Expectations of customer service are changing. Customers want faster response times, less back and forth, and more transparency. These new expectations can bring new challenges, and we need to make sure our teams are prepared.
To keep up with new customer demands, we often adopt new tools to help. But it can be really difficult to sort through all the reviews and vet whether or not a specific tool may be useful to your organization. With that in mind, we put together a list of the eight best customer service tools this year.
What makes a good customer service software tool?
This isn't your standard comparison list. We're covering a broad spectrum of tools and sharing our top picks. Because we didn't want to compare apples to oranges, we based our selection on a few key components of what makes software valuable, including:
- Usability: How easy is the software to set up? Is it intuitive to use? Will agents enjoy using it as part of their daily workflow?
- Effectiveness: How well does the tool address the problem it's supposed to solve? Do you need to supplement the software at all, or does it stand on its own as a great tool?
- Value: How much do you get for the amount you pay? Is it fulfilling a need or simply something that's nice to have? Will the software benefit both your customers and team?
With those three qualifications in mind, let's get into the list of the tools we've chosen.
The Top 8 Customer Service Software Tools
1. Hubspot Service Hub - Help Desk Software
Help desk software is the centerpiece of your customer service software. It's where your agents spend most of their day and the main way they communicate with customers. Since it's so important, it's paramount you choose a good one.
When considering help desk software, there are some core functionalities your tool needs to include:
- Shared inbox
- Ticket organization
- Reporting functionality
Service Hub offers a shared inbox to make 1:1 communication with customers at scale much easier. It features powerful automation to route messages to the proper channels and improve productivity. You can also use bots to provide instant responses to frequently asked questions. Reporting tools allow your team to learn their strengths and analyze trends to better serve your customers.
HubSpot Service Hub is best when used in conjunction with other HubSpot tools. Integrating with HubSpot CRM, Sales Hub, and Marketing Hub allows you to create a positive experience for your customers.
The tool was designed for small- to medium-sized businesses, but there are enterprise plans available for larger teams.
2. Olark - Live Chat
Your customers want live chat, so it's important your team has a tool that keeps up with the demands of covering a chat channel. Some help desk software may have a chat feature included, but a dedicated tool can be a better option.
When using a built-in chat tool, you typically have less control over branding and workflows. With Olark, you can to customize your chat box to match your brand and encourage customers to interact with you based on predefined workflows. Along with customizing the design, you can localize the language for different users and have custom avatars to keep your chat as human as possible.
A few other key features Olark offers are:
- Chat automation to quickly help customers
- Per agent (not per chat) pricing
- Access to chat transcripts
- Real-time chat metrics
The last thing we really love about Olark is its ability to integrate with other software, like HubSpot. Having those integrations means no matter what other software you use, you can get the most out of your chat interactions.
3. JIRA - Bug Reporting
Working in customer service means wearing many different hats. Responding to customers is usually the largest part of the job, but customer service agents are also the voice of the customer. And, part of being that voice is reporting feature requests and software bugs.
Without a dedicated tool, bug reports and feature requests can get lost, be difficult to follow up on, or missed altogether. In most cases, this type of software is something your development team is already using. So, you'll most likely be adding seats to this tool for your customer service agents.
JIRA not only allows you to report bugs and features requests, but it also keeps the requests organized. Agents and developers can comment on each report and get updates anytime something changes. Basically, it's a place where customer service and product can collaborate, which is incredibly beneficial for your business.
4. Hootsuite - Social Media Support
Just like how live chat is growing as a support channel, social media is another channel that's gaining popularity each day.
Generally, people reaching out over social media want a fast reply. Though many help desks do have the ability to monitor social channels, there can be some limitations, such as how messages are formatted and what networks you're able to reply to. With that in mind, it's worth investing in a tool dedicated to social interactions.
There are a lot of software options, when it comes to social media management. We really like Hootsuite's functionality. It offers an amazing dashboard you can customize for your organization and share views across teams. Another feature we love is the ability to filter for different keywords, hashtags, and locations to keep your finger on the pulse of what customers are saying.
5. HelpJuice - Knowledge Base
Since customers have become more comfortable with technology, self-service options have taken off. This makes it vital you have a top-notch knowledge base so your customers can find answers on their own.
HelpJuice starts by having a great interface that's easy to navigate and great for creating content. It has tons of styling options and customization tools to keep your knowledge base on-brand. Its collaborative workflow means you can have multiple authors working on one piece to increase efficiency. Last, you can manage permission levels for different users to make sure everyone has the right level of access.
Analytics is another place HelpJuice excels. Its dashboards are customizable, so you can have the metrics you're most interested in front and center. With its advanced analytics, your team can find out what's working and what could be improved upon. Pair that with the ease of use and amazing design, and we think HelpJuice is a winner.
6. Zoom - Video Conferencing
If you work on a distributed team, run webinars, or conduct remote training, you know how important video conferencing is. It's the closest you'll get to actually being in the room with someone when you're geographically separated.
Though many may think of Zoom as a meetings tool (which it is), we think its true power is in the ability to run webinars and onboard customers effortlessly. Zoom makes sending invites simple, and customers don't need to do much to join meetings.
Along with the ease of use, you can record sessions. Those recordings are valuable training tools that allow you to include participants who couldn't attend the live session. If you want to dive even deeper, use Zoom Rooms to have a dedicated space for all your video conferencing needs.
7. Nicereply - Customer Feedback
We all want to do a great job for our customers, but it can be difficult to know exactly how they're feeling. Sending out satisfaction surveys days or weeks, after an interaction isn't always the most advantageous. Customers can forget details of the interaction and may not want to give feedback at all.
Nicereply is a great solution to obtain customer feedback at the right time. You can brand the surveys to keep with your company aesthetic and customize questions for your specific needs. You can also automate the distribution of your surveys to deliver it at the times you want.
Customer satisfaction surveys give you deeper insight into your customers' wants and needs. These scores are important to know how well your team is doing and where they excel. Nicereply offers in-depth analytics so you get the most out of the feedback your customers provide.
Lastly, Nicereply integrates with many different customer service software, making it very easy to add to your customer service toolbox.
8. Vanilla - Community Forum
We often only consider how we can best facilitate our communication with customers, but what about facilitating conversations between customers? There are plenty of fan forums where like-minded people can talk about their favorite shows or hobbies, so why not create a place for your customers to share knowledge about your product?
Community forums are a way to connect your customers to each other. Forums typically end up functioning as a way to share knowledge and showcase different uses for your product. It's a place for users to share best practices and get advice on projects from others who also use your product.
The benefit of setting up your own community forum instead of Reddit, is that you can moderate and be involved in the conversation. Vanilla has a bunch of awesome features, but here are a few we really like:
- Multiple discussion types you can control
- Profiles for each user
- Tools to limit spam and abusive users
- Gamification to encourage interaction
Vanilla offers free and paid versions of their tool, so it's easy to start and expand later if you need to.
How to Use Customer Service Tools
Customer service has changed. These days, you need to be everywhere your customers are and provide top notch service. With that in mind, having a robust set of tools is more important than ever.
Starting with the basics is the way to go. So, look first for a great help desk software that can cover a few bases. As your team starts to grow, consider adding in some more dedicated tools and take the customer experience to the next level.
Chat, social support, and community forums are great ways to connect with your customers outside of tickets. Tools like bug reporting and video conferencing help your team connect with one another and benefit customers in the long run. Customer satisfaction software lets your team know what they're doing well and the different areas they can improve.
We know it's difficult to sort through all the different software options, so we hope this list is helpful in your search. As long as you keep your customers first when adding new tools, you'll always make the right choice.
For more information about customer service tools, read our list of the best help desk certifications.
Originally published Jun 4, 2019 8:00:00 AM, updated July 12 2019