What is Customer Care? The Ultimate Guide

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Customer care is taking care of your customer. End of the article, right? If only it were so simple. While every eCommerce business realises the importance of providing the best service and experience to their customers, it can be overwhelming to think of how to do so in every aspect of their business – and as we all know, one terrible customer experience, and the following bad review, can be devastating.

So, first, we will cover what customer care is and how it differs from the customer experience and customer service. After that, we will break down how to provide excellent customer care through the customer journey lens. Finally, you will go forth and dazzle your customers with your incredible level of care. 

What is Customer Care?

Talking about customer care can be confusing because not everyone operates from the same definition. Sometimes, customer care, customer experience, and customer service are all used interchangeably. Right now, if you google “guide to customer care,” all of the top results are about customer service, when in fact, customer care and customer service are different things. So let’s break them down.

Customer Experience

Customer experience is the best term to start with, as it refers to all interactions a customer has with your brand, from research to purchase to delivery to review. Ideally, this is cyclical, and as the customer has a good experience with your brand, they come back time and time again as a loyal customer.

However, customer experience can be broken down into two types of interactions that a customer has with your brand: customer service and customer care.

Customer Service

The customer service that you provide is just that: a service. It typically happens when the customer reaches out and needs help with something – a question about their order, about a product you sell or requiring support somehow. The customer service mindset is all about how to take care of your customer when they need you.

This can also be more passive, and providing great customer service can involve anticipating their needs. You can set up a chatbot that runs on your website 24/7, ready to answer common questions at all times – and ready to forward them to a customer service associate if it’s a little more involved. Even an FAQ page can accomplish this type of service. Another example is to create thorough video tutorials that explain how to use a product so that a customer can seek that out on their own time.

However, overall, customer service is generally an active experience, in that the customer is actively seeking out help from you. Whether or not they speak to one of your associates or find the answer on your website on their own, you provide them assistance with a problem. 

Woman taking call in call centre-398

Customer Care

With customer service out of the way, that leaves customer care, which is a little harder to nail down. However, a helpful way to think about it is that while customer service covers the interactions where you provide help when your customers seek it out, customer care is all the other interactions. Customer care interactions can happen at any point in the customer journey before, during, or after purchase. The most important component, though, is that it is emotion-focused.

If you are not providing a specific service in an interaction, what are you providing? Hopefully, a positive experience. And those positive experiences will help your customers form an emotional connection to your company. However, it’s likely already clear to you that this is difficult to measure and define how customer service is much easier. 

For added complexity, customer service and customer care can also become intertwined – for example, when a customer leaves a review stating that they were extremely pleased with the customer service provided when they reached out with a question about their order. Is that customer care or customer service? 

A helpful way to tell them apart is the idea of “going above and beyond.” If their order is marked as delivered, but they don’t have it in hand and have reached out to your customer service team, customer service tells them to contact their local post office. 

Customer care is looking up the phone number of their local post office to give to them, explaining the delivery process and that when orders are delivered, they are tracked by GPS so if their order got delivered somewhere else, the post office would be able to figure out where, and giving the customer the agent’s phone number to call back if the post office is not helpful. That is going above and beyond, and that is customer care.

Salesperson showing vehicle to potential customer

Why Is Customer Care Important?

Every business owner knows that providing a good customer experience and customer service is important. Still, customer care often gets overlooked partially because it’s a little harder to pin down and partially because it’s a little harder to measure than, say, your average rating left by customer reviews.

However, it’s a crucial aspect of developing a great relationship with your customers and can provide your business with a lot of benefits. Here are some of the more measurable benefits to providing great customer service care:

  • Happy customers are your best marketers: 71 per cent of UK consumers will recommend a company following a positive experience (69% in the US), and social proof is a great converter.
  • First impressions matter: 82 per cent of customers will shop somewhere else after only one bad experience with a company. 
  • The brand awareness value: US consumers are willing to spend 17% more to shop with companies with a reputation for an excellent customer experience. 

Challenges To Providing Great Customer Care

As with any plan you try to implement in your business, there will be challenges. With something as nebulous as customer care, you’re bound to run into more than a few roadblocks – being prepared for them will help you overcome them once they happen.

First, a lack of cohesion can bring down your customer care strategy. Customer care requires buy-in from all employees, top-down in a company. Your customer service team is obviously more customer-facing, and you’ll want them to know what customer care is and how to provide it, but it goes beyond that one team. Your content marketing team will want to create campaigns and strategies that cater to customer care. Your social media team will need to brainstorm ideas that foster that emotional connection; your sales team will need to consider how customer care applies to their lead generation strategy. When only part of your company is on board, it can create a disjointed experience for the customer and sabotage the relationship.

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Second, it requires buy-in from you. You will need to invest time and money into learning about customer care, creating strategies for it, and training your employees to deliver it. It’s not enough to tell them to care about the customer and make sure they have a good experience. You need to define what that means for you and your business and show them how to put customer care into practice in their jobs. It would help if you also incentivised it – asking your customer service representatives to provide above-and-beyond service means nothing when you penalise them for longer calls.

Customer assistance, call center, hotline operator

Customer Care Through The Lens of The Customer Touchpoints

Identifying customer care in action can be a “you know it when you see it” type of situation, but that is very unhelpful for eCommerce owners trying to implement customer care into their business strategy. Because customer care can happen at any point in the entire customer experience, it’s best to break that experience down.  Let’s examine the customer journey through the lens of customer touchpoints before, during, and after purchase. Each business will have its own unique set of touchpoints, but this should serve as a jumping-off point.

Before Purchase

These are all the ways that potential customers can interact with your brand before they purchase. This is not an exhaustive list, but examples to get you started:

  • Social Media

No matter which platforms you’re on, they are not simply a way to show off new products. Social media lends itself best to building a relationship with your biggest fans, so use it as a place to nurture that relationship. Respond to comments, delegate some of your team to respond to private messages, and encourage engagement. As you can see above, for Etsy (and many companies), social media can become a quick place to complain directly to the company. Etsy clearly has someone combing through comments and responding directly to people instead of ignoring them or just directing them to customer service.

Not only does Etsy nail this by providing great customer care to the customer in question, but all other followers can also see that they’ve done this as well. 

  • Advertising

Because customer care is all about building a relationship with your customers and fostering an emotional connection, brainstorm how to integrate emotional marketing into your advertising campaigns. 

During Purchase

These are how a customer is interacting with your brand while making a purchase – loading up the cart and heading to checkout.

  • Website

How can a website convey customer care? The website’s design is crucial, and making your website top-tier in form and function will facilitate a positive relationship with everyone who browses on it. Good website design is user-friendly, responsive, and works just as well on a desktop as it does on a tablet or phone. Mobile eCommerce is only growing, and a great website design will show that you care about mobile shoppers.

  • Reviews

Seeing others’ reviews is going to matter most during this stage. Make sure you’re featuring reviews of all kinds so that future customers can see them – share posts from customers on social media, feature reviews prominently on product pages, anything to foster that social proof.

  • Customer Service

While a customer is making a purchase, they may want to reach out with questions. One great way to implement customer care into your customer service is to set up a chatbot that can answer questions at any time of day. This won’t help with more complicated questions but will show that you care about their experience and have anticipated what they might ask.

After Purchase

This stage is when customer service is most likely to come into play, but you can always consider how customer care factors in as well.

  • Email Marketing

Think about the emails you want to receive from brands – not too frequent, sales and coupons, and maybe with a perk or two thrown in. Be in this mindset whilst building email marketing campaigns, and consider how your email marketing campaigns can improve the customer experience.

  • Transactional Emails

There are a series of emails you will want to send to a customer after they complete a purchase – think about what emails those are and what you should include in them. For example, companies frequently send an email when an order has shipped, but how can you make that email better (or what are you doing that might be making it worse)? When Amazon sends out those emails, the order details are not visible in the body of the email, forcing the customer to click in the email and potentially sign in to Amazon to see what order is on the way. Not great customer care, Amazon. 

  • Returns

On the infrequent occasion that a customer wishes to return their purchase, you will need to engage in probably the most delicate form of customer care; it’s a balancing act of empathy and cold-blooded accounting. On the one hand, issuing a refund is the simplest way to satisfy a previously dissatisfied customer. On the other, between the cost of return shipping and a lost sale, it can dig deep into your bottom line. It’s best to read up on best practices for eCommerce returns to decide what will work best for your company.

Customer Care: Conclusion

Not many eCommerce business owners need to be sold on the concept of customer service care – most owners these days know it’s vital to build a good relationship with their customers. However, putting that knowledge into action can be difficult. Hopefully, this guide helped you understand exactly what customer care is, how it can help you, what challenges you might run into along the way, and different ways you can implement it in your own business.

Originally published Jul 12, 2021, updated Jan 16, 2023

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