Article | 6 min read

What is high-touch customer service? (+ how to deliver it)

Deliver a high-touch customer service experience to build and retain meaningful relationships with your audience.

By Kristi Runyan, Contributing Writer

Published June 17, 2022
Last updated June 17, 2022

A customer might love your product or service, but the real test comes when they reach out to your support team.

If they’re met with frustrating options—like an automated phone menu that doesn’t let them speak to a human—it’s game over. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2022, 61 percent of consumers will walk away from a company after just one bad customer service experience.

By prioritizing high-touch customer service, you and your support agents will be well-positioned to build and retain meaningful customer relationships.

What does high-touch service mean?

Defining high-touch service, hands together

High-touch service refers to a hands-on, personalized approach to customer service.

Examples of high-touch support include a guided onboarding process, a dedicated customer success manager for each client account, and individual strategy sessions. Every initiative delivers personalized service, which helps customers feel heard and valued.

In our CX Trends Report, a whopping 72 percent of businesses say they view customer service as a critical priority, but too often, they aren’t delivering the goods. And 64 percent of shoppers under the age of 40 say that customer service feels like an afterthought for most companies they interact with.

Today’s consumers expect personalized, conversational service across multiple channels with agents who can empathize with them and access all their relevant information. They’re okay with some bot interactions, but they want the option to speak with a human if needed.

To meet these expectations, it’s time to get creative about high-touch service.

High-touch support vs. low-touch support

High-touch and low-touch service models include some of the same processes. But they require different levels of human interaction.

High-touch service examples

  • Regularly scheduled check-ins
  • Live, human-to-human communication
  • A dedicated customer success manager for client accounts
  • A thorough customer onboarding process

Low-touch service examples

  • Self-service kiosks
  • Chatbots
  • Video tutorials
  • Reserving a table at a restaurant online
  • Applying for a new car via the dealership’s website

It’s okay to use automation in both low-touch and high-touch environments, but it needs to be helpful, not infuriating. The goal is to make things easier for customers—whether they’re receiving low-touch or high-touch support.

How to structure your customer service department

Learn more about the key steps for structuring your customer service team with this free guide.

4 ways to create a high-touch customer service experience

Even if your customer service options are already pretty good, there’s always room to level up. Follow these tips to earn customers’ trust and form authentic, long-lasting relationships through high-touch support.

1. Hire customer success managers

Customer success managers, coach

Customer success managers (CSMs) are true stewards of high-touch service.

They can proactively fix issues before they happen because they’re involved at each stage of the customer lifecycle—giving them a bird’s-eye perspective of a buyer’s unique journey. They understand the client’s needs and can advocate for them, and help other departments maintain a customer-centric mindset.

To ensure clients stay engaged and continue using your product, CSMs can frequently check in with them and continue delivering high-touch service. An Invesp study found that 50 percent of customers log in to their SaaS products less than once a month⁠—or never. A CSM can help buyers continually see the benefits of using a product or service.

2. Create a thorough onboarding process

High-touch customer service onboarding process

To provide a high-touch experience during customer onboarding, make sure your client feels comfortable with your product and knows how to leverage it to reach their goals. The more familiar buyers are with your product, the more likely they are to keep using it and referring it to others. CSMs can help customers develop that level of comfort in numerous ways:

  • Send a warm welcome email
  • Provide a guided introduction to your product or service
  • Deliver a detailed tutorial
  • Send helpful follow-up emails and resources

A thorough onboarding process will help you build trust with your customers. By providing clear, detailed instructions on how to best use a product or service, you’re enabling clients to achieve their goals—and quickly showing your value.

Don’t forget to seek feedback during the onboarding journey. Encourage real-time input to make sure you’re meeting your customer’s needs, delivering on expectations, and addressing any concerns. Continuously improve your onboarding by acting on feedback from new customers regularly.

3. Treat agents with respect and compassion

Treat agents with respect and compassion, hands holding

To deliver a high-touch experience, employees must be treated the way they’re expected to treat customers⁠: exceptionally. If support agents are happy and engaged at work, they’ll likely want to do their job well and find solutions for customers.

The idea is simple, but it’s lost on many support leaders—as seen in feedback from agents. Our CX Trends Report found that only 15 percent of agents are satisfied with their workloads. And merely 20 percent are happy with the quality of training they’re getting.

To help prevent agent burnout, give your staff a manageable workload and robust customer service training. Offer flexible working hours and a generous time-off policy, so agents can take time to rest. You can also reduce agent workloads by automating simple tasks and ticket resolutions. Many companies use chatbots to handle straightforward customer requests and provide 24/7 support.

Our research also revealed that just 14 percent of support agents are satisfied with available career paths and the metrics used to evaluate their performance. Keep more agents happy at work by offering clear opportunities for advancement and work evaluations. High-touch service begins within your own company.

4. Send customers personalized follow-ups

Send customers personalized follow-ups

Most brands do a good job of reaching out to customers when they first start using their product or service. But after a few months, the messages slow down as the business sets its sights on landing more new customers. Or worse, they flood customers’ inboxes with mass emails that aren’t relevant just to “stay in touch.”

Maintain authentic relationships with buyers after onboarding by having agents (or CSMs) regularly reach out and be a resource—not a nuisance—throughout your relationship with them. Agents can check in regularly to encourage product usage, help with issues that arise, or share new industry insights they think customers would find interesting. These follow-ups can be time-intensive, so creating a template that can be personalized is a good way to streamline your efforts.

Ongoing communication makes you feel like an extension of your customer’s team. And they’ll feel more comfortable coming to you because they can expect a high-touch experience.

Strengthen your customer service with a high-touch experience

We can all agree that high-touch service is the optimal choice, but it’s not always easy to provide, especially if you have a smaller team. In these cases, the right tool can help you deliver high-touch service (or at least make your low-touch service options feel high-touch).

Integrating technology like a CRM system can help you manage relationships with your clients and keep them engaged over the course of their lifecycle. Start leveraging high-touch support to boost buyer loyalty and satisfaction—and your bottom line.

How to structure your customer service department

Learn more about the key steps for structuring your customer service team with this free guide.

How to structure your customer service department

Learn more about the key steps for structuring your customer service team with this free guide.

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