named Freddy) to assist your customers by answering FAQs via chat and email. Need to automate escalations and other tasks using specific event-based triggers? You can do that too.
And oh look, you can integrate Freshdesk with RingCentral too. There’s the automatic call logging feature, where Freshdesk automatically generates a support ticket with all the relevant customer details attached once you finish a call using RingCentral.
As customers demand more agile customer service, your small business has probably begun to feel the heat. When you’re busy going back and forth between customer emails, either speed or quality will probably take a hit. That’s where Kayako’s powerful help desk features come into play.
The software’s ability to track customer journeys and create user profiles gives you powerful context to provide high-quality support to every customer, fast. Plus, it has robust integrations that serve up even more comprehensive customer data, making sure you have the whole picture.
Imagine how much quicker and more effective your service can be when you have a holistic and complete view of the customer’s entire journey at your fingertips.
As a bonus, Kayako also allows you to tag your support tickets for easy organization as well as quickly assign ticket status. This helps you prioritize messages according to time targets, department, and importance. Although there are some quirky errors such as emails with large attachments sometimes failing to come through, there’s nothing that really breaks the software.
Live chat software
This live chat tool may not have the catchiest of names, but it definitely boasts functionality that can help you reshape your customer experience. On top of standard features like user profiles, saved responses, and auto messages, LiveChat can also route chats to relevant employees (like transfering technical questions to your IT person or product manager).
The software shows you your entire chat history with a customer so that you can reread a conversation or pick up a chat where you last left off—without everyone having to repeat themselves.
Other than that, LiveChat provides in-depth reports on customer satisfaction and service performance including response times and average chat duration. Chatbot customization tools are also there if you want to display your company logo in the software’s interface. Plus, the software can integrate with 170+ apps for even more extended functionality.
LiveChat is known for having a beautiful mobile app, but just keep in mind that it can’t be used for tasks like editing user profiles or customizing the backend interface of the tool.
As one of the best customer service software programs, Intercom has more than 30,000 paying users across the globe. Its live chat feature is known for being a powerful resource for proactive support. The lntercom live chat widget has a UI that’s similar to the apps your customers use to communicate with family, friends, and coworkers. (Meaning it’s really easy to use and looks pretty.)
It also offers options to embed images, videos, and articles. People on both sides of the chat can attach files in the widget and even send emojis and GIFs.
With Intercom, you can also trigger automated chats based on user behavior and custom events. For instance, if someone views a specific number of pages on your site, you can trigger the chat widget immediately and engage with them at that precise moment. You can even create responses beforehand to answer the most commonly asked questions quickly. Plus, with Intercom’s smart bots, you can offer 24/7 customer service and free up some time to work on other important areas of your business.
How to choose a customer service software that’s right for you
1. Do an “audit” of your current capabilities and needs
Don’t be shy—write out the details of your current customer service situation. Include items like:
- All the systems and steps involved in your current customer service process
- The tech capabilities you have right now
- The human resources you have right now
- What your team is currently doing well (and struggling) with
- Your “must-haves”—the capabilities and/or resources you don’t have but you desperately need
- Your “nice-to-haves”—the capabilities and/or resources that would be super helpful, but aren’t critical
When you create a foundation to work with, it will be much easier to know what you’re looking for. This is especially helpful when you’re sorting through long lists of functionalities and prices for your new customer service software options.
2. Run each option through these 6 key areas
Every company has different needs, but there are six key areas that you should look at every time you evaluate a new customer service software option. Choose the ones that are most relevant and important to your organization:
- Features: Comb through the features list. How does it align with your internal customer service audit? Which features are critical and which can you afford to leave out?
- Customer experience: How do your customers seek service from you, and does that align with what the platform offers? You can’t afford to miss the mark on this one.
- Ease of use: While the software likely won’t be 100% intuitive right off the bat, make sure that your customers and your team will be able to navigate it with a relatively short learning curve.
- Reporting: Can you easily access performance data and share with your team? Without looking at past performance, it’s tough to improve in the future. So don’t skimp here.
- Scalability: Think of your growth. Can this new customer service software handle if you scale to double, triple, or 10x your current customer volume? Would it truly help your team and the customer experience at this volume?
- Automation: With scalability comes the urgent need for automated customer service. What capabilities does the new software have for reducing the need for human resources and maximizing efficiency?
3. Less is more—avoid choice paralysis / using too many tools
Especially when you’re on a budget, it might be tempting to choose several (seemingly) cheaper fragmented customer service software options. But if you don’t crunch the numbers beforehand, it might be a huge headache in the long run.
As a rule of thumb, try to consolidate your platforms wherever you can. This will mean shorter (and fewer) learning curves, less disparity in your data, and fewer opportunities for critical information to slip through the cracks.
There are loads of tools for customer service that also give you a wide range of other capabilities. For example, RingCentral lets you manage your remote customer service team, connect on multiple customer channels, and have a collaborative contact center—among others.
Don’t sell yourself short with a customer service software that makes things harder.
What’s the best customer service software for keeping your customers happy?
While it might seem like a daunting task or even an unnecessary expense, you just can’t afford to put your customer experience on the back burner.
Cobbling your customer service process together might work in the early stages of your company, but as you grow, it’s critical to find solutions that make customer service streamlined, smooth, and scalable.
There are so many customer service solutions out there, and so many opportunities to cater to the unique needs of your growing business. The sooner you take advantage of these tools and start applying customer service best practices, the better equipped you’ll be able to keep delighting your customers—and growing your bottom line.