Customer Support

The Ultimate Customer Support Stack for 2019

February 12, 2019
12:00 am

Customer service relationships can make or break your company, whether you’re growing a startup or managing a large enterprise. And customers are only getting more discerning. One study shows that after a single negative experience, 51% of customers wouldn’t do business with a company again!

Having the right customer support software stack is critical to retaining customers and keeping them happy. Your “stack” is your chosen combination of support tools. The right combo has features that enhance each other.

But that’s all easier said than done. Poor technology can frustrate and slow your reps down. And selecting the best customer support software from a crowded marketplace can be a challenge.

We’ll walk you through the essential support technology categories in 2019, and top products to mix and match for your needs.

Table of Contents

  1. Your Support Foundation: Help Desk/Ticketing Software/Shared Inbox Platforms
  2. A Helpful Voice: Cloud-Based Call Center Software
  3. Your Powerhouse Support Response: Live Chat Software
  4. Self-Service: Knowledge Base
  5. Showing Customers Visually: Co-browse and Screen share

1. Your Support Foundation

Help Desk/Ticketing Software/Shared Inbox Platforms

What to Know: The help desk platform is often the first technology to be adopted by a growing customer support team. It incorporates a broad range of customer communication.

The help desk can incorporate ticket management, self-service like a knowledge base (see #4 in our list), and more. Ticketing software can be standalone software or part of a help desk.

Ticketing software helps teams manage and respond to written customer support requests, like emails. As of 2018, emails were still one of the most common forms of business communication worldwide. Your ticketing software might also generate support tickets from contact forms on your website, social media, or texts.

shared inbox can complement (or even replace) ticketing for some smaller teams. Shared inbox platforms can support collaborative actions like multiple logins, form responses, re-assigning of emails, and commenting. Some also support social channels.

Here are a few considerations to get you started:

  • other support apps you may want to integrate
  • your typical customer message volume
  • the size and layering of your support team
  • common channels where customers tend to contact you (or want to)
  • customization and reporting needs

Top Products:

ProductFeature HighlightsPricingWho It’s Best ForZendesk- Full-featured help desk platform
- Multi-channel/mobile ticketing
- View of all customer conversations
- Useful ticket-routing (such as skills-based)Starts at $5/agent/month for light help desk managementSmall business, mid-market, and enterpriseSalesforce Service Cloud- Full-featured help desk platform
- Powerful knowledge base
- Flexible reporting
- Highly customizable but can be complexStarts at $25/user/month for an out-of-the-box solution for up to 10 usersMid-market and enterprise
Note: Salesforce retired their lighter-weight Salesforce Desk product last yearFreshdesk- Full-featured help desk platform
- Intuitive interface
- Good ticket management
- Newer product, may be less customizable/scalableFree for unlimited users with limited features; starts at $19/agent/month for most ticket managementMostly small business and mid-market, with some enterpriseFront- Shared inbox, more of a point solution
- Agent assignment functionality
- Can be used for multi-channel like SMS, chat and socialStarts at $15/user/month with a minimum of 2 usersSmall business with some mid-market

2. Contact Center Support

Cloud-Based Call Center Software

What to Know: The call center is a foundation of many companies’ support strategies. Customers still pick up the phone when they need help, seeing it as a fast way to get questions answered.

But the numbers are dropping. Forrester reported in 2013 that 73% of customers used voice with support, but last year, another report showed that 49% of all consumers (and 66% of millennials) were interacting with automated channels, like live chat software.

Operating a call center well can also be complex. You’re juggling a lot of requirements, from paying support agents to be available live to managing high call volumes.

Many companies have turned to cloud-based call center software (or call center out-of-a-box). This customer support software can offer features like easy call routing, callbacks, an interface that includes customer records, compatibility with multiple devices, optimized queues, and video calls.

What does all this mean for your business? We believe that voice/video is one valuable component of a support software stack. It adds a human element to customer support. But it is most useful when backed by other tools like co-browse software (#5 in this list), which empowers support agents to directly guide customers, and live chat software (#3 on our list) which lets agents filter easy questions with chat and prioritize the most complex voice calls.

Keeping this in mind, here are some points to weigh in software selection:

  • other app integration you need
  • your expected call volume
  • the size and location of your support team
  • the call devices you want to use
  • customer data that are generally needed by support reps

Top Products:

ProductFeature HighlightsPricingWho It’s Best ForTalkdeskZ - Full-featured call center
- Customizable with lots of integrations
- Offers reporting functionality Starts at $45/agent/monthMid-market and enterpriseRingCentral
- Full-featured call center
- Call routing in parallel and by topic
- Contact center is a newer product for RingCentral: some features still under development Contact center pricing unlisted, must contact salesMid-market and enterpriseAircall
- Full-featured call center
- Notably easy setup and use
- Integration with multiple apps and systems Starts at $30/user/monthSmall business and mid-marketDialpadF - Full-featured call center
- Smooth call transferring/forwarding
- May be superior for meeting enterprise call center needs Starts at $75/user/month for a call centerMid-market and enterprise

3. Your Powerhouse Support Response

Live Chat Software

What to Know: Live chat software lets your customers engage with you (and vice versa) via live text-based chat. This software could be designed for web and mobile devices, or it might be set up, say, to only work in social channels.

Live chat enables your agents to bypass the limitations of one voice support call at a time. They can manage multiple support requests simultaneously without sacrificing quality. Reports vary, but professionals in the industry estimate that live agents are able to manage anywhere from 2-10 chats successfully. Support teams can also track customer questions easily in history, or even reach out to tell customers about a new release and answer questions live.

At the same time, agents can combine live chat with other functionality, like providing links to knowledge base content (#4 in this list).  

Not all live chat software is created the same. Be cautious: some products are intended specifically for sales and marketing. These are priced much higher (per user and per contact session) than those designed specifically for support, which are priced per seat only (per user). Acquire’s live chat product, listed below, is designed for support.

Below are a few points to consider when selecting live chat software:

  • whether it was created specifically for customer support
  • platforms or apps you want to integrate
  • volume of support requests
  • size of support team
  • mobile or device capabilities

Top Products:

ProductFeature HighlightsPricingWho It’s Best For

Acquire- Web and mobile live chat
- Video and voice calls via live chat popup
- Software specifically for support, designed to be affordable, charge by seat only
Free for one agent and 250 customer profiles; then starts at $25/agent/month with unlimited customer profiles

Small business, mid-market, and enterprise support teams for financial services, insurance, e-commerce and travel and hospitality

- Set up to qualify marketing leads via canned responses and proactive chat
- Supports transfers and routing
- Primarily for sales and marketing customer engagement Starts at $25/seat/month for 2 seats and $10/month for 1,000 contacts
Note: pricing can be prohibitive for supportMid-market and enterprise sales and marketing teamsLivePerson - Chat solution for messaging platforms like SMS and Facebook Messenger
- Mostly designed for branding and customer engagement related to marketing

Not provided, must contact salesEnterprise customers with a focus on sales, marketing and support teams for e-commerce and retail Intercom- Can onboard with personalized set of messages
- Customer segmentation based on behavior and time
- Primarily for sales and marketing customer engagement Starts at $87/month for 2 seats (+ $19/month for additional seats) and $16/month for 201-500 active people
Note: pricing can be prohibitive for supportMid-market and enterprise sales and marketing teams

An Ultimate Guide to Customer Support in 2019

Download our strategic and tactical Playbook for FREE today

Download Now

Download Now

4. Self-Service

Knowledge Base Software (Internal and External)

What to Know: A knowledge base is a repository for company information. You can use knowledge base software to design a self-service customer information portal. This can take the form of searchable questions, documentation, screenshots, videos, and even AI-powered bots to help answer questions about your product or service.

Adding an external knowledge base to your support software stack improves the customer experience by giving them access to quick information. It also helps filter out simple questions. A knowledge base can reduce call volume, allowing your representatives to prioritize tougher questions and maximize resources.

Knowledge base software can be included as part of a help desk platform or it can be standalone. We’ve listed some top knowledge base solutions below of both types.

A knowledge base can also be used to collect internal knowledge for your support team (and the rest of your company). It can ramp up new team member training quickly, providing one go-to spot for searching company knowledge. Internal knowledge base software offers different specialties than external, like integration with other employee docs and portals.

Once created, a knowledge base can be a powerful tool that saves resources and lets customers and support teams quickly access the information they need. External knowledge bases can be combined with live chat (item #3) and ticketing (item #1) to save agents time in answering common questions in a consistent way.

Here are a few points to consider when selecting knowledge base software:

  • platform and app integrations you need
  • whether you need an internal or external knowledge base, or both
  • the types of content you want to share
  • format and any special content requirements (such as developer content)
  • the level of interactivity you want

Top Products:

ProductFeature HighlightsPricingWho It’s Best ForHelpScout -Offers multi-channel support
-External knowledge base integrates with email and chat
-Document editing “collision” detection Starts at $20/user/month which includes one “docs site” or knowledge baseSmall business and mid-market

-Provides integration with other apps and chat
- SEO-optimized external knowledge base
- User-friendly and customizable branding
Starts at $79/month for 3 users, for basic hosted knowledge base plus other support featuresSmall business and mid-market

- AI and machine-learning customer support, with transition to live agents
- External knowledge base that provides analytics on customer searches
- AI-powered “answer bot”

Starts at $95/user/month for their full platform, no point solution listedMid-market and enterprise

Guru -Internal knowledge base software
-Smooth integration with Slack and other employee systems
- Accessible and intuitive search functionality Starts at $380/month for up to 20 team membersSmall business, mid-market, and enterprise

5. Visual Engagement

Co-Browse and Screenshare Products for Support

What to Know: Co-browse software is the ultimate customer engagement and support tool. With an opt-in from the customer, it allows an agent to take control of a customer’s screen and walk them through a digital process.

With co-browse, your team can help your customers navigate an online application or troubleshoot a complex software product. The direct demonstration can cut down on communication barriers. In many cases, co browse also allows the agent to fix an issue on the spot.

While co-browse software isn’t a new concept, some modern tools offer a superior customer experience. Legacy products may require burdensome desktop application downloads. Some newer products, like our co-browse software, can be used through a web or mobile platform.

If you don’t need direct demonstration, screenshare and screen capture software let your agent share their own screen to assist a customer.

Consider some of the following when selecting a co-browse or screenshare product:

  • platform and app integrations you want
  • volume of co-browse or screenshare sessions needed
  • types of customers the product serves
  • internet connection requirements

Top Products:

ProductFeature HighlightsPricingWho It’s Best For
Acquire - Co-browse, live chat smoothly integrate with other support platforms
- Highlight and switch pages for customers
- No downloads, can initiate in one click with opt-in Starts at $25/agent/month Small business, mid-market, and enterprise
Glance - Cloud-based “visual engagement” solution
- Offers screenshare, co-browse and agent video
- Enterprise product with 100+ seat requirement for entry

Not listed, must contact salesEnterprise
Bold360 (by LogMeIn)

- Offers a support suite with conversational AI, knowledge base, bots
- Co-browse is incorporated with live chat
- Enterprise product with 100+ seat requirement for entry

Not listed, must contact salesEnterprise

Optimizing Support

A well-oiled support machine requires a strong foundation, multiple channels from voice to live chat, efficient self-service, and the ability for agents to show customers what they mean.

When you pick the right suite of support tools, you empower your support team. You free up focus for high priorities and enable fast, helpful communications with customers. And ultimately, your business can deliver superb customer experiences at scale.


Related Articles