high-touch customer service

What is high-touch customer service?

High-touch customer service is a category of contact center interaction that requires human interaction. It can be contrasted with low-touch customer service, which uses automated phone systems and online self-service portals to answer customer questions and process business transactions. Some contact centers train specific agents to deal with high-value customers and complex problems.

What is high-touch vs. low-touch customer service?

In customer service, the idea of touch refers to the amount of human interaction and personal contact involved in supporting customers. High-touch customer service involves a lot of human contact with customers. It is more hands-on, personalized, and focused on a specific customer.

Low-touch service involves little, if any, human contact. Unlike high-touch service, the low-touch approach relies more on tools, automation, and pre-built content to support customers, answer queries, and resolve issues.

Consider the triage system for consumers in software technical support. Simple requests may be handled by low-touch communications, such as an online community, a frequently asked questions (FAQ) section or a customer self-service portal. Complex issues may require the high-touch, white-glove approach of a customer service agent well-trained in resolving such problems.

An infographic that explores the evolution of customer service
This infographic explores the history of customer service, including the ins and outs of contact center technology.

High-touch service examples

A good example of high-touch customer service is a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) company onboarding a new customer with personalized onboarding. In that process, customers can learn, through one-on-one engagement, how to use a product or service effectively.

There are many high-touch ways to onboard customers, including the following:

  • Email.
  • Face-to-face meetings or calls with a dedicated customer success manager.
  • Product demos or training (onsite or remote).
  • Special access to product content, such as demos, FAQs, videos, and forums.
  • One-on-one chat or phone-based support.
  • Personal strategy sessions.

Providing high-touch service, some companies also schedule regular check-ins with customers . These are especially common for high-value or repeat customers. By regularly checking in with customers, organizations can deepen their customer relationships, which can lead to more repeat sales and higher revenues.

Check-ins are also a good way to find gaps that may exist between customer expectations and company performance. On discovering these gaps, companies can implement appropriate measures to improve workflows and processes and align their goals with the customer's goals. Check-ins can also reveal opportunities for upsells and cross-sells.

Low-touch service examples

Self-service counters or kiosks, automated teller machines, vending machines, and AI-enabled chatbots are common examples of low-touch service. Many companies taking this approach also provide video tutorials and access to knowledge bases that allow customers to find answers to common questions without involving a human service agent -- an approach that many customers actually prefer. Other examples of low-touch service include the following:

  • Reservations or appointments via a website or app.
  • Automated product or service emails.
  • Automated notifications (e.g., for product upgrades).
  • Interactive voice response (IVR) systems.

High-touch vs. low-touch

The key feature that distinguishes a high-touch engagement model is its emphasis on personalized interactions and customer-centric service. Businesses that adopt this model are well-prepared to engage with customers in a one-on-one manner to give them the high-quality service they expect.

These companies also view customers as valued entities with unique characteristics and requirements. They focus on building strong customer relationships and make an extra effort to provide tailored solutions aligned with the needs of particular customers. They offer one-on-one support, often on the customer's preferred channel (whether phone, email, video, or something else).

A low-touch customer engagement model is one in which the company rarely interacts directly with customers. This doesn't mean that it doesn't support customers. It does, but less with humans and more with automated support processes, digital engagement tools, and self-service resources like FAQs and video tutorials.

This table highlights the key differences between high-touch and low-touch engagement models.

High-touch engagement Low-touch engagement
Type of customer engagement Mainly human-to-human Low level of human engagement; more engagement via tools and self-service resources
Personalization Very high Low
Scalability Difficult to scale Easy to scale
Priority Customer happiness and enhanced experiences Resolution speed
Cost High-cost More cost-effective

Benefits, challenges of high-touch customer service

Since high-touch customer service involves offering personalized, customized support, it typically makes customers feel more valued. When customers feel more valued, they tend to be more loyal and are willing to keep buying products or services. This boosts revenues for the business.

That said, the high-touch model is costly and difficult to implement. Before implementing the model, organizations must first understand their customers and identify their needs. Appropriate resources must be put in place, including contact center agents, customer service managers, and onboarding systems. All of this can increase costs.

High-touch customer service is best implemented for high-value customers or in industries where offering personalized support has a high potential return on investment. In some situations, chatbots, self-support kiosks, and other low-touch service methods are sufficient to engage with and support customers so there's no need to make substantial investments in high-touch support methods.

Best practices to deliver high-touch customer service

Companies willing to provide high-touch customer service can do so with these best practices:

  • Invest in a customer relationship management (CRM) tool that provides a comprehensive view of customers and allows for customer segmentation.
  • Identify high-value customers and hire customer service managers to engage with them.
  • Create a customer onboarding process to increase customers' comfort with the company's products or services.
  • Regularly touch base with customers to gather feedback and understand their current challenges and needs.
  • Provide customer-centric training to service agents and other customer-facing staff.
  • Send personalized content, resources, and emails to important, high-value, or repeat customers.
  • Identify areas of friction in service processes and implement controls to minimize it.
  • Regularly review and act on and complaints.

Compare top four CRM systems comparison and eight customer success software platforms. Learn about top customer service certifications and courses. Explore 10 steps to create a voice of the customer program. Read about what a customer service manager does. Check out the differences between customer service vs. customer experience.

This was last updated in November 2023

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