5 Differences Between Customer Service and Customer Support

Today it’s all about customer experience – even if the customer is wrong (and know he is not always right), companies, platforms and providers will lose the customer if the experience is lacking and not up to par. 

Customer experience combines two essential ingredients – one being customer service, and the other customer support. And no, these things are not one and the same, but both can heavily influence customer satisfaction and happiness.


Long relationship vs a very brief affair

Customer service seemingly lasts forever, but in fact its life span is only as long as the customer is “in your hands”. On the other hand, customer support lasts until the specific requirement or technical problem is not solved and put aside.

With that being said, another word for customer service could be a “long-term relationship”. Customer support, however,  can be described as a “brief affair”.

“As a customer service specialist I am there for every stage of the customer’s life with us, and I have my own customers that I deal with on a regular basis which makes it easy for the client as well – since I am very well aware of their background, and they feel comfortable with me – and that is the whole point, to help them while having them feel attended to”, says Philippe, an expert who works for a consulting company that deals with customer support in Germany.

General issues vs technical problems

The training of customer service specialists in comparison to customer support staff is quite different – even though the names are quite similar.

Customer service people must have a much broader scope of knowledge of the work, the platform, the client and the “business ecosystem”, while the customer support person deals in micro-problems, that can turn out to be vital for the functioning of the ecosystem.

Therefore, customer support experts need to have plethora of tech-savvy knowledge in their little finger, therefore most customer support today is in fact technical customer support. Customer service specialists will often better understand the general business logic, or what we would call the “bigger picture”.

“When I did technical customer support for the Deutsche Telekom, before switching to customer service, I was fully aware of every aspect of the technical details– from the Internet, to how telecommunications work – I could basically work as a door-to-door technician”, Philippe recalls.

General improvement vs putting out a fire

Customer service and all the data that is gathered through it can have huge impact on the entirety of the business plan and decision-making processes. Customer service is in a sense an important survey or litmus paper of sorts – we can even do projections of potential issues that could at some point be problematic for us in order to straighten them ASAP, as well as developing a plan for new feature improvements. All of this is made possible by the customer service department “tapping into” the customer’s way of thinking, needs, wants, and desires.

On the other side, customer support handles all acute situations gone awry in a timely and reactive manner. These experts, aside from having a vast technical knowledge, also categorize and document all these defects and have a step-by-step plan for handling the situation. However, customer support can also influence the business plan, especially in e.g., software development. The feedback gathered daily by the customer support specialist can be priceless information for the software developer who is in charge of the coding.

Service isn’t necessarily supportive, but support always includes service

The customer service department gathers all the general “know-how” that needs to be used in interaction with the customers, but does not necessarily need to include a technical defect that must be taken care of.

For example, customer service could be speeding up certain processes, predicting client’s wishes and needs, and improving the general experience. On the other hand, customer support case handling cannot be solved without customer service.

The best practice routines developed through customer service need to be used while handling a customer support problem. Best practice, in this case, can be anything from using certain tools, defined processes, company philosophy, tone of communication, type of service etc.

“Customer satisfaction depends on the harmonious co-existence of both these things– support and customer service – together they make a great customer care team. One is more about problem solving and the other more about relationships. But they do go hand in hand – because if you can’t solve an important problem, all the successful customer interaction are for naught, and the relationship will suffer”, explains Philippe.

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One vs all

Customer service encompasses all and every customer there is, and is therefore crucial as it influences the general health of the business. Every customer must have a seamless customer service on a regular basis without even having to think about it proactively – or in other words, it is very much in our hands. 

Customer support, on the other hand, “shows up” only for those customers that are currently experiencing some issues that need to be fixed and have therefore contacted us in some way to search for a solution. While customer service is the prevention of illness, another word for customer support would be the “ER” where you go and handle your emergencies.

It is almost like two separate philosophies, but both are very much needed for a healthy business ecosystem and having a content customer.

In conclusion, when building a business, it is very beneficial for the long-term future of your enterprise to hire, train and continuously encourage your customer care team – they are the first line of defense against all problems, big or small.

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