The Expert’s Guide to Exceptional Customer Care

Mar 17, 2020

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  • Customer Support

Any respectable company would say that they care for their customers. But how successful are we in really listening to customer needs, replying in a meaningful way, and taking time to fix issues? A recent poll from Harris Interactive showed that 79% of consumers who made a complaint about poor customer experience online were ignored. Data like this leads us to wonder if these companies are actively listening and if they prioritize timely responses to customer inquiries. Their actions seem to show that they do not.

We have taken a look at the latest insights from customer service experts that deeply understand the fundamentals of care, experience, and support. As companies try to prove that they can contribute to customer success, it turns out that there is a great deal of work to be done to show that we genuinely care about customers.

In this guide, we’ll cover the following topics:

What is Customer Care?

What is Customer Care?
What is Customer Care?

Today, how a company manages its interactions with customers has evolved into a complex set of competencies. Businesses must consider customer experience, service, care, success, and relations, among many other areas. These terms often overlap in many ways, and experts still have different opinions for their exact definitions. For example, customer service industry expert Shep Hyken says that what you call your customer activities is far less important than what you do. He argues that is it is your processes that matter most, and you should focus on whatever it takes to keep your customers satisfied enough to return.

Even with the similarities, there are a few aspects of customer care that are unique. When considering a customer’s interactions with your brand before, during, and after purchase, there are many opportunities for engagement. A company that genuinely cares will seek feedback often and take deliberate steps to foster an emotional connection with their community. They usually have a focus on one-on-one discussions about how they can support long-term customer goals. Some also say that excellent service starts with care and that one of the best ways to make a customer feel valued is to have a direct impact on their performance.

Customer Care vs. Customer Service

Some experts consider customer care to be an extension of customer service activities, with the goal of building a deep emotional connection. At its core, customer service focuses on answering important questions while providing support for managing any issues. The main point of service is to demonstrate value in the form of resources that can help your customers use your product more effectively. Customer care, on the other hand, is about listening to your customer’s goals and emotional needs. Having customer-facing resources that are empathetic and understanding can help to connect with customers in a way that makes them feel you are genuinely invested in their long-term goals.

Customer Care vs. Customer Relations

Customer care and customer relations share a lot of similarities. The goal of customer relations is to develop long-term relationships with a target audience to build loyalty and ultimately turn them into brand advocates. It sounds a lot like customer care, but there is often one major differentiator when it comes to providing exceptional customer care. If a company is committed to customer care, they are willing to help customers with their goals even if they are not directly aligned to their corporate objectives. Exceptional customer care involves putting the customers’ priorities first.

Statistics and Examples of Exceptional Customer Care

Statistics and Examples of Exceptional Customer Care
Statistics and Examples of Exceptional Customer Care

Perhaps the best way to summarize the importance of care in customer service is the well-known quote from customer service expert Damon Richards. “Customers do not care how much you know unless they know how much you care.” No person wants to feel like they are being ignored or that their requests are not a priority. Making your customers feel like they’re your top priority is especially important today because consumers often have so many options when purchasing most products. Globalization and the internet have made this a reality.

But how much value do customers place in customer service activities? According to recent data from Microsoft, 96% of consumers from around the world highlighted customer service as an essential factor in deciding their loyalty to a brand. The same report also highlighted that 72% of consumers expect a customer service agent to know who they are, what they have purchased, and any insights into past issues. There has never been a more critical time to focus on customer care.

Even though customer care is vital, it can be much more challenging to measure than loyalty or service. Customer care looks beyond metrics and focuses on the customer’s goals and needs. Because it is less quantifiable, the best way to describe exceptional customer care is by sharing some examples.

Treat the customer as you would like to be treated. Entrepreneur Bob Liddle tells all of his employees that unmatched customer care comes from treating customers the way you would like to be treated. Doing so often means taking the time to understand any unique problems and questions so that they can find a way to help with them. When you consider a customer’s situation as if it were your own, it can change the entire dynamic for the engagement.

Listen to anticipate customer needs. The best companies can delight their customers with new product features or service offerings that they didn’t even know they needed. Consultant and author Shel Horowitz promotes the idea of anticipatory listening. This concept involves paying close attention to the details of a customer’s wishes or frustrations so that you can identify something new which they might need. He shares an example from his books of a supermarket that realized a large number of customers visiting their stores are pregnant. They created reserved parking for pregnant visitors and other amenities that were immediately recognized by the community.

Important Customer Care Skills

Important Customer Care Skills
Important Customer Care Skills

The attitude and interpersonal skills of your customer-facing staff are central to your ability to manage customer care effectively. While some of the most essential skills may seem obvious, it can be difficult to train staff on them directly. It is by understanding them and making them a part of your company culture that you make the most significant impact on customer care.

  • Empathy. A crucial skill for customer service workers, empathy is about understanding a situation from the customer’s point of view. To be most effective, your staff should be able to recognize, or even anticipate, the feelings of your customers and be aware of critical interpersonal signals during any interactions. Understanding how your customers feel is necessary to be able to show them that you care.
  • Taking responsibility. Merely solving a customer problem does not guarantee that they will stick around. It is just as important how you go about finding and implementing the solution. Your customer support staff should demonstrate that they take responsibility for any issue. Minimizing transfers or escalations is one big way to help, as customers desire to have their problems resolved with as few interactions as possible.
  • Anticipating issues. The most effective customer care representatives are familiar with the latest processes and technology for improving customer experience. Maintaining a broad understanding of best practices allows you to anticipate issues before they become a burden for your customers. If your staff are knowledgeable, they will be more capable of handling problems proactively.
  • Authenticity. Being authentic is closely related to demonstrating empathy, and it is a skill that you can observe in a person’s actions. Authentic people do what they say they will do and don’t just read from a script or listen passively. They actively work with others to find solutions that help a customer achieve their goals.
  • Ability to use positive language. Even in the most frustrating situation, the ability to use positive language can mean the difference between a productive discussion and a bad one. It is possible to learn this skill by thinking of the most positive way to convey some information. A good example would be providing a restocking date versus just informing a customer that something is out of stock. The change can be subtle but can have a real positive effect on your company image over time.

Customer Care Best Practices

Customer Care Best Practices
Customer Care Best Practices

Exceptional customer care represents a commitment to making any interaction with a customer a positive and productive experience. There is no one way to measure or execute a customer care strategy, and the best companies are developing multiple capabilities that complement each other. Here are a few best practices that have become essential for leading operations.

  • Seek feedback continuously. Companies in retail or other industries often have numerous opportunities to interact with customers in-person, online, or by phone. On any given day, there are purchases, returns, or customers browsing to see the latest products. The key is to make use of these moments to collect feedback via surveys or messages on your various communication channels. Some teams are even using a shared inbox to collect and manage customer requests in a streamlined way. By consolidating your communication flow, seeking feedback, and using data, you can create lasting improvements for your customers.
  • Enable self-service support. Customers want solutions to their issues, and they want them fast. The longer that someone needs to wait for a response, the more time they have to get frustrated or seek a solution elsewhere. Companies are preparing for this by creating knowledge bases that can be used to store all important customer information. A knowledge base is a library of documentation, Q&As, product sheets, and other useful reference material. Customers can also be given access to a knowledge base by using a customer portal that can be accessed at any time. These systems not only build trust through their transparency but enable a customer to find solutions quickly and on their own.
  • Make KPIs about customer success. As we mentioned above, it is difficult to measure customer care directly, but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t track important metrics. One way to tune your existing KPIs more toward care is to track more performance data related to customer success. The net promoter score (NPS) is one popular example that is very customer-oriented. It can also be helpful to select KPIs such as product queries or time from order to delivery for business areas that significantly affect customer care.

A Customer Care Case Study

A Customer Care Case Study
A Customer Care Case Study

Donovan Smith was an area supervisor for Costa Enterprises, managing seven of their McDonald’s franchise locations. His position was challenging as he tried to balance the expectations of a global, recognized brand with the unique needs of each location. One of the biggest tasks he faced was reconciling all the customer feedback that would funnel into their system 24 hours a day, including comments about service, food, facilities, and just about aspect of their business. At the time when Donovan got involved, his company was using several operator services to receive the inquiries and compile summaries that would be sent back to each location. This process could sometimes take several days just to obtain the results, much less respond to their customers.

To streamline their process, Costa moved the customer inquiry process to the SupportBee email ticketing platform, which is managed through a shared inbox. SupportBee’s ticketing platform gave Donovan the ability to see customer comments from all locations in real-time. Based on what he saw, he was able to develop templates for responses to common issues and share them with store managers. This process helped raise the quality of replies while also reducing their response time dramatically. After these improvements, Donovan and his team now strive to resolve all customer issues within 24 hours and make up to three attempts to reach a customer via different channels. They can focus more of their time on the customers and demonstrate that they care about their concerns and can resolve them quickly.

Today customer care has become as integral to exceptional customer service as experience, support, and success. You must not only be able to meet customer needs but also show them that you care in the process. As you have read in this guide, customer care relies on many complementary capabilities that, when combined, can provide a strong face for your brand and business processes.

Further Reading on Exceptional Customer Care

The following resources can help you expand your knowledge about exceptional customer care and how your customer support activities can benefit from it.