How to Choose the Right Customer Service Tool

It’s no secret that once your customer base gets to a certain size, it becomes necessary to automate your customer support process. So how do you go about selecting the right software? Which will best suit your business needs and best accommodate your particular customers?

What to look for in a customer service tool
To answer these questions, let’s first take a look at some of the common features of customer service tools, as well as some additional factors to keep in mind.

  • Analytics: Customer service tools often come with two types of analytics--customer analytics that can keep track of customer satisfaction and the most frequently asked questions, as well as team analytics that track of your support team’s performance and how long it takes to close a ticket.
  • App/platform support: Most customer service tools work across any platform, from web to iOS, but not every tool can be embedded into a mobile app.
  • Automation: Across the board, customer service tools help companies automate repetitive tasks.  Even the simplest customer service tools allow you to automate responses to the most common questions, while more advanced tools have a broader variety of automation possibilities.
  • Automation cloaking: Some of the smaller services, most notably Help Scout and Intercom, are built to hide automation from the customer so that the experience feels  more personal.
  • Chat/phone support: Is it possible for customers to reach out to you via instant messaging or by phone?  Some smaller services don’t offer those options, while some of the larger providers offer them only in advanced packages.
  • Customer experience: What experience does the customer have when interacting with your support system? In some solutions, it’s as simple as customers sending an email or typing their question into a chat box, but in others there may be multiple portals and submission forms they would need to navigate--a cumbersome process no customer wants to endure.
  • Integrations: All customer service platforms have the ability to integrate with other tools--even Help Scout, a smaller provider, has around 50 integrations--but the larger services have far more options. Zendesk, for example, has roughly 300 integrations, as well as its own API.
  • Pricing: Customer service providers generally charge a monthly subscription fee per support agent.  The cost of each product will scale depending on the size of your team.
  • Self-support: Larger customer service tools, like Zendesk, often have self-support offerings, like a help center that your customers can explore on their own, reducing the number of incoming tickets. Smaller providers often don’t have this feature.

How to select the right customer service tool for your startup
As you’re in the process of selecting a customer service solution, it may help you to think about these features in two ways: What do you want your customer experience to be, and how quickly do you need to close tickets? Some features, like phone support and the ability to embed support into your app, are all about the customer, whereas others, such as automation and self-support services, are intended to help your staff handle an otherwise overwhelming number of tickets.
Another key question is how you want your users to reach you. Some of the smaller startups in our database appreciate Help Scout’s personal touch, which allows customers to reach you via email, which makes it a great tool for small teams. Intercom takes it a step further, adding an instant messenger into your app or website, but if you want to be accessible through Twitter or Facebook, then you should consider Zendesk, or UserVoice, all of which handle social media themselves or have integrations with third-party services that make this possible.

In general, smaller Stacklist startups recommend simpler customer service tools with fewer features, like Help Scout and Intercom, typically avoiding ticket-based solutions. Help Scout, which makes email communication with customers as effortless as possible, gives your users a more high-touch experience. Intercom also handles email support, but it’s more focused on real-time chat support. The smaller startups that do go for a ticket-based support system tend to choose UserVoice, since it has the least amount of features and the cheapest price.  

And when it comes to later-stage startups, almost all have chosen Zendesk because it has the broadest selection of features and the most customization options. Others love because of its outstanding integration with Salesforce.

There are a multitude of options in the customer service pool, but by thinking through the guidelines listed above, along with a solid assessment of your business model and user base, the right choice will become clear.