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Customer Service Software

In order to provide professional customer service, companies need specialized customer service software. Whether an enterprise is a B2B or B2C company, the customer base is one of the most important enterprise assets. Keeping existing customers and gaining new ones can only be done by providing good service. Phone and email have long since ceased to be sufficient for this. Below, we clarify the different approaches taken by specialized software solutions and what companies should consider when selecting professional customer service software.

1. Summary

  • Definition of Customer Service Software: Software used to process and/or respond to customer service inquiries via various communication channels.
  • Types of Customer Service Software: There are special solutions for individual contact channels such as telephone, email, social media and chat, as well as multi-channel and omni-channel systems for multiple contact channels, offered both as an on-premise installation or in the form of Software as a Service.
  • Goals for the use of Customer Service Software:  When deploying customer service software, the most important objectives are high customer satisfaction, fast response times even when faced with high service inquiry volumes, transparency with regards to service processes, and cost savings through automation.
  • Criteria for good Customer Service Software: AI-based, omni-channel, multilingual, scalable, interfaces to enterprise systems, simple user interface
  • 11 tips for selecting the right customer service software
  • Conclusion

2. Definition: What is customer service software?

Customer service software refers to software solutions used to process and/or respond to customer service inquiries over various communication channels. Customers’ communication behaviour has changed drastically in recent years. Customers have 24×7 access to their smartphone and to telephone, email, messaging services and social networks. This has led to a clear rise in inquiries directed to companies’ main contact addresses. Customers’ expectations for response speeds have simultaneously risen. While it was completely normal to wait a week for a reply during the days of regular mail, today’s optimized customer service – especially for chat and social media channels – needs to be provided virtually in real time. Short response times ensure a good customer experience and foster customer loyalty.
 
The multitude of inquiries received at these central addresses cannot be answered by any single team member, and as a result most of them are handled by a service team. This is often also synonymously referred to as “contact center software” since processing primarily occurs in a “customer service center” or a “contact center”. Classic customer service software handles the routing of inquiries to various employees, and documents contact by the customer. Companies deploy this type of customer service software in order to work through numerous customer inquiries quickly and systematically as a team. More and more frequently, companies are also using “self-service” software solutions or automated solutions such as voice dialog systems, chatbots or AI-based response management systems, etc.
 
According to a market study conducted by Fortune Business Insights, the market for customer service center software will grow an average of 14.62% to USD 48 billion by the year 2026. The market for self-service software (including virtual digital assistants) is notching up particularly dynamic growth. According to a report by Research and Markets, the market will grow an average of 16.7% annually by 2021 and reach a level of USD 9.4 billion.   

3. What types of customer service software are there?

There are numerous different customer service software solutions. Automatic Call Distribution Systems (ACDs) to distribute phone calls are also widely available, e.g. Customer Relationship Management Systems, virtual assistants and chatbots, as well as response management software. Trade magazine CRM Manager provides a good overview of CRM systems, for example. The role of virtual assistants and chatbots in contact center digitization is clearly illustrated by e.g. corporate advisors Bearing Point. Generally, market leaders such as e.g. specialist magazine teletalk are a good starting point for a market overview. At the same time, new solutions are frequently briefly presented in trade magazines, e.g. in Callcenter Profi.

There are special solutions for individual contact channels such as chat or social media, as well as multi-channel and omni-channel. Various operating and licensing models are offered, from classic on-premise installation to cloud-based SaaS solutions (Software as a Service). Whether corporate licenses, volume or user-based, there is virtually no limit to the imagination.

4. Goals when using customer service software

Enterprises can pursue various objectives by deploying customer service software:

  • Improving customer satisfaction and customer loyalty
  • Increased transparency of service processes
  • Improvements in individual KPIs (Key Performance Indicators), e.g.
    • Average response time: the time it takes for a customer to receive an answer to a written inquiry
    • Average processing time: the time needed by an agent to generate a response to an inquiry
    • Average ticket costs: processing costs for one inquiry (including personnel costs, etc.)
    • First Fixed Rate: the rate of responses that were able to definitely resolve a customer’s inquiry (written/verbal) upon initial contact
    • Customer satisfaction: How customers rate the company (e.g., NPS = Net Promoter Score)
  • Cost reductions through automation
  • Routing customer inquiries to specific (cost-effective) contact channels
 
The shortest possible response time in the face of high inquiry rates is surely one of the most important goals when investing in a customer service software solution.

5. What should companies consider when making their choice?

Given the multitude of solutions, the danger lies in investing in stand-along solutions that are not adequately networked with other enterprise systems. This makes it difficult to obtain a 360-degree view of customers. However, a complete customer contact history is the basis for good customer service. No customer today wants to explain for the fifth time why they’re calling or give a long-winded explanation of what product they have. Customers expect companies to store this information centrally and be able to access it in the event that a customer contacts them – regardless of whether they call a service employee by phone, send an email, or use chat.

11 tips for selecting the right customer service software

  • Make sure that the customer service software has interfaces to important enterprise systems in order to access relevant data.
  • If you are internationally active, the customer service solution should be multilingual, i.e. offer a single user interface in different languages, as well as be able to process different languages in written response management.
  • Be sure that the software can keep pace with your company’s growth. A scalable software solution gives you investment security.
  • Opt for multi-channel and omni-channel solutions. This ensures a uniform workflow and efficient staffing. In addition, service staff can easily switch the communication channel if needed and obtain a complete customer contact history across all communication channels.
  • Contact avoidance is NOT a relevant investment criterion for customer service software.
  • Critically evaluate whether the software can actually help you give customers the right answer faster and thus contribute to the customer experience. Avoid virtual digital assistants and chatbots when these offer no real added value.
  • Check whether the software is already successfully in use at other companies and what their experiences with it are. You don’t want to use your customers as a guinea pig.
  • Look for a user-friendly surface. This slashes the time your employees need to become familiar with it and avoids operating errors.
  • Make sure that your customer service solution will allow you to gradually automate your customer service, with an eye to a good customer experience.
  • If you’re looking to implement an AI-based solution, consider how quickly the customer service software can be trained. The most advantageous systems are those that rely on vector-based algorithms that require only a small amount of training data (roughly 30 documents per category).
  • Truly good customer service software is rounded off by a transparent reporting system. This provides executives with a quick overview of all relevant facts and figures in real time and enables them to react quickly, if needed.

Conclusion

Recent years have seen customer service become considerably faster and more complex thanks to new digital channels and significantly increased inquiry volumes. At the same time, service managers and contact center managers are facing considerably increasing communication demands by customers.

The use of customer service software is imperative in order to be able to offer high quality and uniform customer service in this delicate area and achieve success in all relevant KPIs. Here, it is crucial that all the channels relevant to one’s target group be covered. Phone, email, social media, messaging services and live chats, as well as letters and faxes – yes, these are still used today in isolated instances – should ideally be handled via centralized omni-channel customer service software. The software should be able to “grow”, network with other important enterprise systems and offer opportunities for step-by-step automation, all with the customer experience in mind. Artificial intelligence-based systems offer great potential here, provided they have precise speech and topic recognition.

Customer service is increasingly becoming a success factor in industry competition. Today’s customers are migrating ever faster since the transparency of the internet makes it instantly possible to find an alternative. By contrast, the use of modern, intelligent and intuitive customer service software can help develop customer service into a true USP, enabling businesses to develop a competitive advantage that has long-term positive effects on a company’s economic success.
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