Whether you’re in sales, customer service, marketing, or even a more technical position like engineering, it’s very possible you’ll need to talk with customers at some point. Depending on your discipline, how you communicate with customers could vary dramatically.
For those working in customer support, one-to-one communication tools like help desk or chat software might be best. However, a marketing team may need a communication tool that lets them communicate with a large audience all at once.
Though there are tools that cover multiple customer communication use cases, chances are, your business will have to invest in more than one tool to create a truly exceptional experience for your customers.
15 types of customer communication tools
In this article, we’ll look at 15 types of customer communication tools for you and your team to consider. For each tool type, we dive into common features to look for, use cases for each, and a couple of options to consider in each category.
1. Help desk software
Help desk software serves as a central point to manage, respond to, and track customer conversations from a variety of channels. It’s a tool most commonly used by customer support teams, but other teams like sales or account management may utilize it, too.
Many help desk software options allow you to manage customer conversations from a number of different channels, including email, chat, phone, and social media. That said, not all platforms cover all channels.
As help desk software is a tool commonly used by support teams, it is focused on one-to-one communication and is generally focused on incoming messages. However, you are able to originate a message from a help desk.
Some features to look for in help desk software are:
Collaboration — Things like internal notes make customer conversations go smoothly for everyone involved.
Productivity — Reducing manual tasks like assigning customer conversations gives agents more time to focus on serving instead of sorting.
Reporting — Knowing the areas where you’re excelling and where you’re able to improve can help you build a rock-solid customer support strategy.
If you’re in the market for help desk software, here are a few options to consider:
If you’re interested in diving a bit deeper, check out our guide to choosing the right customer support tool.
2. Live chat software
Sometimes customers need real-time assistance. Though many of us may think of phone support as the solution to that problem, there is another option:** **live chat. Live chat offers the immediacy of phone support, but it allows agents to take multiple conversations at once, making it a bit more malleable and less costly.
Research also shows customers report higher levels of satisfaction from chat interactions when compared to other support channels like email. And that holds true across a number of different industries, so it’s not limited to just one sector.
Along with being a powerful customer support tool, live chat can also help boost sales for your company. In fact, one study found customers who utilized live chat actually spent 60% more on average.
Some features to look for in live chat software are:
Integrations — Chat is generally used in tandem with other tools, so it’s useful to have it connect to other tools like help desk software.
Offline options — Look for tools that have some functionality even when there isn’t a live agent.
Metrics tracking — Focus on things like response times and the number of conversations that have to switch to another channel for resolution.
If you’re on the hunt for live chat software, here are some options to consider:
3. Knowledge base software
If the rise in popularity of self-service tools has taught us anything, it’s this: Customers want options to help themselves. One of the best self-service tools any team can invest in is knowledge base software.
Knowledge base software is used to build and manage a help center where customers can search for and find their own answers. Some are stand-alone tools, but some customer support platforms like Help Scout include help center software — we call it Docs — as part of their overall offerings.
Some features to look for in knowledge base software are:
Flexibility — Look for tools that let you do things like create public and private articles.
Ease-of-use — If it’s hard to use, chances are people won’t use it. Things like robust search functionality and topical organization can make a customer’s life much easier when looking for answers.
Integration options — Being able to connect your help center to your help desk or live chat software can make it an even more powerful tool.
Some help center software options are:
4. Messaging software
Messaging software is a somewhat broad category of tools referring to software that allows you to send proactive messages. This software is usually used to create pop-up windows directly on a page to connect with customers right where they are.
By using proactive messaging, you're able to limit the amount of energy users need to expend to get assistance, making them more likely to do things like complete a purchase. You’re also able to present them with highly relevant messaging by targeting based on the specific page they’re visiting.
Some features to look for with messaging software are:
Easy setup — Look for messaging software with “no code” options. It reduces your reliance on other teams and helps you be more agile.
Testing capabilities — Being able to run things like A/B tests can help you nail your messaging and get the most out of the tool.
Reporting — See if people are interacting with your messages, and find out which ones are performing best.
Some messaging software options are:
5. Call center software
Even though we may think people prefer to contact support using the internet, the truth is many support interactions still happen over the phone. In order to manage those interactions, you need access to call center software.
Call center software is designed to help manage customer conversations happening over the phone. It’s most commonly used by sales and support teams. With it, you’re able to do things like route incoming calls, add notes to conversations, and track team performance.
Some features to look for with call center software are:
Automation — Things like call routing help save your team time and get customers in touch with the right people faster.
CRM integration — Knowing who you’re talking to can make a huge difference and stop annoyances like needing to repeat information.
Reporting — Things like average hold time and call time can signal you to inefficiencies in your process or even tip you off to knowledge gaps your agents may have.
Some call center software options are:
6. Service desk software
Sometimes referred to as ITSM software, service desk software is more IT focused and is used to manage internal requests for technical assistance. It’s not software that your customer service team would use directly, but it can be important for managing certain customer issues.
For example, many teams use service desk software to manage bugs reported by customers. So even though you may not use service desk software to communicate with a customer directly, it still aids in customer communication if there’s a technical issue.
Some features to look for in service desk software are:
Self-service options — Some issues don’t require an agent, and in those cases, self-service options can help deliver faster support to those in need.
Ticket management — Look for tools that let you automate ticket sorting and other routine tasks.
Remote control — Remote control capabilities let you connect directly to users' machines, reducing back-and-forth interactions and speeding up resolution times.
Some service desk software options are:
7. Chatbot software
The truth is, there are a lot of fairly predictable interactions when talking with customers. Maybe they want an order status or they need to reset their password. Though each customer is unique, most of those interactions are very similar, making it possible to handle lots of them with a chatbot.
Chatbot software is the tool that lets you set up and manage a chatbot. They vary in complexity, but most have pretty similar functionality. Customer support is the most common use case, though there may be some marketing and sales uses, too.
Some features to look for with chatbot software are:
Customization — With multiple use cases to consider, having a flexible, customizable solution means you’ll be able to cover a number of different scenarios.
No-code options — Being able to create a chatbot without manually writing code lets you get going quicker and allows you to be more agile overall with your efforts.
Analytics — Analytics help you gain insights to see how your chatbot is performing and find the areas where you can improve.
Some chatbot software options are:
8. Status page software
In the event that things go wrong and your team is scrambling to get things in order, it can be difficult to communicate with and update your customers in a timely fashion.
Status page software is for just those occasions. It’s a place customers can visit on their own to see if you’re experiencing any outages or large-scale issues. Having that resource means they don’t have to wait on your support team to answer, and it gets them the information they need faster.
Some features to look for with status page software are:
Internal/external views — Not all parts of your product are public-facing, and being able to limit who sees those changes can reduce customer confusion.
Subscription capabilities — Subscribers are notified when there’s a change, helping them get information quickly and potentially reducing incoming support requests.
Integrations — Being able to link a status page to other support tools can help streamline communication and reduce duplicate work.
Some status page software options are:
9. Email marketing software
Email marketing software lets you do one-to-many communication effectively and efficiently. As the name suggests, marketing teams are the ones who tend to use these tools most often for things like product launches or to send out newsletters.
Other teams may utilize the software from time to time, but it’s not very common since email marketing software generally charges based on how many emails are sent a month. It’s also not really meant to handle back-and-forth conversations, so it’s most useful for one-way communication.
Some features to look for with email marketing software are:
Automation — Set up campaigns to reduce manual work and keep stress levels low for your team.
Segmentation — Look for tools that let you send emails based on time zones and other parameters to make sure messages end up in the right place at the right time.
Analytics — Find out what’s working and what’s not by checking into open rates, click-through rates, and even bounce rates.
Some email marketing software options are:
10. CRM software
Customer relationship management (CRM) software lets businesses manage and track customer interactions. It’s most commonly associated with sales as a tool to track different deals and customers, but there are some customer success applications for it, too.
The primary way it can help with customer success is through personalization. With the data you’ve collected, you might be able to better anticipate needs and curate a specific experience for each customer based on where they’re at in their customer journey.
Though you may not use a CRM to communicate with a customer directly, it is a tool you might utilize in a larger customer communication strategy. Some other customer communication tools may also have some light CRM capabilities.
Some features to look for with CRM software are:
Customization — Find tools that let you add custom fields so you’re able to store the information most relevant to you and your business.
Automation — Some CRMs offer features to automate routine tasks to help save time and energy for your team.
Security — CRMs usually contain sensitive personal information, so it’s important that any tool you invest in has strong security features to keep your customers’ data safe.
Some CRM tools to consider are:
11. Survey software
It seems there’s hardly anything you can do these days without getting some sort of follow-up survey — and it’s for good reason: Surveys can help you get invaluable insights from customers that may not be easily collected otherwise.
One of the most common uses for surveys in customer communication is to measure satisfaction. Usually businesses are interested in getting feedback on a specific interaction, but they may use a survey to get feedback on a specific product or service, too.
Another common use for support purposes is to gather certain information upfront to help support interactions go smoothly. Beyond customer support, marketing and product teams may also utilize survey software to do customer research.
Some features to look for with survey software are:
Collaboration tools — Look for the ability to add notes or allow multiple creators to access the survey builder.
Analytics — Metrics like average completion time and drop-off points can give invaluable insights to make your survey more effective.
Design capabilities — A brand-aligned survey may make customers more likely to interact with it.
Some survey software options to consider are:
12. Text messaging software
It may surprise you to know that nearly 50 million people opted into receiving text messages from a business in 2020 alone, and signs point to that being a continuing trend.
At this point, most businesses use text messaging for marketing purposes, but it’s also a convenient way to send updates to customers, as most of us have our phones close by at all hours of the day.
Some features to look for with text messaging software are:
Segmentation — All messages aren’t for all people. Segmentation helps keep all your messaging relevant and matched to the right audience.
Automation — Some software lets you create automated responses, schedule text campaigns, and create reusable templates.
Flexibility — Look for tools that let you respond from multiple places (phone, computer, etc.) so you’re able to stay in touch no matter where you are.
Some specific text messaging software options are:
13. Social listening software
Though it’s common to think about social media mainly as a source for leisure, it’s also become a common tool for business. Some use social platforms to market new products, and others use them to engage directly with customers.
In either case, the work is made simpler with the help of social listening software. With social listening software you’re able to manage all your different social channels in one place. You’re also able to schedule posts and respond directly to comments and direct messages from customers.
Some features to look for with social listening software are:
Scheduling — If you post original content to social channels, scheduling helps take some stress out of the process and lets you stay ahead of the curve.
Integrations — Sometimes social conversations need to go a little more in depth. In those instances, it’s nice to be able to pass them along to a help desk or other software.
Monitoring — Tracking hashtags, mentions of your company, or even your competitors can help give you an edge with your social strategy.
Some social listening software options are:
14. Online community software
As anyone working in support knows, customers are an incredible source of knowledge about your product. Some know just as much — and if we’re being totally honest, sometimes more — about your product as even the most seasoned support pros.
With online community software, you’re able to empower peer-to-peer knowledge sharing, which is a huge benefit for your team and customers alike. It can help reduce incoming requests and offer quicker response times for customers in some cases.
Some features to look for with online community software are:
Personalization — Tools that include options to segment audiences help you deliver the most relevant information to them on a consistent basis.
Integrations — Online community software is usually one tool in an entire communications stack, so it can streamline certain processes if those tools talk.
Moderation options — Sometimes you need to step in and take control of a situation or simply get a conversation back on track, which is where moderation options shine.
If you’re looking for online community software, here are some specific options:
15. Virtual meeting software
Whether it’s a sales call or customer onboarding, some conversations benefit from happening face to face. With remote work on the rise, chances are you won’t always be able to actually share the same physical space with someone, but you can share digital space with virtual meeting software.
Most virtual meeting software focuses heavily on video conferencing, though almost all of them have voice only options for the occasions where it’s not possible (or pragmatic) to have your camera on.
There are a few common use cases for virtual meeting software. Sales teams may use it for initial demo calls or in later conversations to go over details in real time. Customer success teams may utilize it for webinars and customer onboarding. Customer support might use it for one-to-one customer conversations.
Some features to look for with virtual meeting software are:
Recording capabilities — Sometimes people can’t make a meeting. Having a recording helps keep them in the loop and reduces the need to attend every meeting live.
Security options — Access codes and permissions help make sure only those invited are able to join your meetings.
Polling and other engagement features — These are great features to engage audiences further on larger meetings or webinars.
Some virtual meeting software options are:
Effective communication with customers is at the center of almost every successful business, and specialized tools can help make those interactions easier and more impactful.
Whether you’re looking to improve your customer support, tell users about a new feature, or help customers help themselves, there’s a tool to help you do it better.
Take the time to consider your needs and review your options, and don’t hesitate to dive in when you find the right solution.