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Customer care stems from having meaningful and emotional interactions with customers, nurturing their relationship with your business. Here’s a detailed guide on the basics of customer care and how to build a culture of caring for your customers.
Customer care refers to how a brand looks after a customer when they interact with them through the customer journey. The interaction could be on different touchpoints in a customer journey, including purchase requests, customer service interactions, or even a social media engagement.
Customer care involves businesses forging an emotional connection with customers through purposeful actions that make a customer feel important and valued.
If customer care is about anticipating customer needs and looking after them, how is it different from customer service or customer experience? While customer experience is quite distinct, many businesses use the terms customer care and customer service interchangeably.
Let’s take a crack at the easiest term first.
The Gartner glossary defines customer experience as ‘customer’s perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a business’s employees, systems, channels or products.’
Customer experience is the holistic impression a customer has of a brand, including their encounters with sales, marketing, advertising, product, and support experiences. It’s the sum total of all the interactions that a brand extends towards its customer base, reflecting its core values. Think of the aura around brands such as Disney and Apple.
Related resource: The Complete Guide to Customer Experience (CX)
Here’s where it gets tricky. Let’s look at the definition of customer service.
Customer service is the assistance and guidance that a business provides for their range of services and products. In most instances, offering excellent customer service is all about answering and advising customers who usually reach out to companies with questions and issues.
While customer care is also about aiding customers for needs that they may or may not express, there is a small but significant difference. Customer care is usually more proactive, wherein a brand reaches out to customers knowing their unique needs and tries to strike an emotional chord. You can extend customer care in customer service interactions too by being more empathetic.
But great customer service isn’t the only way to express customer care.
Thoughtful gestures and actions cement customer relations and even avoid issues from happening.
Let’s take a look at a customer care example for better understanding.
Here’s an instance of Southwest Airlines expressing utmost care for customers and the same brand providing speedy customer service.
The Tweet on the left is a perfect example of customer care in action.
Jen had come to drop his son on his first solo trip. Understanding the mother’s sentiment, one of the Southwest Airlines pilots took the effort to walk back to the terminal after her son had boarded to point Jen toward her son waving happily.
Not something she would’ve asked for, but a proactive gesture that strikes a chord with travelers like Jen and leaves a lasting and unforgettable impression on customers.
The other Tweet is again by Southwest Airlines responding to a customer's query on early bird check-in policy.
Here the flyer states her problem and asks for help.
The support team then responds swiftly with the required information and clarifies the customer's doubt.
That's assistance or advice they're providing to a customer facing a difficulty, making it a typical customer service interaction.
Customer care is going that one extra mile for customers rather than a routine customer service exchange.
Both customer care and customer service, when done right, have revenue-impacting benefits.
“Call it customer service or customer care. These are all labels that are meant to really do one thing. That is to get the customer to want to come back to you, and only you, the next time they need what it is that you do or sell.”- Shep Hyken, Customer service expert and New York Times Bestselling business author.
Whether you term it customer care or customer service, the benefits of customer care are immense. Customer care spurs emotional connections. Studies reveal that fully connected customers—buyers who are satisfied and able to perceive your business value fully—have three times more business returns than just satisfied customers.
In a highly competitive and crowded landscape where companies offer similar features and services, customer care is a strong differentiating factor. Customers then have a specific reason to buy more from you and also turn into advocates. A culture that thrives on good customer care adds more value to the overall customer experience, which is why luxury beauty brands and 7-star hotels have takers for their premium products and services.
Providing excellent customer care not just differentiates you from your competitors and makes a happy customer, but it also impacts various aspects of your business.
An HBR study on emotionally connected customers shows that fully connected customers are 52% more valuable than satisfied customers, which translates to an increase in sales from 3% when satisfied to 5% when fully connected.
The HBR study also found that 46% of fully connected customers shop from a retail brand versus just 21% of other customers monthly, indicating that emotionally connected customers shop more.
Emotion drives loyalty. Research indicates that 70% of emotionally engaged customers spend up to two times more towards brands they are loyal to, and 80% of them are also more likely to recommend you to their friends.
Customers have a lasting impression that stays with them and drives their purchase behavior when you offer excellent customer care (or when you don’t).
According to PwC, 32% of customers stop buying from a brand after one bad experience. Customers who are cared for consistently well are less likely to leave your business.
By paying attention to customer care, you’ll proactively remove issues in your customer’s way and reduce the need for them to contact support.
You know that a company offers excellent customer care when they -
Respond quickly to customer needs.
Write well-crafted and intentionally written emails.
Have a self-service portal that is easy to use.
Make it easy for customers to reach out to the company.
Build contact forms that work as expected.
The role of a customer care function is to ensure lasting customer relationships by tending to customer needs and nurturing them to be emotionally engaged in your business. You could extend customer care by addressing customer grievances on time, giving personalized offers and tailored communication for special occasions, or just checking how satisfied customers are with your products and services.
Freshdesk helps you nurture customer care by being there for your customer needs on different channels. Choose our help desk software to care for your customers with ease.
Caring for customers is not just about one-off bouquets or random handwritten notes. Customers have certain expectations from brands driven by their experience with competitors and other non-competing businesses. Social listening, surveys, and customer feedback forms are ways to know what your customer base wants across different industries and find more ways to delight them.
We’ve listed eleven customer care tips that’ll help your company offer emotionally engaging moments.
Rule #1: Don’t make it difficult for customers to find the best way to contact you for their needs.
There is nothing more frustrating than trying to find out how to get help and not being able to. Provide customers with simple, easy ways to ask their questions without having to jump through hoops. Display the various channels — phone, mobile app, chat, email — through which customers can get in touch with you on your website clearly in easily accessible locations.
Take a look at how famous American footwear manufacturer and retailer - The Timberland Company lists out their different contact options right on the top of their homepage.
A few more pointers to remember -
Make contact forms easy and quick to fill out.
Don’t hide methods of contact behind a paywall or a hard-to-navigate page.
Make expectations around support tiering clear and easy from the instant the customer signs up.
Keep your contact center’s Interactive Voice Responsive(IVR) systems straightforward and intuitive.
22% of customers find call center times too long, and about 80% of consumers want faster responses from companies, as per our research on ‘Deconstructing Delight’. Almost nothing will make a customer happier than if you respond very quickly to a message that they’ve sent you, whether it be the first or seventh.
When you respond quickly, it makes the customer feel like you care and pay attention to what they have to say. You are making the customer a priority, and that’s important to them.
Related Resource: How to speed up your responses
There are several ways to track response time as a metric:
Average response time looks at how long it takes for you to respond to any request on average,
First response time shows how long your customers have to wait for the very first reply,
Response time bands give you a percentage of tickets that are replied to within certain time frames and are often used in SLAs.
Measuring performance based on response time can be tricky too. Some agents may see it as a quick win and closeout tickets or respond to them before they have a complete solution. Pay attention to and coach employees against this, as this behavior does not bump up your metrics for customer care, but in fact, serves to detract from customer happiness.
According to a PwC report, 80% of customers express that friendly and knowledgeable service is vital to a positive customer experience. The onus of delivering excellent customer care lies with your team of customer care representatives. A stellar support team is well-trained, empathetic, and equipped with the right technology.
Here are a few tips to make friendly customer care a reality.
Hire right: Customer care requires engaged employees working enthusiastically towards giving a great customer experience. Frame the correct job description and have structured interviews to spot the right talents who align with your support culture.
Extensive training: Ensure that your customer care representatives are well-trained in basic customer service skills. Coach agents further on domain knowledge and your brand values, empowering them to give utmost care to customers.
Own an updated knowledge base: Internal and external knowledge bases can help disperse the knowledge on issue resolutions amongst the team with minimal active training. Plus, it keeps information easily accessible if they want to check on something they might have forgotten.
Frame well-structured processes: When your customer care team fields many customer inquiries and requests, keep the process of creating issue requests and tracking changes clear and straightforward. Include intelligent automation to tackle ticket assignment and SLA management.
Ensuring everyone has the same knowledge and offers the same insights to your clients allows your team to appear unified and professional, thus cultivating a culture of trust between your customers and the company.
Validating their need for speedy responses, our research indicates that about 39% of customers believe they can resolve requests faster with self-service options. People prefer self-help as it gives instant resolutions instead of reaching out to customer care centers and waiting for responses. The best thing you can do to boost customer care for your customers is set up an excellent self-service portal that gives them access to anything they could ever need to solve their problems.
To develop an effective self-service strategy, you have to know your customers’ needs, their journey, questions they may have along the way and structure them in a way that’s easy for them to find and gather information.
Related Resource: Your definitive guide to building a comprehensive self-service portal
Take a look at how leading U.S retailer - Bombas Socks has organized their FAQs anticipating customer needs accurately.
Not only does a self-service portal help your customers, but it also lowers the number of tickets that come into your inbox. Thus, it impacts contact ratio, CSAT, and your customer care team’s bandwidth to offer even better responses as part of your customer care offering.
Providing excellent customer care also means being excellent in communication and setting clear expectations for your customer. If they reach out about an issue within your product or service, keep customers in the loop and let them know precisely what action you will be taking. Your response to an issue report, when implementing excellent customer care, could include the following:
A thank you for emailing in and letting your service team know about the issue
Expectations around when the issue will be fixed. Clearly communicate resolution time in business days or hours.
Where they can track the issue to see if it is being worked on
Potential workarounds for the issue
Communicating product downtime, maintenance issues, tool updates to your customers in advance shows your care towards them as you’ve already thought about the inconvenience these issues may cause.
Related resource: Tips to communicate better with your customers
First contact resolution is when you can resolve your customers’ issues in your first response to them, without any additional follow-up or responses. This can be extremely difficult because it takes additional time and effort to develop the perfect solution, but it’s also a sign of excellent customer care. You need to preemptively think about anything that the customers' question could lead to and include that in your message. But, when your customer care agents can anticipate future needs successfully, customers are sure to be delighted.
Digital-first customers expect brands to be available on various digital platforms that they use daily. Though phone and email might be considered as primary customer care channels, digital support channels like live chat are becoming new favorites (when implemented right) with customers due to quicker resolutions. Customers feel heard instantly and are happy with the attention given to their queries at once.
Give your customers different platform options—phone, chat, email, messaging channels—to choose from rather than restricting them to a single channel.
Related resource: The Complete Guide to Delivering an Omnichannel Customer Experience
Here’s an example of how Indian telecommunications giant - Airtel offers many channels for customers to reach out to them and lists them clearly on an easy-to-discover webpage.
While making multiple channels available for your customers, it’s also essential to give them a unified experience across these channels without losing context for delightful experiences. 86% of customers want brands to know they switch channels and many customers find it frustrating to repeat information on every channel they interact with. Omnichannel customer support means knowing exactly where to pick up your conversation with customers and having all the customer details accessible across channels for empathetic conversations.
Meet customers on their preferred channels, give instant responses, and never lose out on context with Freshdesk Omnichannel
TRY THE OMNICHANNEL EXPERIENCE
Proactive help to customers is the core of good customer care. Offering assistance to customers before they run into trouble has a significant impact on customer satisfaction and loyalty, as per recent Gartner research.
Help widgets that pop up after sensing rage clicks on websites or a timely email to shoppers who abandon their carts are ways to reach out to customers proactively. If you’re selling a software product, take the extra step to dive into product usage data and user behavior to gain insights on the challenges or objections a user may face in their product journey. You can then tailor in-app notifications and serve related content and look after the unspoken needs of your customers.
Related Resource: What is proactive customer service and how to implement it
The tone and language style that a brand uses in every customer interaction impacts the overall perception of the business. Creating and owning a unique tone and style of communication for your business subconsciously influences customers, and they adjust their expectations for every other interaction accordingly.
Try to maintain the same tone of voice and style across all channels to keep things consistent for your customers. This builds trust in the relationship because your customers have a mental image of your brand and find it easy to relate to your business. Here are a few specific things to pay attention to:
Emoji and gif usage: If you use it in one contact channel, you could use them in all.
Contractions: Do you leave it as “that is” or turn it into “that’s”?
Greeting: Does your team say “Dear Sir” or “Hey there”? Determine your colloquialism and keep it the same across the board.
Formality: Do you use slang and casual phrasing (i.e., “Wow, really sorry about that mix-up”), or do you keep it more professional (i.e., We sincerely apologize for this issue)?
No option is necessarily better than another - it’s just about what is right for your company’s brand and voice, and what you believe will help communicate with your customers better. While there are many things to be focusing on when writing an email, a chat, or talking on the phone, keeping these things in mind will help create a baseline of consistency. Canned responses and customer care email templates can also help maintain consistency in responses across big teams, especially to frequently asked questions.
Enhance consistency of your brand voice while providing instant support with customizable customer care email templates for common business scenarios.
VIEW CUSTOMER CARE EMAIL TEMPLATES
Today’s digital-first customers are not hesitant to voice their opinions about brand experiences. Frustrations and celebrations are instantly shared on social media. Online communities, niche forum groups, and digital marketplaces are other places where your engaged customer base shares their feedback on your products. Your company can find out how well you’re treating your customers by tuning into their conversations on the internet.
Social media listening and sentiment analysis are some non-intrusive ways to gather customer feedback. You can also use survey forms with targeted questions to know how a customer feels about your company. With the customer insights and inputs you receive, you’ll learn how close or far you are from meeting customers’ expectations while caring for them.
Related resource: How to collect, analyze, and act on customer feedback
Your whole company has to be bought into the idea of customer care if you want to do it well. Collaborating across teams is imperative for creating an excellent customer experience through customer care. No matter who your customer talks to at your company - from accounting to engineers to the CEO - they should encounter the same quality of care. Rather than treating ‘customer care’ as a separate department, encourage every employee to value caring for customers.
That’s exactly how Disney creates magical experiences for customers. They intentionally align all their employees towards a common purpose —their North Star—of ‘create happiness by providing the finest in entertainment for people of all ages everywhere.’ This goal is planted in all the employees who then feel empowered to go above and beyond to achieve happiness for their customers.
As discussed above, customer care shouldn’t reside with just your support team. It has to be ingrained in your culture and become part of what your company is known for.
The company behind the social media management tool - Buffer, is one such example. They’ve been known for their outstanding customer support, and they attribute their recognition to infusing customer support into everything they do. The founders realized that customer care is not just what their internal support - The Happiness Team, takes care of but a culture that has to be embraced by marketers, developers, and sales teams.
“Now that the Happiness team is so well established, it becomes less about the necessity and more about us all making a choice that we want to have a culture of customer support at Buffer.” - Joel, Co-founder of Buffer.
To make their vision on customer care a reality, every employee at Buffer takes a day to respond to support emails and tweets each month.
Like Buffer, here are some best practices to keep your customer care strong across your whole company:
Have regular ‘All Hands Customer Care’ days or periods where everyone gets in the inbox and helps your customers.
Regularly give your customer care team time off to renew their training and certifications or go to conferences.
Create a helpful and interactive social media presence that engages with customers in a friendly way.
Align teams around common goals that keep the customer front and center to drive the right behaviors.
Hire empathetic employees who have a demonstrated history of customer care, even when dealing with difficult situations.
Ask for constructive insights internally and externally, and take them seriously when they’re offered.
Maintain a culture where you say thank you to each other and your customers.
Regularly review your customer care metrics and see where you can do better.
Make peer review a part of your day-to-day activities—even across teams.
Though the emotional bonds created by customer care are hard to measure, here are a few metrics that you can use to determine whether your customer care is headed in the right direction.
Customer Satisfaction Score is a primary way to find if a customer was cared for the way they expected after a brand interaction.
When customers experience good care from brands, they tend to share about your business with their friends. NPS measures the likelihood of customers recommending your company to others.
The customer effort score measures how much work a customer has to do during a brand interaction. High-effort interactions lead to more disloyalty towards brands.
Customers value a swift and timely response. Measuring average response time helps you check if you’re providing answers on time and keeping your customers delighted.
When you resolve your customers’ issues in the first contact, and they don’t have to reach out to you for more information, you’ve delivered excellent customer care.
People leave when they are unhappy. People are unhappy because they aren’t well taken care of. If you’re offering excellent customer care, your churn rates may drop as happiness correlates with remaining a customer.
Offering excellent customer care gives your company more recurring revenue from your customers because they feel valued and important. It also provides your customer care team with the unique opportunity to spread the word internally about taking care of customers. Freshdesk is equipped with the right set of functionalities to scale the success of your customer care efforts and offer delight to your customers.
Be available for your customers on the channels they wish to interact with you. Care for your customers via phone, email, chat, social media, or messaging channels from one help desk software.
Intelligent automation helps you extend customer care at scale. Canned responses, AI-powered ticket assignment, and access to customer timelines within your help desk system enable you to have contextual and personalized customer engagement.
Freshdesk has an effective SLA management and ticketing system in place for evenly distributing agent workload. Skill-based ticket routing, event-triggered automated emails, timely reminders, and agent-assist bots help customer care representatives do their job better.
Make use of intuitive team dashboards and customizable reports to monitor your customer care team performance and productivity. Track vital customer care metrics and align your team to give stellar customer service.
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