In a world that is so technologically-driven, having the right customer support tools is essential to delivering great customer service, keeping employee health in check, and gaining an edge over your competitors.
With the range of support tools available today — one for shared inbox, one for bug tracking, another one to allow for inter-team collaboration, and yet another one for project management — how do you identify the tools that you really need? How do you know if you’re selecting the best solution for your team?
In this blog, we’ve listed your ideal support toolkit for 2021, explaining why you need each tool, and how to choose the right one for your team.
Before we get started, it’s important to understand the qualities that determine a good software solution. In addition to verifying the feature checklist we’ve provided in each section, you also need to ensure that the solution you pick is:
– Scalable: When you choose a solution, you need to check if you can continue using it 2-3 years from now, or even longer. You’ll notice that we haven’t listed a shared inbox as a must-have support application in this list. That’s because we believe that a shared inbox is not a solution in the long term.
– Intuitive: The tool you choose should be easy to use and navigate. Your team should not have to struggle with the tool every day. Make sure to test the tool with a few team members and check out the UI and UX before making the purchase.
– Cost effective: There’s no point in choosing a solution that is going to burn a hole in your wallet. You need to ensure that the tool that you choose will really deliver on its promises and ensure a positive ROT.
– Remote ready: The pandemic has proved that on-premise solutions are not always a viable option. Make sure to pick cloud-based solutions that can be used remotely.
Now that we’ve got the basics covered, let’s dive right into the list of tools that you need to have in 2021.
The best customer support tools for 2021
#1 Customer service software
To offer the best customer service, all you really need is a good customer service software.
A good customer service software will enable you to maintain transparency and collaborate easily within and across teams, eliminating the need for other tools such as a project management or bug tracking software.
If your support toolkit contains multiple tools for different support channels, project management, and collaboration, you’re not only increasing your costs, but you’ll also reduce your team’s efficiency.
While choosing your customer service software, look for the following features. These features will enable you to offer a uniform customer experience and improve agent productivity:
|Omnichannel capabilities||Offer native support on email, phone, chat, Twitter, Facebook, and mobile-first messaging apps such as WhatsApp, and Apple Business Chat|
|Workflow automations||Automate repetitive, complex processes and increase agent productivity|
|Comprehensive self-service options||A knowledge base, AI chatbots, help widgets, and community forums to enable customers to find answers on their own|
|SLA management||Keep response and resolution times in check|
|Reports and analytics||Monitor key support metrics and make improvements|
|Canned responses||Make sure agents don’t spend time on responding to the same question over and over again|
|Collaboration bundle||In-product communication tool, shared ownership, parent-child ticketing, and linked tickets to enable agents to collaborate efficiently|
|Customer feedback forms||Measure your customers’ satisfaction|
|Third-party integrations||Bring required customer data into your support ecosystem|
Example: Freshdesk, a customer service software that comes with the features listed above and more, is loved by 40,000+ businesses of all sizes.
Pricing starts from: $0 per month, for unlimited agent seats, when billed monthly or annually
As you read through this blog, you will realize that a truly omnichannel customer service software that allows for native integrations with complementary capabilities such as live chat, chatbots, telephony, CRM, FSM and more, is more than enough to take care of all your customer support requirements.
However, if you’re using a shared inbox, or a stand-alone helpdesk system, then you’ll require additional support tools for different channels and use-cases.
#2 Live chat software
Live chat as a channel of communication has been gaining popularity in customer service. Chat support allows for 1-1 real-time conversations that are exactly in line with the expectations of today’s customers.
44% of customer service leaders worldwide voted chat as the most critical tool in maintaining service levels through the crisis, and are investing more in live-chat and messaging apps in 2021. 1
You need to make sure that the chat application you pick allows your customers to find information easily and get quick solutions. Here are the features that will help you do that:
|Topic categorization||Enable customers to reach the right resources and the right team faster|
|In-messenger FAQs||Help customers find solutions on their own in your chat widget|
|Co-browsing||Access your customer’s screen and guide them remotely|
|Away messages||Proactively keep customers informed that you are out of office|
|Integrations with messaging apps||Deliver a uniform experience across all messaging apps|
Example: Freshchat by Freshworks is a live chat software that allows you to connect with your customers on messaging channels like WhatsApp, Apple Business Chat, and Facebook Messenger. With Freshchat, you can also proactively engage with your customers using AI-enabled chatbots, and proactive campaigns.
Pricing starts from: $0 per agent per month, when billed annually
REVE Chat is another chat tool that lets you connect with your customers using live chat, chatbots, and video too!
Pricing starts from: $13.5 per agent per month, when billed annually
#3 Telephony system
While live chat and messaging apps are rising as popular customer service channels, a whopping 76% of customers who contact customer service still do so over the phone.2 This proves that phone calls are still a preferred channel of choice.
If your business belongs to any of the industries that require high-touch customer service, such as the banking, on-demand service, telecom, retail, or travel industry, then offering phone support will be worthwhile. Customers in these industries often require immediate help and might prefer getting on a call with a support representative to get their issues resolved.
Here are the basic features that you need to consider while choosing your telephony system:
|Easy number management||Retain existing phone number and buy new ones effortlessly|
|IVR||Offer self-service and route incoming calls to the right agents|
|Call queuing and routing||Streamline how calls are received and routed|
|Call monitoring and call barging||Monitor calls and offer assistance whenever required|
|Caller ID||Get details about the customer who is trying to reach you|
Example: Freshcaller by Freshworks is a modern phone system that requires no hardware, or downloads, or maintenance cost. Freshcaller enables you to converse with your customers and collaborate with your colleagues effortlessly.
Pricing starts from: $0 per agent per month, when billed annually
Aircall is also a cloud-based call center software for businesses of all sizes that can be used for customer service and sales. If you prefer using a desktop app over a web app, Aircall would be the right choice for you.
Pricing starts from: $30 per agent per month, when billed annually
#4 Social media support software
Social media is where your customers express their love for your brand, call out negative experiences that they might have had with you, and also look for assistance.
The support requests that your customers raise on social media can easily get buried in all the posts or comments that are directed at your brand. Since social media channels get a lot of eyeballs, it’s important to resolve the customer issues/requests that are reported via these channels on time.
So, you need to be careful and pick a solution that helps you cut through the noise and offer fast customer service. The following features can help you do that:
|Social streams||Keep tabs of mentions that are directed at you along with the ones that are not|
|Routing based on keywords||Automatically notify agents about pressing issues reported on Twitter|
|Keyword filtering||Cut out all the noise on social media and stay on top of relevant mentions, comments and posts.|
|Reporting||Understand how your team is able to handle social media support tickets|
Example: Sprout Social helps you take a proactive approach to social media customer service and have personalized customer interactions across all social media channels.
Pricing starts from: $99 per user per month, when billed monthly
#5 Chatbot solution
In a world of instant gratification, it’s no surprise that customers want brands to offer immediate solutions when they run into an issue.
However, expecting your support team to offer instant responses and resolutions at all times is unfair, considering that they have been dealing with significantly increased ticket volumes since last year (71% of customer service leaders in the US saw increased overall contact volume since February 20203).
With a customer service chatbot, you can offer immediate responses to customer questions, and augment your agents’ role in creating great experiences. Companies with a chatbot have a first response time six hours faster than competitors without them, on average.4
Here are the features your support bot solution needs to have:
|No-code chatbot builder||Design and deploy a chatbot without any tech assistance|
|AI and ML-powered||Deliver intent-based and comprehensive solutions|
|Omnichannel capabilities||Deploy your chatbot across different messaging channels within a single click|
|Customization capabilities||Make your chatbot match your brand’s identity|
|Multilingual capabilities||Deploy the same chatbot in different languages|
|Third party integrations||Build robust automated workflows with inputs and data from external applications|
Example: Freddy AI for CX is an artificial intelligence engine that is built to enable businesses to transform their customer service with instant zero-touch resolutions.
Pricing starts from: $100 for 1000 sessions per month
#6 Knowledge base software
With 66% of customers preferring to start their support journeys with self-service5, getting a knowledge base software for your business is non-negotiable.
A knowledge base is a collection of FAQs, help guides, and other important information that enables your customers to find answers to questions on their own. A robust self-service portal can help you deflect up to 40% of your tickets6, and is useful for lean as well as large customer service teams.
In addition to helping customers and increasing ticket deflection, a knowledge base can also be used for internal documentation. An internal knowledge base helps your agents find all the information they need including helpful resources, and company policies.
Here’s are the features that will guide you to pick the best knowledge base software:
|Article templates||Standardize the process of creating articles|
|Article versioning||Track all the edits made on your articles and restore the best version|
|Article approval workflow||Ensure that no articles are published without review|
|Multilingual capabilities||Offer self-help in various customer languages|
|Feedback and analytics||Monitor the performance of each article and improve your quality based on customer feedback|
|Easy navigation||Improve customer self-service experience|
Example: GetGuru is a one-stop knowledge management tool for both internal and external use-cases. In their own words, Guru can be your company’s wiki.
Pricing starts from: $0 up to 10 users, when billed annually
#7 Video conferencing/recording solution
Recorded videos and live video chat are quite powerful in customer service today. In fact, 72% of customers prefer video over text when learning about a product or service.7 This proves that the effort that goes into building a video library with walkthroughs and how-to videos will pay off.
The combination of live video chat plus screen share enables agents to build customer relationships while simultaneously solving the problem in real-time. This reduces the back-and-forth that comes with live chat or email and helps agents create personalized experiences.
Look for the features given below while choosing a video solution for your team:
Features for live video chat
|No time limit||Make sure that the entire solution is communicated without any hassles|
|Screen sharing||Show how something is done in your product|
|Remote access and control||Check or fix issues on your customer’s side|
Pricing starts from: $19 for one seat per 1 session, per month, when billed annually
Features for recorded videos
|Easy video recording and editing options||Create and launch videos in no time|
|Multichannel deployment||Seamless distribution across channels|
|Built-in reports||Measure the performance of your videos|
Example: Wistia, an all-in-one video recording, editing, and distribution channel will really “let your videos do the work”.
Pricing starts from: $0 per month
#8 Collaboration and communication tool
Collaboration is a vital aspect of customer support — you need to work with multiple teams such as billing, engineering, and even sales to get your customers’ issues resolved.
To collaborate efficiently, it’s important that all stakeholders involved have the same customer information and the right context. This is all the more important in a remote work scenario where you can’t walk over to your colleague’s desk and work on customer requests together.
Collaborating with context is easier when collaboration features are baked into your customer support software. However, if that’s not your case, then here are the features that will help you pick the best one for your team:
|Integration with your customer service solution||Empower all agents to access the collaboration tool right within your support tool|
|Search functionality||Find a team, a particular colleague, or a past conversation easily|
|File sharing||Share files and documents within a few clicks|
|Mobile app||Collaborate on-the-go|
Example: Slack is an easy-to-use and robust collaboration and communication tool that is loved by businesses of all sizes.
Pricing starts from: $6.67 per person, per month, when billed yearly
#9 Reporting and analytics software
With a good reporting and analytics tool, you can monitor trends in ticket volume, agent productivity, and customer satisfaction and make improvements to your support strategy accordingly.
You also need a dashboard to keep tabs on the happenings of your ticketing system.
Given below is a list of features that will help you pick the right reporting and analytics tool:
|Live and customizable dashboard||Monitor ticket queues and ensure that nothing goes haywire|
|Pre-built reports||Measure key metrics on the fly|
|Advanced analytics||Slice and dice data to dive deeper and get the insights you want|
|Report exports||Use data in a third-party analytics tool, or present or project relevant data in meetings|
|Robust integration||Retrieve all the data necessary for number crunching from your customer service software|
Example: Klipfolio is a customizable reporting automation tool that will help you measure all your data in a single place.
Pricing starts from: $49 per month for 5 users, when billed annually
#10 Customer feedback software
A customer feedback tool is essential to keep track of how customers feel about your business and service.
Gathering customer feedback gives you a reality check by throwing light on areas of improvement in addition to highlighting the things that you are doing well.
Here are the features to look for while choosing your customer feedback software:
|Integration with your customer service software||Trigger feedback forms without jumping between tools|
|Range of scales (2,3,5,7)||Get a comprehensive understanding of your customers’ experience|
|Option include open ended questions||Gather your customers’ thoughts and suggestions|
|Multilingual capabilities||Ensure that language does not pose barriers to customer feedback|
Example: Nicereply helps you measure key customer satisfaction metrics such as CSAT, NPS, and CES using customizable forms.
Pricing starts from: $39 per month, for 3 agents, when billed annually
#11 Community forum software
A community forum is where customers gather to share their ideas and feedback, and also help each other out.
These discussion boards are packed with interesting insights that are helpful to you and your customers. You can run beta-testing programs, get feedback or feature requests and share this valuable information with your product team and other teams in your organization.
The following features help ensure that you’re offering a great experience with your community:
|Content categories||Bucket topics to make it easy for customers to find relevant help or interact with one another.|
|Customization||Make your forums an extension of your brand|
|Forum moderation||Moderate and answer questions with ease|
|Access and restriction controls||Prevent spamming|
|Search functionality||Enable customers to find topics or threads easily|
Example: MyBB is a free and open source forum software that you can use to build your community. The best part about MyBB is that it is a multilingual platform.
Pricing starts from: $0 (free)
#12 Website monitoring software
Using a website monitoring software, you can publish a status updates page that helps you keep your customers up to date with the status of your systems and operations.
A status page is a step you can take towards building a proactive customer service strategy and deflecting tickets.
Features to look for while choosing a website monitoring software:
|Real-time and global updates||Ensure that all issues are flagged immediately|
|Third-party integrations||Offer multichannel alerts|
|Reports and analytics||Get periodic updates and measure your website’s performance with metrics like apdex score, average response time, and individual response time|
Example: Freshping is a website monitoring software that offers real-time updates on the channels of your choice.
Pricing starts from: $0 for 50 checks
Bonus: 3 customer service tools that are a must-have for support agents
#13 Writing/grammar tool
Customer service agents have to craft multiple responses throughout the day. No matter how many times a message is proof-read or no matter how careful an agent is to avoid typos, a few mistakes are bound to occur.
Even if customers choose to overlook them, these small errors could reflect poorly on you. However, with a writing/grammar tool that highlights mistakes and suggests improvements, agents will not have to worry about these typos and mistakes.
Example: Grammarly is a writing tool that does all of the above. The tool can even be added as a plug-in on your browser and can suggest recommendations on multiple applications.
Pricing starts from: $0 with the free Chrome plugin
#14 Annotation app
Customer service reps often attach a screenshot that complements the response they’ve crafted.
However, in order to make the screenshot truly helpful to the customer, support reps need to add highlights and annotations. Doing this helps the customer by bringing their attention to the part that they need to focus on.
So, an application that allows support reps to crop, highlight, and annotate images is a must-have.
Example: Skitch is an annotating application from Evernote that helps you get your point across with fewer words using annotation, shapes and sketches.
Pricing starts from: $0
#15 Agent assist bot
Staying on top of different ticket queues, and performing complex backend processes are alone enough to tire a support agent. Doing this day in and day out can even lead to burnout.
In order to prevent agent burnout, agents need their own assistant that can help reduce their workload. For instance, an agent assist bot is a customer service tool that is like an assistant to your agents.
The assist bot can fetch the right resource that needs to be plugged into the response, automate backend workflows, and also guide agents through troubleshooting sessions.
Example: Freddy AI for CX offers an agent-facing AI that you can use to deploy a powerful and versatile assistant for your customer support team.
Pricing starts from: $75, per agent per month + $500 for 5000 sessions when billed monthly
Offer top-notch customer service with the right set of support tools
The tools you choose determines how your team can perform. If you compromise on your tools, you’re indirectly compromising on your team’s efficiency and your customers’ happiness.
So equip your team with the best tools so they can create memorable customer experiences without worrying about their workload.
What is your favorite customer service tool? Which tool according to you is crucial to the success of a team? Let us know in the comments below. We’d love to hear from you.
1 – https://www.freshworks.com/the-new-cx-mandate/
2 – https://cdncom.cfigroup.com/wp-content/uploads/CFI-contact-center-satisfaction-index-2019.pdf
3 – https://www.freshworks.com/the-new-cx-mandate/us/
4 – https://freshdesk.com/customer-happiness-benchmark-report
5 – https://info.microsoft.com/rs/157-GQE-382/images/2018StateofGlobalCustomerServiceReport.pdf
6 – https://freshdesk.com/self-service-portal/holiday-season-rush-blog/
7 – https://www.smallbizgenius.net/by-the-numbers/video-marketing-statistics
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