Excellent customer service is critical to running a successful business. But gone is the era of phone-only support. These days, customers expect support to be convenient and fast. This means being available wherever they are, whether that's on Twitter, Facebook, email or your website, and whether they're getting in touch via their smartphone, tablet or an old-fashioned phone call.
From help-desk services to live chat, social media and mobile support, here are 10 customer service solutions for your small business.
Teamwork is key to excellent customer service. Freshdesk is a help-desk platform that lets customer support agents work together to deliver the best level of customer service possible. When a help ticket is opened, all team members can see the ticket and the customer. Freshdesk can show you which agent is working on the ticket and its status, customer information and communications, internal notes about the issue and more. This way, if customers call back and different agents are assigned to tickets, they can easily get caught up quickly to resolve issues. Freshdesk also comes with service level agreement (SLA) options for your customers, which helps you prioritize tickets and gives them an idea of when they can expect a response. [3 Ways Customer Service Has Changed (And How to Adapt)]
Freshdesk starts at $16 per agent per month. A free version is also available, but is limited to three agents; each additional agent costs $15 per month.
Sometimes, customers need one-on-one help; other times, they'd rather solve issues on their own. Zendesk is all about putting customers first. It features both an easy-to-use multichannel ticketing system — which organizes all email, Web, social, phone and live chat communication in one location — and a customer self-service portal for customers who prefer to troubleshoot issues themselves. Zendesk can also help you build more meaningful relationships with customers with its customer engagement feature, a platform that gives you access to key data and insights to improve performance and deliver personalized customer support.
Zendesk starts at $1 per month per agent and is limited to email ticketing. More comprehensive plans start at $25 per month per agent.
Want to make customers happy? Desk can help with its fast, efficient customer support system. Designed specifically for small businesses, features like universal inbox, case management, productivity tools and workflow automation help you stay organized and speed through help tickets without compromising quality. In addition to phone and live chat customer service, Desk includes unlimited Web, email and social media (Twitter and Facebook) support. Agents can also access the platform and help customers on the go with the Desk app for iOS and Android.
Desk starts at $30 per agent per month. An advanced plan is also available for $135 per month per agent, which lets you customize your plan and includes enterprise level features.
Support tickets don't create themselves. From phone calls and chat to email, social media and Web inquiries, HappyFox can take help requests from multiple channels and automatically convert them into tickets in an organized, efficient help-desk system. The platform can also help you deliver fast customer service by identifying common issues and grouping related cases, as well as split tickets among multiple agents for more complex problems. Additionally, HappyFox integrates with a wide range of business apps — including Google Apps, Salesforce, SugarCRM, Insightly, SurveyMonkey and FreshBooks — to streamline customer service with the services your business uses the most.
HappyFox costs $9 per month per staff member for startups, or $19 per staff per month for small businesses.
Want to provide on-demand support on your website? Try a live-chat service like ClickDesk, so customers can get the help they need as they browse your products and services online. ClickDesk offers three types of live-chat support: instant messaging, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) voice chats or video calls. Agents can manage all of these in the ClickDesk help-desk portal, where they can handle multiple conversations and stay organized to give customers a great experience. If agents don't like the portal, chats can also be taken via Google Hangouts.
ClickDesk starts at $16.99 per month. A free version is available, but it's limited to one agent and voice chat.
Live chat helps you with more than just customer service; it can also help you boost sales. Olark uses live chat to give businesses an opportunity to close sales before customers click away. Agents receive multiple chats, as well as prioritize them — for instance, to prevent shopping-cart abandonment. It also provides detailed customer information to help agents with the sale, such as browsing histories, how long customers have been on your website, contact information and whether they are returning or new customers. Olark also integrates with many third-party business products, such as Salesforce and Magento, to streamline customer service with the rest of your operations.
Olark starts at $15 per month for one operator and includes all core features. For more operators, check out the Gold plan for $44 per month.
[For a side-by-side comparison of the best live chat support software, visit our sister site Top Ten Reviews.]
7. My LiveChat
If you're not sure if a live-chat solution is right for your website, try a free service like My LiveChat first. It offers key functions available in paid services, such as multiple tickets, chat transcripts and real-time visitor monitoring, as well as pre-written responses to save agents time. My LiveChat is also highly customizable, so you can personalize chat windows with your own colors and branding. The software can be accessed over the Web and on Windows, Mac, Android and iOS devices.
My LiveChat is 100 percent free. Paid plans, which eliminate the My LiveChat branding and give you email reports, start at $15 per month.
When customers have a problem with a company, many turn to social media. Sometimes, they'll sound off to their followers; other times, they'll tag or mention you to get your attention. Get a handle on social media customer service and respond to issues with Sparkcentral. This social media support platform features an engagement dashboard to help agents quickly resolve issues and improve response times, a reporting and analytics portal to track metrics and productivity, and real-time collaboration tools to automate workflows and share knowledge to help customers as a team.
Contact Sparkcentral for pricing information.
9. Parature Facebook Portal
Expand your social media presence by providing 24/7 customer support on Facebook. The Parature for Facebook Portal provides a comprehensive, personalized support center right on your Facebook page. It lets customers submit help tickets, get live-chat support, access a FAQ section and find updated information, all without leaving Facebook. This way, customers can get help directly from your support team and the resources on your Facebook page, instead of posting about their issues on your Facebook wall.
Contact Parature for Facebook for a price quote.
Does your business have a mobile app? Use Helpshift to deliver customer support right from your app. This in-app messaging platform lets you help customers on mobile devices, so they don't have to go to your website, search for answers or make a phone call. Helpshift makes getting answers as easy as texting, thus giving customers a better customer service experience that works for them. Features include image and video attachments — for instance, customers can send screenshots to show you their problem — push notifications, analytics and the ability to customize colors, fonts and other branding. Helpshift supports iOS, Android, HTML 5,Unity, Cocos2d-x and PhoneGap apps.
Helpshift starts at $20 per month for up to two team members and 20,000 monthly users.
[Our report on small business database and customer relationship management options complements the solutions outlined above]