Why it matters and how to deliver it
How is customer service different than customer care? Ideally, it isn’t.
Customer service is typically defined as the basic assistance or support that a company provides. Customer care, meanwhile, goes “one step beyond” the baseline service to ensure that each customer is actively listened to, cared for, and provided with the right solution.
“Customer care is really the process of cultivating a relationship where customers truly feel supported, and ensuring that they have a low-effort experience when interacting with your brand,” says Hannah Ranum, a Customer Success Consultant at Zendesk.
Caring for customers means treating your audience the way they want to be treated.
“Not everyone wants the exact same cookie-cutter experience,” Hannah explains. “Some may really want a high touch interaction. Some may just want one or two sentences and then they’re on their way. Customer care is about being mindful of that, and having the ability to listen to the customer’s needs and find the best solution.”
All customer service should aspire to the level of customer care. But getting there takes some dedication. To deliver quality care, you need to build a team of dedicated customer care representatives and empower them to provide personalized, empathetic service.
Why you should care about customer care
Why go to great lengths to provide that level of customized care? Because anything short of spectacular customer service poses a huge liability for your business.
Hannah cites The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty as a good argument in favor of quality customer care. One of the book’s key findings was that customer service interactions are four times more likely to inspire customer disloyalty than customer loyalty.
This shocking stat came from a Gartner study showing that 45% of people who had positive interactions told fewer than three other people. But 48% of people with negative experiences shared their stories with more than 10 other people. So a company’s support team could have mostly positive interactions, yet still develop a mostly negative reputation, since customer service “horror stories” easily overshadow all the good experiences.
“If someone has a poor experience, they’re way more likely to go blast it on social media, or just tell everybody they know for the next three weeks,” says Hannah.
Customer care is as much about mitigating bad word-of-mouth as it is about creating good experiences. When your customers feel respected and assisted, your business is less prone to negative reviews, angry comments, and social media crises. Treat your customers well enough, and they’ll sing your praises instead.
How to cultivate your team of customer care representatives
Your customer care all comes down to how you hire, train, and empower your representatives.
“The customer care representative’s role is really to be empathetic, understanding, and able to provide an experience where customers feel heard,” says Hannah. “Their job is really to build a connection with the customer and understand what drives them, in order to provide that personal experience and solve the customer’s needs more efficiently.”
A qualified customer care representative should possess:
- A helpful nature
- Friendliness and empathy
- Good active listening skills
- Comprehension skills to understand and address customer problems
- Quick decision-making skills
- Ability to calm angry customers
In addition to having these standard qualifications, the representatives you hire should also be able to embody your company’s core values.
“Customer care representatives really are the face of the company,” says Hannah. “Your company’s values have to carry through in every single interaction that they have, so that customers enjoy working with your brand.”
To instill those values, invest significant time and resources in training. Use call recordings and simulations to teach your representatives about active listening, handling heated interactions, and providing speedy yet thorough resolutions. It also helps if your seasoned customer care representatives model positive behaviors for new recruits.
“I think something that works really well is having a buddy or mentoring program for new agents that come in,” Hannah says. “Have customer care representatives that really embody the values or experience you want customers to have training others and making them comfortable with processes as they get started.”
4 tips for executing excellent customer care
Customer care representatives need resources and guidance to provide an exceptional level of service. Below are some of the best tools and practices for your team to adopt.
Support your team with A CRM
“If you want customer care reps to provide that efficient, effortless experience and embody your values, you really have to empower them to do so,” says Hannah.
Customer care representatives should have easy access to all communication channels, customer information, and their fellow employees. A software solution like Zendesk Support can put all of that at their fingertips in one unified workspace. All customer interactions—by phone, email, chat—can take place on the same dashboard.
And with Zendesk’s Customer Context feature, care reps can instantly pull up a customer’s information and history of past interactions. With immediate access to relevant context, reps can provide quicker, more personalized care to each customer.
Zendesk even has a Collaboration add-on that lets customer care reps Slack or email other co-workers or teams without leaving their workspace. Being able to quickly ask another employee for information—without having to transfer the customer—empowers reps to provide a quick, seamless experience.
Collect data to provide personalized experiences
Knowledge is power. The more you know about your customers, the better you can care for them.
For example, analytical tools like Zendesk allow you to identify the most critical reasons that your customers are contacting your company. The software can also provide insight into your customers’ preferred communication channels, their customer satisfaction levels, and more.
“Really learn about your customers—what drives them, the type of experience that they would like to have when interacting with your brand,” recommends Hannah. “That allows you to create that high quality, personalized relationship where the customer feels like you truly understand them.”
Collecting data is a good idea, but be transparent about the process. Inform customers how and why their information is being collected—and, most importantly, how it will benefit them. Let customers know you’re using their data to provide personalized experiences, more relevant marketing emails, and targeted offers. It also helps to reassure them that you’ll never sell customer data to advertisers or third parties.
Prioritize your service quality, not just speed
Customer support is often laser-focused on convenience. Companies target faster reply times, quicker resolutions, and omnichannel service to make life easier for their customers.
While those are all admirable goals, it’s important to remember that speed isn’t everything. Sometimes customers will choose white-glove treatment over simple convenience.
Hannah says that in her previous customer care role, she always felt empowered by Zendesk to give each customer the attention they required.
“I had a ton of customers assigned to me but, at certain points, I’d encounter a customer that really needed some extra hand-holding,” she explains. “And I was always empowered to do that. I never needed to get approval to spend more time with the customer.”
Don’t forget to be a human being
“Leading with authenticity is super important when working with customers,” Hannah says. “It’s going to make them feel very connected with you.”
When customers are at ease, they’re more comfortable explaining exactly what their needs are. Developing a natural rapport helps you help them.
Plus, if a customer feels like they’re talking to a real human being, they’re apt to be more patient and understanding.
“They’ll give you more grace if something isn’t going exactly according to plan,” explains Hannah. “So if customer care representatives are allowed to be very upfront and open with customers, I think that goes a long way.”
Customer care is all about finding what works for the customer, not just the solution they’re looking for, but the type of interaction and approach that suits them best.
To make each customer feel like one in a million, reps should provide them with personalized service. But to offer this level of support, reps need context for every interaction. Use a comprehensive support tool like Zendesk to capture customer information and put it at your employees’ fingertips.
If you want to learn more ways to deliver exceptional customer care, check out the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report 2020 for more critical insights.