Best Customer Service Software for Small Business

best customer service for small business

When you’re running a small business, every choice matters.

You want to count every $ you make but, above all, every $ you spend. Therefore, it’s important to choose what’s really important. What’s essential.

And we can all agree that customer service is an essential part of every business. No matter how big or small. 

So, to help you make a smart choice in regards to your customer service, we’ll outline why you should invest in customer service software, what factors to take into account when choosing one, and which one to actually choose.

After reading this piece, you’ll be ready to sign up for a few trials and later build your *fault-proof* customer service software stack.

Ready for the takeoff?

Table of contents:

  1. Why you should invest in customer service software as a small business
  2. What factors to consider when choosing customer service software for small business
  3. Best customer service software for small businesses
  4. Recommended customer service software stack for small business

Why you should invest in customer service software as a small business

At the beginning of our journey through the world of customer service software, we’re going to get through a few important reasons why you should even bother.

Like we said in the introduction, every choice matters, and every $ counts. 

So first, let’s make it clear why you should make these choices and spend these $.

Better customer experience

Customer experience is a broad term used in marketing, design, and sales. Yet, the overall meaning stays the same and it is the feeling that customers get when they interact with your company and your product.

Customer service plays a big role in customer experience. 

And that’s because nowadays, people don’t necessarily wait for something to break until they get in touch with your brand. No.

Customers require on-demand contact since day 0, e.g. when they first enter your website.

Customer service solutions help you make that connection happen. This leads not only to a better experience, but also a higher chance of someone becoming your customer in the first place!

Improved business presence

Some things are nice to have, others are considered a necessity.

Customer service lands in the second group.

Building even the simplest omnichannel customer service stack will help you create the necessary business presence that will make your prospects (and later customers) feel that they’re doing business with an actual and trustworthy company.

Besides that, customer service can be your way to build that business presence in the first place. How?

Well, for example, our company, Channels, praises itself for being available 24/7/365 through the phone, email, live chat, and social media. Not every business can say that you can call them anytime you want. Plus, we offer customer support in three different languages!

Find your way to stand out and voila. You’ve just made customer service work as a differentiator from the horde of thousands of copy-paste brands!

Ever-soaring retention

We’ve touched on that in the previous point but the topic of retention is worth repeating a few things over.

Namely, keeping clients once you have them is key for any small business. And that’s why you should be fighting for a high retention rate.

Customer service software (a good one) is a great way to bring those numbers up. Being always there for your customer, when they need you and how they need you is a #1 way to make them stay.

It also creates the feeling of care and satisfaction that are key to keeping the retention rate high while lowering the ugly churn monster.

What factors to consider when choosing customer service software for small business

Now that we’ve made it successfully through the Why Zone, let’s focus on what’s important after you make a decision to build your brand new customer service software stack.

And these are the factors that you should take into account while choosing such tools.

Keeping a pulse on these few details can help you get a better deal that will then help you save a few $ while maintaining the reliability of your choices.

Price

First and foremost is the price.

And we’re not going to say that you should go for the lowest available option. No.

The point of taking price into account is to get the best quality-to-price ratio.

Some tools are priced for large companies and enterprises. Therefore, it makes sense for them to bump up the smallest packages by a few $. There’s no need to go there as a small business.

Instead, you should be looking for customer service tools that offer pricing options tailored to a business like yours. 

This may mean that an option you choose doesn’t offer what a 3x-price option provides but covers your current essentials. And that’s way better than overpaying for what you won’t be using.

Ease of use

Anything that’s clunky and unintuitive is a big red ❌ on our list.

Small businesses move fast, they often let employees go and try to build the best possible team. This means that there’s no room for lengthy onboarding or costly training sessions.

Choosing a tool that’s easy to use and intuitive will help your new hires get quick started. Plus, even when an outsider (think: developer, marketer, etc.) would have to take care of a specific client, they could get what is what in a few minutes.

Reliability

This is the factor that’s important no matter the size of your business.

Customer service is what brings reliability to your business but that’s also the same thing that can take it away.

If (God forbid) you go for a tool that keeps on breaking, you’ll get more 1-star reviews compared to if you didn’t have such software at all.

Choose software that offers industry-appropriate uptime and that’s free of reviews mentioning bugs, crashes, and unreliable service.

Take precautions now so you don’t have to cure later.

Flexibility

One word that’s familiar with small businesses? Fast.

Small businesses move fast and operate on-the-go. A lot of changes, volatile environment, pivots right and left.

Because that’s how small businesses operate, you should factor that into your software choices.

Customer service tools have been for long clunky, hardware-included systems that used to chain you to your desk. Luckily, now there are tons of options that will let you operate in the exact way your work style and your business requires you to.

Still, make sure a tool you choose comes with solutions that meet your flexibility-oriented needs.

Scalability

This factor broadly ties into the aspect of price.

And that’s because you want to make the best decision price-wise, not to pay for what you don’t use.

“But Jakub!” – you may say. “How do you know we’re not going to need that in a month or two?!”

“I don’t.” – I’d answer with a zen-like peace.

“The thing is you don’t have to know that either!” – now in a “The Wolf of Wall Street” Leonardo DiCaprio style.

The only thing that you have to know is that you choose customer service software that lets you scale as you grow.

Choose the solution that offers several pricing options that will cover your next steps and therefore greater needs. There’s really no need to go for the biggest package while you’ll be using it as a 2x cheaper one.

Make sure your software is ready for your business’ growth.

Best customer service software for small businesses

Now we’re at the final stage of our journey.

You know Why and How. Thus, it’s time to reveal the What.

And our what is the best customer service software for small businesses. You’ll get a full list of all kinds of software along with their price, key features, and a short description.

These details should help you make the best choice while building your new, shiny customer service software stack.

Phone system – Channels

Channels is a data-driven phone system that lets you provide exceptional over-the-phone customer service. 

Of course, just to mention, we’re Channels so our opinion can be biased but we truly believe we’re the fresh air in a rather aged company of regular phone systems.

The main differentiating factor is that Channels shows you all of your customers’ details before each call. That happens through a neat solution called the Customer Card that gives you access to such events as past calls, call recordings, or their latest orders.

No more interview-like phone calls. Only “damn, I’m glad I chose a phone to get in contact with you guys!”

And, of course, you’ll find all the necessary features of a business phone system like an IVR, virtual phone numbers, or call distribution rules.

Price: $15/month+

Start your free trial here.

Key features:

  • Various integrations
  • Chrome extension
  • IVR/auto-attendant system
  • Mobile app
  • 24/7/365 customer service
  • Scalable pricing
  • Free incoming calls
  • Local, international, and toll-free phone numbers

On-site chat – LiveChat

On-site live chats are now what phone and email have been 10 years ago. Namely, a necessity.

Now, tools like LiveChat made their way to the canon of customer service tools, and not including one would be a mistake.

So why LiveChat?

First of all, it’s a very reliable chat tool. Companies like Adobe or McDonald’s use their software so there’s no room for downtime.

Secondly, their tool is very user-friendly and you can learn its ins and outs in a matter of minutes rather than hours or days.

On top of the regular live chat, you get a customizable chatbot, Messenger (Facebook communication), and ticketing system for your email communication.

Price: $16/month+

Start your free trial here

Key features:

  • Web, mobile, and desktop apps
  • Various integrations
  • Can also work as a sales solution
  • AI automation
  • 24/7 customer support

Customer service CRM – HubSpot

A CRM is likely the best way to stay on top of everything that’s going on in your customer service department.

Seeing all the closed cases and the ones that are ongoing will help you to properly balance the workforce and prioritize one customer issue over another.

And one of such systems is HubSpot and their Service Hub.

Service Hub is a cluster of various customer service tools but, most importantly, it serves as a contact management platform and ticketing system. You can set it up so that every new customer service issue lands in there and goes through your very own pipeline. 

This is to assure you and the rest of your team that you’re on your way to solve any current and future issue that is there.

And it happens that HubSpot offers native integration with Channels if you’d like to go for both of these tools. This means that every customer support call will become a separate ticket. Hassle-free and convenient!

Price: Free+

Start your free trial here.

Key features:

  • Ticketing
  • Contact management
  • Dashboards
  • Ticket pipelines
  • Various integrations

Social media – Buffer

Long gone are times when social media was for posting pictures of your dogs and cats and keeping everyone updated on what you had for breakfast (now, Instagram serves that purpose).

Now, social media (for businesses) is a sales, marketing, and *most importantly* customer service channel.

Staying on top of every mention and putting out content that’s helpful and informative is a way to go for the 21st-century-ready business.

Here, we offer Buffer. It’s an industry player that has been there and done that. They offer a very reliable and intuitive solution that lets you operate all of your social media accounts from one spot.

Plus, Buffer makes it possible to get the month’s work of posting done in one day through their scheduling tool. On top of that, they let you analyze your results and performance of each of your posts.

Price: $12/month+

Start your free trial here.

Key features:

  • Mobile app
  • Scheduling calendar
  • Reports and data
  • Visual planner

Knowledge Base – Zendesk Guide

Most customers want to ‘get it done’ for themselves by one of the customer service reps.

Yet, most doesn’t mean every. And the rest of your audience who prefers DIY over D4U needs a so-called self-service solution. Meaning, they can find explanations, tutorials, and guides on how to fix or change something on their own.

The best way to satisfy such customers is to offer a knowledge base. That’s a go-to directory with tons of how-articles, guides, and tutorials that should cover everything from the basics of your product or service to the most nitty-gritty details about it.

Zendesk Guide is a lightweight knowledgebase solution. While it’s not the giant of that industry it also doesn’t cost like one. Still, it lets you build a very reliable, clean, and intuitive knowledge base that your customers will gladly use to DIY their way to the solution.

Heck, even Channels offers a knowledge base built on Zendesk Guide! Take a look at it yourself.

If you want to satisfy the self-serve part of your audience without breaking the bank, Zendesk Guide is the way to go.

Price: $15/month+

Start your free trial here.

Key features:

  • Clean interface
  • Search option
  • Team collaboration
  • Answer bot

Demo scheduling – Calendly

If your small business offers software, then running Demo sessions is (or will be!) your daily bread. 

The best way to optimize the process of booking such demos (no matter if for customer service, sales, or presentations) is through Calendly.

Calendly is a very simple tool that lets you build a meeting calendar that will be accessible to anyone you choose.

All you need to do to set up a meeting with Calendly is to send your calendar link to the client and wait for them to choose the best date and time. The rest will be automated and solved through email. 

Of course, Calendly can be integrated with tools like Zoom or Microsoft Teams so you not only invite someone for a meeting but also give them the exact instructions on how you’re going to ‘meet’.

Price: Free+

Start your free trial here.

Key features:

  • Slick design
  • Crucial integrations
  • Simplicity
  • Customizable schedule

Demos and webinars – Zoom

Booking customers for Demos and video calls is one thing but actually running them is a whole different task.

Zoom lets you do the other part in the best possible way. And the #1 reason why is that the tool is very simple.

Just like with Calendly, you send a link to the other person and wait until both parties connect. No digging into clunky settings, no need to worry about ‘will it work’.

As we’re turning to a more and more remote society (at least business-wise) Zoom has become an industry standard for over-the-video connectivity. This makes it easier to set up a video meeting via Zoom compared to any other tool from such a category.

Price: Free+

Start your free trial here

Key features:

  • Simplicity
  • Email invitations
  • Crucial integrations
  • Social media streaming

Video support – Loom 

Oftentimes it’s easier to show than to describe with words. And the same can be said about fixing certain bugs or tinkering with settings.

Luckily, we’ve come far enough to have customer service tools that will, indeed, help us show instead of writing or talking about the issue.

And that tool is Loom.

Loom works as a Chrome extension that sits there and waits until you want to record your screen. When you do, all it takes to make a pixel-perfect screen recording with voice and personal camera video (if needed) is two clicks. One on the Loom icon and one on the start recording button. That simple!

After you’re done recording your explanation, Loom will automatically generate a link for a video that you can send to your customers and let them watch the explanation.

It’s the peak of easy, isn’t it?

Price: Free+

Start your free trial here.

Key features:

  • Sharable links
  • Chrome extension
  • Free storage
  • Voice recording
  • Personal cam recording
  • Screenshots

Community – Circle

How about we take a step further and offer a more self-serve solution than a knowledge base?

Yes, that’s doable.

How about your customers solving issues for other customers?

No, I’m not crazy.

I’m talking about a community forum that gathers all of your diehard fans and lets them collaborate with each other and find solutions to whatever problems they may have.

Of course, providing such a platform for your customers is not a necessity. Yet, more and more small businesses decide to double-down on a community-first approach as it simply yields great results.

So, if you’re planning on building a community-centric approach to your customer service, Circle is a way to go.

Scalable pricing, customizable options, private spaces, and up to 1,000 members at the lowest pricing plan. Shortly, everything you need!

Price: $39+/month

Start your free trial here.

Key features:

  • Private spaces
  • Memberships
  • Zapier integration
  • Widgets
  • Email notifications
  • In-app chat

Task management – ClickUp

Customer service is not only about making phone calls and chatting with customers.

There are a lot of ongoing tasks with different priorities and workforce assignments. Thus, you need a proper system to keep track of each and every event.

One way to harness this ever-growing pile of tasks is to set up a task management software for your team. And the one we suggest is ClickUp.

Why this choice?

First of all, it’s the very same tool that we use at Channels and it works like a charm.

Secondly, (in case my opinion is not enough) ClickUp truly offers everything a task management tool should offer. You can create your own pipeline, create and assign tasks to team members. Set different priorities, link tasks with one another, attach files, create subtasks, and checklists… The list just goes on and on and on…

In one sentence: you get all you need to make the task go from Open to Done.

Price: Free+

Start your free trial here.

Key features:

  • Tasks priority
  • Task-to-task dependency
  • Slick and intuitive design
  • Email notifications
  • Collaboration features

Suggested software stack for every small business

Besides listing all the tools within different categories, we’d like to give you a ready-to-use recipe for a basic customer service software stack for your small business.

This choice will assure that you cover all the necessary parts and, most importantly, it will allow you to build and add the rest of the tools to what you already have.

So, what’s the perfect combo?

Phone solution + live chat + CRM + video support 

With these picks, you’ll cover anyone who wants to contact your company by phone, chat, email, and social media. Besides that, you’ve got a system that will help you manage all of your customers and take customer issues from In progress -> Solved. And, on top of that, we’ve included the most visual medium for solving customer problems with the help of videos and screenshots.

And what’s the suggested software stack?

Channels + LiveChat + HubSpot Service Hub + Loom

The total cost of such a combo starts at $31/month and covers all the necessities of a small business’ customer service.

Obviously, you’re going to grow and therefore you’ll scale your customer service software stack. The next steps would be to get a knowledge base for more DIY customers (Zendesk Guide) and a social media scheduler (Buffer) to utilize social media not only for marketing and sales but also for customer service.

Even the best customer service software for small business has to come to an end!

And now you know the Why, How, and What.

Depending on the exact type of small business that you run, your preferences and therefore choice may differ.

Yet, the suggested customer service software stack that we’ve outlined should tick off all the boxes for every small business out there. 

Still, with all the knowledge about why you should invest in building your own customer service software stack, factors to take into account while making a choice, and the best customer service software for small businesses out there… Well… You’re bound to win!

You can do it now.

Start with a data-driven phone system. Get Channels now to bring a new dimension to your customer service.

Right now, Channels offers you a 7-day free trial during which you’ll get full access to the software, a free phone number, and a few $$$ so you can fully test it out! No credit card required.

What’s stopping you?