The Best Customer Support Software for Your Team in 2021
Customer support software helps businesses provide a better customer experience. And better experiences mean happier customers—ones that are more loyal, less likely to churn, and more willing to recommend your business to people they know.
This article will explore what customer support software is and then highlight some of the most popular solutions.
What is customer support software?
Customer support software is the tool businesses use to provide great customer service. It helps teams manage communication across different channels, provides the right data to help support teams, and ultimately makes supporting customers easier.
Common types of support tools include:
- Community software helps businesses build customer support communities.
- Helpdesk software organizes customer tickets from multiple communication channels in a single inbox.
- Knowledge base software is a way to provide self-service support to users.
- Cloud contact center software enables you to offer phone-based support to customers without the need for a dedicated call center.
- Customer relationship management (CRM) software stores your customer data and needs to be in sync with other support solutions for contextual support.
Most customer support teams use multiple types of software. These cover different uses and channels. When choosing tools for your team, consider the specific challenges you are facing.
- If you’re dealing with a high volume of tickets, use a knowledge base or community software to deflect customer support tickets.
- If you struggle to keep up with support tickets from various platforms, choose help desk software that organizes different channels into a single dashboard.
- If you want to offer phone support, cloud contact center software makes it easy and cost-effective.
Be aware that customer support software isn’t always clearly segmented into the above categories. You may not need separate solutions for each use case. Ticketing solutions often have some form of CRM built-in, while cloud contact center software may also provide support for live chat or email communication.
Benefits of customer support software
Customer support software benefits all those involved, including customers, agents, and business leaders.
- Customers get an improved support experience on the channels they like to use. They spend less time waiting and get access to better answers.
- Agents can access more information about customers and common problems. It’s easier for them to provide helpful support.
- Business leaders can manage more customers and customer support queries without spending big on more support staff—making scaling easier.
The best customer support software
These are 11 of our favorite customer support tools. We use some of them at Tribe, while others are those we’ve heard great things about.
Tribe: for customer communities
Tribe enables businesses to build powerful communities that customers use to connect with brands as well as peers.
These spaces are similar to social media groups or forums, except you have complete control. You can add your branding, choose which features and integrations to offer, and retain complete control over your data.
Brands use community software in many ways: from creating and storing support resources to building ideation and collaboration hubs.
However, they are especially powerful when used for customer support.
On a basic level, these communities are another channel for customers to connect with agents and other customers to get help and learn best practices. Customers ask questions in the group, and members (including the internal team) answer them.
But most engaged customer communities go way beyond this. They are powerful self-service support hubs that customers use to solve their problems without contacting your team.
This happens in three ways:
- When customers ask a question, other members are ready to provide an answer and share expertise.
- Answered community questions contribute to a searchable library that customers can use for self-service support.
- Important documents are highlighted within the dedicated community space so customers know where they can access self-service help.
Here’s how it works in the Tribe community.
Tribe has an active customer community that we use to help and educate customers.
Specifically, coming to customer support, members comment when they have a question, and one of our team or another member answers. You can see a recently answered question in the screenshot below.
These past customer requests have resulted in an extensive library of solved customer issues. Customers can use these to find answers to their questions and further improve tribal knowledge.
Imagine a user wants to know how to delete a user from their community. They’d head to the Tribe community and search for this query.
As you can see in the image below, the search bar shows several of the most relevant posts.
Clicking on the top one shows the answer to the question.
While the answer was created two years ago, it’s still available to help users who want this information now. You can even integrate these user-generated questions and answers into your knowledge base.
Support tickets show up alongside material you created, proving a comprehensive resource. Here is how one of Tribe’s customers, Octorate has integrated the community content via the search function available inside the product.
Compare this to the process in which customers create a support ticket on a help desk. The answer helps only a single customer. The support team would have to deal with this question every time someone wanted an answer.
This means the community benefits both the customer, who gets a fast answer to their question, and the customer support team, which doesn’t have to deal with as many tickets.
Tribe has several pricing plans available for companies at different stages. The free plan lets you create a community with essential features for 500 members. Plans for unlimited users start at $99 per month.
Intercom: for business messaging
Intercom is a business messenger that helps customers connect with your support team through chat widgets installed on your website or app. It also acts as an inbox for other channels such as social media or email.
The software stands out because the widgets go way beyond connecting the customer to your business. You can also add access to self-service documents that take the strain from your support team.
For example, you can:
- Enable live chat and offer real-time help directly via support agents
- Let users search your knowledge base and community for answers to their questions.
- Provide links to documents and resources that are relevant to the page the user is viewing.
- Add automated chatbots that help users find answers.
Intercom’s central support theme is based on conversational support.
We use Intercom at Tribe. One of the main reasons for which we love this solution is because of the way it integrates with our community.
It does this in two main ways:
Provides automated answers
You can set up the Intercom search bar so that user-generated community content shows up in the Intercom Messenger. The person searching doesn’t have to be a community member to benefit.
Remember the question about deleting users from above? It also shows up in the Intercom widget on our site. Clicking the post takes the person searching to the customer community.
The image below shows how it works.
Syncs user profiles
You can also sync community user profiles with Intercom contacts. It stores both contact properties and the actions members take in your community in Intercom contacts.
This gives your customer support team in-depth data on customers (e.g., previously browsed solutions), helping them provide quality support relevant to their needs—no matter which platform they use.
These points make Intercom a robust customer support tool.
Intercom has four main pricing plans. The basic chat and messaging plan starts at $59 per month. Plans with automated workflows, bots, and reporting start at $499 per month. There are several optional extras you can purchase that will drive the price up further.
Freshdesk: for omnichannel helpdesk
Freshdesk is powerful helpdesk software. Customer support teams use it to streamline communication on multiple platforms from a single inbox.
You can connect with customers via:
- Messaging apps like WhatsApp and Facebook.
- Website chat widgets.
The software creates a customer ticket in the dashboard when a customer contacts you on any connected channel.
If the customer’s contact details match a profile in your system, the conversation will be mapped to an existing user. This gives support agents helpful customer data they can use to provide better service.
Here’s how it works:
Imagine an existing customer sends you a message on Whatsapp. As you have their phone number stored in your system, this will show up as a ticket in your dashboard connected to the user’s account.
The support rep who answers the ticket will see the customer’s previous communication with your business on other channels. This lets the agent continue the conversation on the new platform, and the customer doesn’t have to repeat their issue.
Freshdesk has a limited free plan. More advanced plans start at $15 per agent per month and go up to $99 per agent per month. You can test out the software with a free trial.
HubSpot: for Customer Relationship Management
HubSpot offers a suite of Marketing and Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software. The tool is best known for its sales and marketing solutions. But there is also a version built especially for customer support called Service Hub.
Service Hub provides many features that help with customer service management. These include:
- Helpdesk and ticketing.
- Live chat.
- Knowledge base.
- Customer management.
- A universal inbox.
Service Hub stands out due to its powerful automation features.
For example, you can add automatic routing to tickets that prioritize critical issues. This ensures your team can deal with these first.
Or you can set up automated email responses that contact customers in predefined situations. You could send out a message if your team hasn’t responded to a request within a specific time frame.
Hubspot also makes it easy for teams to track crucial customer service metrics. There are surveys for Customer Satisfaction (CSAT), Customer Effort (CES), or Net Promoter Score (NPS).
Hubspot Service Hub offers a limited free plan. Paid plans start at $45 a month, with the professional plan costing $360 a month.
Document360: for searchable knowledge bases
Document360 is standalone knowledge base software your customer service team can use to build searchable self-service support resources.
Some of the other customer service solutions on this list have knowledge base software built-in. But your team may benefit from a dedicated solution.
The software has everything you’d expect a knowledge base to offer.
- It’s easy for your team to create articles.
- There are plenty of branding options.
- It has real-time search so customers can easily find answers to questions.
- The knowledge bases are responsive—they look equally good on mobile and desktop.
- There are many navigation and categorization options.
- You can integrate it with your other tools, for example, by adding customer community questions.
The features related to analytics and customer feedback stand out.
You can let users rate and provide feedback on your articles. This will show you when customers want more information on a topic or if a particular piece of content is confusing.
Use this feedback to improve your articles based on the information customers need.
Document360 starts at $49 per month for two team accounts and up to 5 GB of storage. Its business plan costs $149 per month and provides extra features, including the ability to create a private knowledge base.
SurveyMonkey: powerful customer surveys
SurveyMonkey is a customer service tool that makes it easy to create surveys. Use it to generate insight into your customer experience. This is important because without knowing the problems customers are facing, it’s hard to support them.
The software has templates for many customer support-related uses. Check out the customer satisfaction template pictured below.
This helps you survey customers about recent support experiences. If many customers report low satisfaction levels, finding out why will let you take steps to improve service.
SurveyMonkey also helps you discover your Customer Effort Score, which measures how difficult users find dealing with your company, and your Net Promoter Score, which measures how likely customers are to recommend your business to people they know.
It’s easy to gather all your comments in one place and share your results. You can also filter and analyze the data you’ve collected in a way that makes it easy to process. This is where SurveyMonkey stands out!
Industry benchmarks are another cool feature. Access these from within the dashboard to compare your survey results with industry standards.
SurveyMonkey has three pricing plans. The cheapest is $25 per user per month with a minimum of three users.
LiveAgent: for contact centers
LiveAgent is customer support software with several products for different needs.
- A ticketing system that lets you manage multiple channels—email, chat, social media, calls—in a single dashboard.
- A live chat tool that lets you set up a widget on your website so customers can connect to your team.
- A knowledge base that customers can use for self-service support.
Where it stands out is in its contact center management software. It uses the Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) to let your team answer support calls directly from their browser.
Other helpful contact center features include an IVR you can use to automatically answer calls, call back requests so that customers don’t have to wait on hold, and call recording.
There’s also a useful reporting dashboard that highlights metrics such as agent availability and agent rating.
The tool has plenty of pricing options. From a free account for one user with limited features to an all-inclusive plan with all of the features mentioned above for $39 per agent per month.
Gong: for improving service quality
Gong is a unique tool that analyzes your customer interactions and provides actionable advice about how reps can improve. The software works on phone calls, email, and video calls.
It’s an excellent tool for sales teams. But it can also provide advice to customer support.
Talk ratio is a standout feature. It shows how long a rep spends talking during a call. This can highlight when it may be better for individual agents to talk less (or more) while dealing with customers.
Tracking calls made during the sales process has other benefits, too.
- Customer support teams can see all sales cycle contact and use this to provide more relevant information.
- If a rep struggles with a customer problem, they can search through previous calls to see how other agents dealt with the issue.
Gong doesn’t advertise pricing, but you can request a demo via the website.
Sprout Social: for managing social accounts
Sprout Social is a customer service tool that specializes in helping you manage social engagement.
The main feature is that it integrates all your social network profiles into a single stream. From the all-in-one dashboard, you can view and respond to messages.
This can help improve response times if your team gets overwhelmed due to switching between different social platforms.
Other features include:
- Spike alerts that notify your team when there is an increase in message volume. This can help them stay on top of unexpected issues. For example, if your website or product is down.
- Review management helps you view and manage reviews on Facebook, Google My Business, and Trip Advisor.
- Chatbots automate message responses and help customers solve common issues.
- Task assignment lets customer support managers delegate messages to team members.
Sprout Social also has all the reporting, contact management, and integration features you’d expect.
The tool starts at $99 per user per month and allows you to manage five social profiles. There is a Professional plan that costs $149 per user per month and lets you manage 10 profiles and an Advanced plan that adds extra features for $249 per month.
Channels: for easy phone support
Channels app enables small businesses to set up a dedicated line for phone support. It does through an easy-to-use web and mobile app.
To get started, you connect the app to your existing number. When customers call you, it shows up on the app. You can answer customer calls wherever you are.
The software has plenty of advanced features:
- When an existing customer calls you, you’ll see their information from within the app. You (or your team member) can jump straight into solving the problem.
- The app-based system means it’s a great choice for remote teams. You can offer customer support anywhere.
- Add a click-to-call widget to your site that makes it easy for people to speak to a rep.
- The app can record and store conversations.
- You can make outbound calls and even route them through a local number to increase the chance of someone answering.
- Outbound SMS.
Plans start at $15 per user per month and for this, you get all basic functionality, including a free phone number, SMS, one integration, and the ability to queue up to five callers.
Other plans cost up to $39 per user per month and offer IVR, more integrations, and fewer limits.
FocalScope: for email management
FocalScope is software that provides solutions for email, phone, and chat support.
Its email tool provides several features that simplify email ticket management. For example, the shared inbox ensures multiple reps don’t respond to the same request, while threads ensure that email replies stay in the same ticket.
Another interesting feature is the ability to create rules that filter emails. The software will automatically scan your emails for keywords and then prioritize and assign tickets based on these results.
FocalScope also offers solutions for live chat. Just add a widget to your website or app to enable real-time conversation.
The phone system software has:
- An IVR system that routes customers to the right agent.
- The ability for customers to schedule callbacks on your website.
- Call recording.
FocalScope has two pricing options. The basic plan costs $9 per agent per month (minimum two agents) and includes email ticketing and live chat features. The $39 per month plan adds more reporting, higher limits, social support, and more.
The best customer service software depends on your needs
There is software available to help with pretty much every aspect of customer support, from dealing with customer tickets to increasing self-service options.
When choosing software for your team, consider the channels customers use to connect with your business, the things you struggle with, and how the software will help.
Also, think about how each tool integrates into your existing workflow. Many of the tools on this list offer extensive integrations with other software you may already use.