The differences between customer service, customer care and customer experience
Updated: Jan 18, 2022
There’s a saying in Latin: omne trium perfectum, which translates to “everything that comes in threes is perfect.” The rule of three states that words, people or things grouped this way are more satisfying and effective than other numbers.
Interestingly enough, this association makes your brain process and remember things easier. Examples of this can be found in various fields, from the Holy Trinity to the Three Musketeers, and from Destiny’s Child to the world of support.
Customer service, customer experience and customer care: You’ve probably seen these concepts on your favorite customer service blog and elsewhere on the World Wide Web. Although they sound similar and serve the same goal (pleasing your customer), they’re pretty different. It may just seem like semantics, but what makes each one different yet still related to one another?
The definitions vary in the way they approach customer care and the entire journey a consumer embarks on with your brand. Below, we’ve elaborated on each term along with powerful tools you can use for your business.
Definition: Customer service is the act of providing support to your customers - before and after they buy and use your product or service.
The purpose of customer service (also called customer support) is to respond to any incoming client questions. This includes any need for clarifying or troubleshooting an issue, cool tips as well as additional advice to use your product or service to the fullest. It requires your trained support team to understand and grasp interpersonal skills, product knowledge and, most of all, patience. With the right help desk software, you’ll be able to track all interactions you receive in an organized way.
What is often less obvious is that this has a direct impact on customer satisfaction. This element is imperative for business growth. For instance, if you have frustrated clients, it means you’ll have less existing and potential ones coming back.
While making your customers happy is a difficult hurdle on its own, there are various tools to monitor and optimize for improvement. With the popularity of messenger apps, live chat software is a must in order to engage with customers in real-time. Other tools include monitoring your customer service key performance indicators (KPIs). In fact, metrics such as first contact resolution (FCR) are directly linked to higher levels of customer satisfaction.
The reactive and proactive approach
Even today, businesses wait for customers to contact them about an issue before they decide to resolve it. It’s like using duct tape to hold your car door mirror until the point it falls off and you can no longer drive. To avoid reaching this point, customer service uses a simple flow to follow through.
Let’s call this flow the reactive and proactive approach. It’s important to point out that the order of both terms cannot be changed - like a Q&A session.
When a client has an issue with your product and reaches out to your support team, this is the reactive phase. To illustrate, a customer submits a ticket and is told: “One of our representatives will look into the problem and will contact you ASAP.” While this indicates the message was received, it may take a support team days to solve an issue and as a consequence, decrease a main key performance indicator of first-contact resolution.
This is where the proactive approach segues in. This involves directly assisting and guiding customers to resolve the issue. The more additional knowledge you provide your client, the better. For example, if you’re in the flower business, you may tell the customer some key plant-caring tips, such as: “Make sure to water your orchids once a week to avoid the soil from drying out.” Selling a product is one thing, but anticipating customer needs is a powerful tool to harness.
Definition: Customer care is the process of looking after clients through interactions to ensure their overall satisfaction with your product or service.
Care: This four letter word is the heart of any sector today. It steers away from your typical hard-selling salesman and focuses more on emotions. Care is by essence an active, if not proactive, activity. It requires more investment in time and workforce, but not necessarily in money.
For businesses, we see this term unfold in customer-facing roles, such as meeting your B2B clients, or a concierge at a 5-star hotel. Customer care can shape and improve client satisfaction with your product or service. Most importantly, it can build customer loyalty and improve relationships with your clients.
Here are four ways to show you genuinely care:
Keep your ears open: Your customer can face turbulence when using your product or service. To prevent a bad customer experience from happening, use the power of empathy. This demonstrates your genuine concern towards them and dedication that you’re willing to do just about everything you can to find a solution.
Always ask: Customers definitely have something to say about your product or service. Some are more vocal, while others remain silent. The key is to always step-up and ask for customer feedback. Consider using a help desk software to keep track and house all interactions.
Help them find answers: According to a Gartner study, two-thirds of all customer service interactions will no longer need human intervention. This means providing the right tools, such as a structured knowledge base, to answer their questions instantly without them having to pick up the phone.
Feature them: Showcasing your customers on social media and your website shows your clients they mean more than just doing business. Display powerful customer testimonials to help others potential clients make the decision easier.
Definition: Customer experience is the overall perception clients develop of your brand after any interaction with it (use of your product, exposition to an ad, support call, etc.).
Think about the last time you had a poor customer experience. Chances are you’ll be able to recollect these moments in a matter of seconds. Customer experience plays on different human connections, be it psychological, emotional and physical connections towards your brand.
In fact, customer service and customer care are puzzle pieces of the entire experience. If you deliver the unforgettable, it’s likely clients will return to do business with you again. This results in one of the most valuable things you can have for your brand: customer loyalty. It’s much more than just answering a customer through your ticketing system. It requires time, experimentation and optimization on your part.
Here are four key tools businesses can use to leverage customer experience:
Tell a story: Positioning your customer in your business narrative is an effective strategy to hone in on their emotions. It’s time to move away from providing clients with dry information and shape it into something more realistic like a two-way conversation. Using storytelling to connect with your customers will open doors you never knew existed. From simply introducing yourself, to displaying customer testimonials on your site, it’s no doubt that a story can set you apart from the rest.
Create a welcoming and navigable website: A business without a website, is like a person without a face. In our digital age, it’s required to have an online presence as it acts as a way to attract potential clients. No need to feel lost, we’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to make a website.
Provide solutions in a timely manner: Customers have grown a little impatient when it comes to getting answers. Reversely, they feel listened to and cared for when they receive answers fast. This is why providing live chat can reduce the top customer service pain-points many businesses face, like improving customer experience to reducing wait times.
Be on social media: Today, it is common practice to head over to a brand’s social media page for support to ask questions, or even to vent frustrations. Social media isn’t just for high-tech companies, though. Even restaurants now take reservations over Facebook Messenger. When offering support on social media, always actively monitor interactions as one slip-up could ruin you (for good).
How Zappos lives up to their customer experience philosophy
Zappos, a leading eCommerce retailer, is not just known for their immense collection of shoes and apparel. If I had to describe the brand in two words it would be: customer experience.
It was a stormy East Coast day. I was suppose to receive my Nike sneakers. I waited and waited. To be honest, I was fuming. I picked up the phone and called their support line. In 2 minutes I was connected with a representative named Tom. I explained the issue and told him I was going abroad for vacation that weekend and needed the shoes for walking. Tom empathized with me and put me on a brief hold.
“Alex, are you still there?” he said. He had upgraded my package to 1-day shipping. While wrapping things up, Tom told me he was on an exotic island in the Bahamas and said it’s sunny 300 days of the year.
While he knew I was frustrated, his words put a smile on my face. I looked outside the window - raining. His unexpected comment made me imagine myself on a tropical island with a piña colada in hand.
After the call ended, I told everyone about my positive customer experience. The company went so above and beyond my basic customer expectations in creative and unexpected ways.
What Zappos did is possible for any business.
Here’s a phrase you may have encountered in your school days: “The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Focusing solely on customer service and customer care can improve certain aspects of your business strategy. But who ever said a partial effort meant success? If you want to go big (and not go home) utilize all three to create an exceptional customer experience.
Ready to provide an exceptional customer experience? Try the best help desk software today!