Over the past two years, we've seen massive shifts in consumer preferences and expectations when it comes to customer service.
Now, many customers don't just delight in personalization, real-time resolutions, and channel flexibility — they expect it.
And, by the end of 2021, 90% of leaders report that customer expectations have increased to an all-time high.
To continue meeting consumer expectations, you'll want to ensure your service teams are up-to-date with the latest and greatest customer service tools and technologies.
Here, let's explore the tools most often used by other service teams, as well as the ones that aren't used as often, according to our 2022 State of Service report, which surveyed 1,400 respondents at companies of varying sizes.
Most Used Customer Service Tools [New Data]
1. A help desk system to help customers.
A help desk is a vital foundational tool for ensuring your support processes are organized and scalable as your business grows.
A help desk system allows you to record, organize, and track all your customers' tickets in one centralized dashboard — so your entire support team can see the status of a ticket, and how long it took to get resolved. All of this helps you minimize redundancies and missed follow-ups.
Additionally, you can use a help desk to keep track of metrics such as agent response time and ticket volume, so you can coach your team and ensure they have what they need to succeed.
Still not convinced? In our 2022 State of Service report, we found 60% of high growth customer service teams already use help desk software. This demonstrates the effectiveness of leveraging a help desk tool as you scale.
2. A knowledge base/FAQ on your website.
Imagine this: I'm a new customer, and I have a few standard questions.
I spend some time on your business' website and Googling, but to my dismay, I can't find resources to answer any of my questions.
Then I call your support team, and I'm placed on a twenty minute hold. By the time I speak with someone, I'm feeling irritated and I've wasted a good deal of my time.
Not an ideal customer experience, right?
Now, let's imagine a different scenario: As a new customer, I go to your company's Knowledge Base, and I immediately find topics broken down by section, including "Account & Setup", "Billing", questions related to specific tool features, and more.
At HubSpot, we're so passionate about knowledge bases that we wrote a full post about them, including what it is, how to create one, and knowledge base best practices.
As Team Lead and Principal Customer Success Manager Jessica King puts it, "Prospects and customers are eager to be in the driver's seat when it comes to knowledge gathering, and a Knowledge Base is an essential tool to have in your website's toolbox in order to ensure that those common FAQs/articles are served up when they need them most."
HubSpot Inbound Consultant Steve Richards agrees, telling me, "Establishing a Knowledge Base/FAQ is a great way to answer common questions that are currently coming in through your Live Chat and/or Ticketing system."
Richards adds, "When establishing a Knowledge Base, I always find it valuable to look through common questions coming in, and answer those within the Knowledge Base itself. That way, your customer support team will be freed up to focus on more in-depth questions, and in turn, provide a better experience."
Ultimately, a knowledge base is a self-serve customer service library, and can save your support reps valuable time. It also helps your customers get up-to-speed on your products sooner, and find the answers they need without necessarily needing to get in touch with a support rep (unless they want to).
Additionally, King told me, "The impact of a Knowledge Base isn't just measured by the ease of self-service — it also helps teams cross-collaborate and identify trends in topics that are frequently asked about both pre-sale and post-sale. This intel can then be bubbled up internally to other teams in the company so everyone can continue to solve for their prospects and customers from every view."
3. Shared email alias for customer support.
From a user perspective, I've always appreciated companies that offer a general support email if I don't have the time to wait on the phone.
Emailing a firstname.lastname@example.org email alias helps me on less time-intensive requests — it's great for support teams, too, who can see and respond to all support requests in one place. Which is why having a shared email alias ranks as the top-third most used tool in customer support.
As your support team scales, it's going to become increasingly difficult to keep track of the immense requests your reps receive through email.
The potential for mistakes (including duplicate responses, deleted emails, and forgotten conversations), skyrockets as your organization receives more customer requests. Which is why a customer service shared inbox tool is critical for scalability and cross-team collaboration.
Least Used Customer Service Tools [New Data]
1. A CRM to manage customer data.
A CRM is undoubtedly critical for a seamless, powerful end-to-end customer experience. A CRM enables teams cross-functionally to share the same information about each customer, and collaborate more effectively.
And, when it comes to support teams in particular, a CRM can be incredibly helpful for providing your team with one single source to view, manage, assign, and reply to each customer regardless of the messaging channel on which the request was sent.
Which is why I was surprised to find the CRM as one of the least used customer service tools in the industry. However, while only 24% of no growth respondents use a CRM to manage their customer data, over 44% of low growth and 48% of high growth companies use a CRM.
As you scale, a CRM will become increasingly valuable for your organization's systems and processes.
2. Live website chat.
There are a few major benefits to live chat for customer service – including reducing average handling time, automating common responses to customers through a chatbot service, and ultimately creating an omni-channel experience for your prospects and customers who would simply prefer to have a conversation through live chat.
Live chat can help you meet your customers where they're at, and provide important, timely information without wasting time through email or on the phone.
Additionally, you can take your team's efficiency to the next level by leveraging a chatbot, which can answer frequently asked questions, book meetings, and more.
As Anna Korosi, Customer Support Team Lead at CloudTalk, told me, "Chat and phone are the tools that work best for us. We consider them a power couple. Chat is a productivity booster — It lets agents interact with more customers at once, and it offers quick responses. Phone, in contrast, allows us to take a deep dive into clients' issues. Calling also offers direct personal contact."
While more teams used live chat in 2021 (roughly 43%) than they did in 2020 (roughly 30%), it's still in our list of lesser-used tools. This could be because it's not quite as mandatory as a help desk or shared email — but, as you level up, it's a good tool to consider investing in.
Choose the Best Communication Tools for Your Team
Mike Jeun, Head of Customer Success at Kixie, told me you need to take an omni-channel approach to succeed in the world of service.
He says, "Live chat is great for those simple, straightforward requests, or times when a phone call is impractical. For software companies, screen-sharing software is critical to troubleshooting more complicated issues or providing onboardings for new users."
Jeun adds, "Email is the best channel for keeping a clear record of communication to avoid unnecessary confusion or disputes, and for asynchronous communication with people on different schedules or in different time zones."
However, Jeun still believes phone calls are the primary communication channel preferred by most users. "Every channel of communication has its unique advantages and disadvantages, but I think voice is used the most often for a reason," he told me.
"It's the immediacy, but most importantly I think it's the human element. Phone calls let customers and agents speak one-on-one, as two people trying to solve a problem, without any of the disconnect or distractions that come with email or chat."
Ultimately, offering an omni-channel experience enables your service team to deliver best-in-class service to your customers wherever and whenever your customers need it.
As a service leader, you don't need to implement each of the most used tools in this list — and you don't need to ignore the lesser-known tools. Instead, consider how each tool could streamline your own team's processes, and which ones best meet the needs of your own o`````11`11rganization.