Things to Know about Differences Between Customer Support and Customer Service

Paula Hicks
5 min read
Apr 18, 2017
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differences between customer support and customer service

Most business owners don’t bother thinking about the difference between customer support and customer service. Even Google makes no difference between the terms.

If you use Google to search for customer support, you’ll get results that include the term service, too. Some customer service experts will tell you to use the term you like. That’s an acceptable approach: it doesn’t matter how you call this department; just give your customers the service, care, and support they need.

However, if we’re getting into details, there is a difference between the terms support and service. The term customer support is adequate for services that provide technical support, whereas the customer service department is focused on providing value for the customer.

If you want to reduce customer churn, you have to think about clarity. The terms you use make a big difference, so it’s time to start wondering: should you use the support or service for the customer care department?

The Differences Between Customer Support and Customer Service

To understand the difference between support and service, we should start with the origins of one of these terms. The term customer service is somewhat outdated. We usually relate it to sales clerks and long waiting in line before getting the information we needed. Customer support seems to be a more modern term used for the same department. That’s the reason why so many businesses opt for that one.

Why does the term support sound cooler? It’s related to IT technologies; that’s why. These technologies evoke the impression of progress.

This is how the term customer support is defined in Techopedia: “service efforts from technology vendors and providers that focus on helping customers to use products and services correctly, efficiently, and effectively. Many see this specific type of support as part of a larger category of customer service…”

Now we’re getting somewhere. If your company does not offer software and doesn’t need to provide support for its use, why would you use this term to label its customer service department?

In its real meaning, the term customer service is not outdated at all.

A representative from the customer service department does not necessarily need advanced technical skills. They won’t be in charge of helping the customers use the software or technology product you sell. They have a different role, related to a comprehensive understanding of the customers’ interactions with your business. In addition, their job is related to the goal of the organization to give the customers the value they deserve for their money.

The companies train customer service agents to maintain positive attitude and convey the message of the brand in the best possible way. A customer support representative, on the other hand, does not necessarily care about that larger view of the organization’s goals.

Customer Support or Customer Service – Which One Does Your Organization Need?

Let’s explore the two concepts, so you’ll decide how to organize (and how to name) this department of your organization. And if you want to dig deeper, be sure check out LiveChat's ultimate customer service guide.

Customer Support – the Name for Ongoing Technical Support

When a company offers a complex and sophisticated IT products and services, it needs to provide ongoing support. The agents act as consultants, which help the customers to install and use the systems. When someone buys Adobe Photoshop, for example, they will appreciate the Learn & Support department, which provides tutorials and troubleshooting for all issues. “Get help from one of our awesome support people” - that’s the message you read in this section, and the term support is properly used.

SaaS (Software as a Service) companies are not the only ones who need to use the term support. Depending on the type of product or service you provide, you may need to provide ongoing assistance to the customers so they will get the results they need.

LiveChat, for example, offers a live chat application for customer service teams (you can test it for 30-days free) but calls their team a support team (Support Heroes, to be precise).

Another example: Help.Plagtracker provides editing help and writing consulting services. However, they still use the term support. The customers of this service contact the agents to get help when placing orders and updates on the completion process. They also address concerns regarding missed deadlines, low-quality content, and other issues.

The customer support agents provide the needed assistance to solve these issues and guide the customers through the entire process.

Here are quick things to remember regarding customer support:

Customer Service – the Department that Builds Relations

Customer service is a more complex department that doesn’t only provide support to the customers but also contributes towards the strategic goals of the company. The customer support department, which provides day-to-day guidance to the customers, maybe part of a larger customer service department that makes those activities part of the organization’s mission.

The customer service department goes beyond helping the customer solve a particular issue. They exchange ideas and help the user to get more value out of the product or service they purchased.

The Name Matters

You’re the one who’ll make the final choice. This is the important thing to remember: the name matters. Don’t choose the term customer support just because it’s trendy if it doesn’t reflect the actions of this department. Choose a relevant name that conveys the activities of the agents!

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