Is Customer Care the New Customer Service?

The pandemic has taught us many things, one of them being that customer service runs deeper than simply fielding customer inquiries.

By taking the time to develop a robust customer care strategy, you’ll improve your overall customer experience.

I needed to make a doctor appointment, so I went online to provide my availability and wait to be emailed with scheduling options. I have a full calendar that is constantly getting fuller, so finding open time slots can be challenging.

I waited a full day. No response about my appointment.

by Kellie Walenciak

I decided to call the office on my lunch break to see if I could get it scheduled quicker that way. I was met with the option to receive a call back or wait for half-an-hour on hold. I opted for the call back but after an hour passed…crickets. Already frustrated, I called back again, this time opting to hold. Finally, a half-an-hour later I was met with the voice of a real human and was able to schedule my appointment.

The scheduling assistant I spoke with was extremely nice and apologetic, which I appreciated, but it wasn’t enough to stop me from wondering if it was worth looking at other providers who could save me time, trouble, and give me a better experience.

The disappointing fact is this incident just happened yesterday. The pandemic has been a part of our lives for over a year and some companies are still struggling to keep up with customer demands.

The pandemic has taught us many things, one of them being that customer service runs deeper than simply fielding customer inquiries. Today, customer service means customer care, and it’s evolving to include many aspects of the customer experience. Both individuals and organizations are feeling the shift, and for those who respond reactively instead of moving proactively, adapting to the changes are painful.

Companies are dealing with the highest volume of customer calls they’ve ever experienced, some customers irate by the time they finally make their way out of the automated system. I’m sure you can relate. Longer hold times when scheduling appointments, hassle filled returns, days spent waiting for responses on product questions, delayed shipping of products are only some of the common issues customers are now facing. Does any of this sound familiar?

Because of experiences like these, buyers are moving to brands that do a better job of making their lives easier and making these interactions simple and quick. Almost 75% of customers leave a brand because they aren’t happy with the customer service.

A bad customer experience can be detrimental to your organization. You can’t let the pressure of the pandemic slow you down or hinder your ability to provide the best care to your customers. Today, the customer experience is major competitive advantage. It’s time to take your customer service to the next level.

Where do you start?

First, let’s go over the main differences between customer service and customer care:

  • Historically, customer service has focused more on assisting customers, providing product knowledge, and resolving customer issues.
  • Customer care places greater importance on how customers feel after each interaction with your organization.
  • Customer service is reactive. When a customer isn’t satisfied with something, they go to customer service.
  • Customer care is proactive. It’s a holistic approach that works toward the goal of creating an excellent customer experience at every stage of the customer lifecycle.
  • Customer care focuses on creating the highest level of customer satisfaction before, during, and after a sale. It’s about the journey. During the customer lifetime, there will be many points they need to interact with your organization. Customer service focuses more on after the sale, where customer care focuses on every touchpoint a customer has with your brand.

There are many services that fall under customer care. Let’s look:

  • Partner Help Desk Support – This is the type of support where your agents will help your channel partners with technical needs and questions.
  • Customer Support – Fills the need for a variety of end-user customer inquiries, including questions, complaints, etc.
  • Tech Support – Responding to users’ tech-related questions.
  • Online Order Fulfillment – Responding to customers who are ordering products from a company’s website.
  • Call Routing – Routing a variety of calls, including but not limited to sales-related, service-related, etc.
  • Customer Onboarding – Assisting new customers to onboard by guiding them along the journey.
  • Lead Qualification – Qualifying inbound leads from website, chat, toll-free calls and routing them or dispositioning them in a client’s system.

Before you can improve your customer care strategy you need to analyze how well you’re currently doing. To do this, you need to understand the proper ways to measure your customer care strategy. In doing so, you’ll be able to identify any gaps and address them quickly and efficiently.

Use these five key metrics to analyze how well you’re doing at truly delighting your customers.

  1. Net Promoter Score (NPS) – This determines how likely a customer is to recommend your brand.
  2. Customer Satisfaction Score – This score shows how satisfied your customers are with their overall experience with your brand.
  3. Customer Retention – How likely is a customer to remain loyal to your brand?
  4. Abandonment Rate – Those long wait times? How many of your customers are hanging up before they speak with one of your agents?
  5. Average Response Time – How quickly are your agents able to help your customers?

So you’ve taken a good, hard look at where you stand in the realm of top-notch customer care and you see areas of improvement. What can you do to move your organization from a customer service model to a customer care model?

Here are some of the best tactics to implement to make the biggest impact on the way you help customers:

Be Proactive

Don’t wait for queues to pile up and customer complaints to roll in before you make a change. Talk with your agents about what they are experiencing on the front lines. Ask them what they are hearing form customers. In doing so, you’ll be able to identify your customers most pressing challenges and how to solve them.

Think Beyond Problem Solving

If up to this point you’ve been focusing your customer care strategy more around resolving customer issues, shift your perspective to other needs they may have. Do you have processes in place to onboard customers? Do you have the right technology to monitor call volume, abandonment rates, response rates, and the key indicators that your agents are giving each customer the attention they deserve?

Anticipate Customer Needs

Gather your team for a brainstorming session and map out your customer lifecycle. Identify what their needs could be at each touchpoint. Stand-out brands are the ones that give customers what they didn’t even know they wanted. Are you missing out on valuable interactions to educate customers on common product knowledge before they need to reach out to your agents? Does your website have a robust section dedicated to customer questions, concerns, and needs or are you still relying on a basic FAQs page? You already have so much valuable information on your customers. When you meet with your team, you can use this data goldmine to better understand your customers and shape your strategy.

Upskill Your Team

Does your team have the proper training to assist customers quickly and efficiently? Have you updated these processes since the start of the pandemic? A skilled team is the best way to set your customers up for positive interactions with your brand. Your agents need to be consistent in the way they are supporting customers. Talk with them about what they feel would help them do their job better. The simple act of asking them what they need and providing it to them will translate into better agent/customer interactions. Your team should strive to go above and beyond the basics of customer service. They should be so knowledgeable about your product or solution that they are empowered to easily solve customer challenges in a way that makes customers lifetime fans of your brand.

Customer care is the new customer service. By taking the time to develop a robust customer care strategy, you’ll improve your overall customer experience. You’ll also give your teams time back in their work days, allowing them to focus on the strategic areas of the business. With some thoughtful tweaks to your strategy, you’ll be able to make the necessary changes to show your customers their satisfaction is part of your business. Once you transform your strategy to be centered around customer care, you’ll give your customers the type of experience that leaves them wanting to sing your praises and keeps them coming back.

Kellie Walenciak is the Global Head of Marketing and Communications for Televerde, the preferred global revenue creation partner supporting marketing, sales and customer success for B2B businesses around the world.

Photo by Lina Trochez on Unsplash.

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