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3 Options for Non-Traditional Customer Support

Remember customer support back in the day? Back when if you needed help you either dug through an instruction manual or called a support number and waited for a very long time to speak to a person? Thankfully that’s not the case anymore. As customer support evolves, the number of ways a consumer can get the answers they need have greatly increased. With email support, live chat support, social support, SMS support, etc. the decision of which customer support channel to use can actually be overwhelming for some companies.

It’s important that you meet customers where they are and make support as easy and convenient as possible. However, offering support on multiple channels can actually put a huge strain on your support staff. So what do you choose? It depends on your customers. Here are some best practices and guidelines for non-traditional support channels that will help make the decision easier.

Social Support

In the case of social media, sometimes not offering support can mean a poor customer experience. Or worse, losing that customer because you didn’t get back to them. If you have a Facebook page and a Twitter account, it’s inevitable that you will be contacted by a customer with a question or concern.

When it comes to social support, the question should be how will you handle it rather than whether or not you will offer it. We’ve all heard horror stories of angry customers taking to Twitter or repeatedly commenting on a company’s Facebook page until they get a response. One thing you definitely don’t want to do is leave your social media channels unattended. Whether it’s a support person, marketing person, or dedicated community manager, someone should be assigned the task of paying attention to your social media channels and responding if/when necessary.

Take a hard look at how often you are contacted on social media to decide whether or not you need a full blown social support strategy. If it’s rare, there are systems you can set up to redirect the customer to your support team. For example, setting your Facebook messenger to “away” during off hours and creating some canned messaging for whoever monitors your social media.

Best Practices

Here are some best practices for handling customer support on social media.  

  • Take a deep dive into your brand mentions to learn how frequently they occur, at what times, and what types of comments/messages you receive (i.e. frustrated in-the-moment, technical questions, feedback related) and create a support strategy around the information you find.
  • For high volume support requests on Twitter, consider setting up a specific handle for customer support. For example @[comany name]_Support
  • Pay attention to mentions of your company name beyond tags on Facebook and Twitter so that you can catch people who may need help from support.
  • If you have a high volume of support requests or needs on social channels, consider investing in a Help Desk that integrates with social media.
  • Speed of response is critical on social media. In many cases, customers resort to social media channels when they are not getting a response from other methods.
  • Create boilerplate responses for specific channels.
  • Always take an issue offline as soon as possible by asking the customer to message, DM, or email directly.
  • Once an issue is resolved, return to the social channel to thank them for contacting you or giving you feedback.
  • Unless someone is spamming you or being offensive, do not delete or hide comments, posts, or tweets. It sends a message that you either don’t care or are trying to hide from negative feedback.
  • Know the difference between an angry customer and a troll who is only out to damage your reputation. Don’t engage with trolls.

Tools to Check Out

Many Help Desks have social media integrations (for example, Zendesk). If you already use a Help Desk, start by looking into their social support options. Other tools to check out are:

SMS Support

SMS stands for Short Message Service and it works like a text message. SMS support is not the most common support channel, but for some companies, it can be extremely effective.

SMS support can provide a proactive approach to support that other channels just don’t have. It works great for companies that offer delivery services, online ordering, or offer services through a mobile app. The most common uses for this type of support include appointment reminders, important notifications, time sensitive alerts, and order status updates. A good rule of thumb is if your customer is interacting with your business through an app, SMS support is something that should be looked into.

Best Practices

Here are some best practices for using this type of support channel.

  • Don’t use SMS to spam your users or customers with marketing promotions. Make sure there is value in every message you send.
  • Have a clear call to action. For example, “Respond with Yes or No” or “Please rate your experience 1 being terrible 5 being excellent”
  • Be human using plain, conversational language.
  • Add a little personalization by including the person’s name or other info.
  • Reach out with reminders or updates on appointments, shipping information, etc. as a way to proactively provide support.
  • In the case of an app, use SMS to prompt users to come back to the app. For example, notifications they need to read, an order that needs to be made, or in-app communication awaiting a timely response.
  • If your message is over 160 characters, combine with email. If your messsage is not urgent and is longer, consider using email over SMS.

Tools to Check Out

SMS Support is offered by many Help Desk. If you already use a Help Desk, start by looking at the integrations and tools that service provides. Here are some other tools to check out.


Live Chat Support

Live chat support is often used by ecommerce and SAAS businesses and can have a huge impact on your bottom line. According to Forrester, live chat can reduce cart abandon rates, increase average order, and increase customer satisfaction.

Before deciding on a live chat option, take a look at your web traffic versus your resources to make sure live chat makes sense for your company. Some things to consider before deciding are:

  • Your daily website traffic
  • The average spend per visitor.
  • How many conversions you need to cover the cost of live support.
  • Whether you have the staff to run an additional support channel.

Best Practices

Here are some best practices to consider when using live chat support.

  • Be proactive while website visitors are browsing your website. Users don’t mind getting chat prompts that welcome them to the site and offer up help or to answer questions.
  • Use short cuts to be more efficient with your time.
  • Customers expect a quicker first response time over other support channels so be ready with a canned welcome response at first contact.
  • Give your complete attention to the person you are chatting with.
  • Start the chat with a cheerful greeting.
  • Read the chat subject and message fully to make sure you understand what the person is asking or needs.
  • In the case of multiple queries, address one question at a time as to not overwhelm the person on the other end.
  • If a response is going to take time, let the customer know that you need to ask a supervisor or do some additional research.
  • Use simple and clear language.
  • Share any related documentation that will help a customer solve their problem or learn more about how to use your app, website, or product.

Tools to Check Out

As with other non-traditional support channels, most Help Desks provide live chat integrations. If you already use a Help Desk, be sure to check there first. Here are some other tools to check out:




Twilio live chat API (for the developers out there)


Adding additional support channels is a big step. Before you make a decision, take a hard look at your metrics and customer behaviors. The last thing you want to do is put a strain on your support staff that doesn’t really add to the customer experience. One great way to tell if your customers will appreciate an additional support channel is to ask! Send out a survey and do some research before pouring resources into a new tool.

Tags: support channels, non-traditional support, SMS support, Live Chat, Social Media Support, Social Care


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Also published on Medium.

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