Japanese employees are well known for their dedication to their work and customers. Even when tired and exhausted, convenience store clerks still serve politely and eagerly with a smile on their faces.
That’s not just excellent customer service. That's high-level customer care.
By employing customer care, you humanize your brand because you treat your customers as humans, and not just another customer. This, in turn, leads to a more meaningful relationship between you and your customers.
Overview: What is customer care?
Customer care is the treatment customers receive whenever they interact with your brand. It happens before, during, and after a purchase. It brings positive customer experience not just because their issues or inquiries were addressed, but because they had a delightful time interacting with your brand.
Customer care vs. customer service: What's the difference?
Many confuse customer care with customer service. After all, they both involve customer relations and have overlapping end goals. However, they are distinctly different. Customer care delves into the human aspect of customer service.
It adds empathy to customer service. It goes beyond answering questions or offering solutions. It’s about building positive emotional connections with customers.
Examples of customer care include:
- Sending a well-thought and personalized email instead of using a generic email template
- Providing an alternative empathically when a product or service is unavailable
When a passenger’s toddler couldn’t stop crying, the flight attendant took the baby in her arms and lulled the toddler to sleep. She went the extra mile to serve, delight, and satisfy her customer.
On the other hand, customer service focuses on providing advice or assistance to customers to increase customer satisfaction. While customer service can also happen before making a purchase, it often happens after, especially when a customer has a concern or complaint.
Simple examples of good customer service include:
- Responding quickly to concerns or queries
- Providing multi-channel customer support
- Collecting and implementing customer feedback
Customer service also involves letting your customers know a problem beforehand to minimize complaints, as Adobe did here.
To provide good customer service, you need to be a problem solver and learn how to deal with angry customers.
If you want to build lasting relationships with your customers, you need both customer service and customer care.
3 benefits of developing a customer care plan
A good customer care plan includes the following benefits.
1. It brings a competitive advantage
An effective customer care plan produces happy customers which increases your customer retention and customer satisfaction. It gives you an unfair advantage over your competitors who don’t bother with customer care.
If your competitors treat their customers like a statistic, while you treat yours with empathy and concern, who do you think people will recommend? Which brand do you think customers will flock to?
2. It resolves problems efficiently
A strong customer care plan minimizes the need for managers or small business owners to deal with minor problems.
Because customers feel they’re treated with respect and genuine concern, they rarely escalate their issues to managers. This puts first-level customer service agents in a better position to address their concerns.
3. It improves your customer support team’s productivity
A customer care plan reduces stress and confusion for your customer support team.
For example, incorporating customer service software into your process will automate time-consuming tasks for your staff. This allows them to focus on making your customers feel heard and important, and they can address customers’ concerns more effectively.
Your staff will feel less confused, burdened, and stressed. This also translates to better productivity, customer service, and reputation for your small business.
How to create and implement a customer care plan
Create an effective customer care plan by following the steps below.
1. Evaluate your current process
Instead of building your customer care plan from scratch, study how you’re currently addressing your customers’ needs. Eliminate the gaps in your process and further improve the parts of your workflow that work.
Besides studying your process, consider these points:
- Customer feedback: What feedback are you getting from your customers? If you’re getting a lot of criticism for slow customer support response times, study what’s causing it. Are you understaffed? Is your call volume above your team’s capacity?
- Company culture: Is there a trace of customer care embedded in your company culture? If your culture leans heavily toward profit generation without the balance of genuine concern for your customers’ welfare, implementing a customer care plan is going to be an uphill battle.
- Customer alignment: Are your products designed and created with your customers in mind? Some companies believe they’re practicing this, but their product features show otherwise.
- Customer expectation: Do you understand what your customers expect from you? If you’re in a restaurant business, a logical assumption would be that your customers expect delicious food. That’s certainly true, but hardly adequate. Customers also want quick service, great ambiance, and a friendly and welcoming waitstaff to accommodate them.
2. Identify your customers’ needs
Be consistent with your customer data-gathering efforts. Your customers’ concerns and issues change over time so the image you had of them a year ago might no longer be relevant. Sometimes, the shift happens in a matter of months.
Gather more information about your customers. Try looking into these sources:
- Operational data: Check all data you can use, such as backlog statuses, customer complaints, customer satisfaction, and ROI, among others.
- Customer feedback: Review current and previous complaints and feedback from customers. You may also conduct a survey or create a focus group with your customers.
- Staff: Ask your customer support team about their observations and experiences with customers.
3. Form your customer vision and policies
Customer vision and policies are shaped mostly by your business goals and consumer policies. However, when creating them, keep these two tips in mind:
- Keep your vision short: State your vision clearly and concisely to reduce misunderstanding. Your staff can also remember your customer vision easily if it’s concise.
- Policies should support your vision: Review your current policies and see if they align with your vision. Do these policies make your customers feel valued, or do they seem transactional? Remember that customer care is more than just addressing your customers’ questions and issues, it’s a step higher and involves building positive emotional connections.
4. Improve your team’s skills
Improve your customer support team’s communication and problem-solving skills to help them care for your customers better.
Emphasize the importance of listening attentively, understanding customers’ needs or problems, conveying genuine concern and empathy, and working to resolve your customers’ issues effectively.
Encourage your staff to apply these qualities whenever they interact with your customers no matter the channel.
5. Onboard your team
After finalizing your customer care plan, it’s time to bring your whole team onboard. Help them understand your customer vision and apply the guidelines you created.
Provide training if you introduce new tools. For example, if your online chat support team needs new customer service software, they should have a proper orientation to the program. After a successful onboarding, go back to step one and repeat the whole process.
Customer care for business success
Customer care is a crucial aspect of your customer service and overall business success. Every interaction you have with your customers is a chance to improve your reputation and influence them to do business with you.
Develop a good customer care plan to improve your brand reputation, and ultimately, establish a lasting relationship with your customers.