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How much are you investing in your current customers? Our recent research revealed that customer experience (CX) professionals say their number one priority is improving customer retention (43%) followed closely by boosting customer loyalty (41%).

Because many CX teams are focused on improving customer loyalty and retention, you need to stand out. One way is with a solid customer care program, which sounds like a big investment. But what it really takes is getting all of your employees to adopt a customer-focused mindset. Here’s how you can make it work for your business.

Different organizations have their own definition of customer care. Some say that customer care is only part of a customer’s post-purchase journey. Others might confuse customer care with customer service or support.

But good customer care, or a customer care program, happens during any part of the customer experience: before, during, and after a purchase.

Customer care definition: Customer care is how a company builds trust with their customers through consistently respectful, empathetic interactions.

Now more than ever, customers have seemingly limitless choices on where to shop. A 2021 study by Sitecore shows that 80% of Gen Z shoppers say they’re now more willing to try new brands online. The study also found:

  • 76% think they should be rewarded for purchasing from their favorite brand
  • 71% want a highly personalized experience when shopping online
  • 38% say they give a brand only one more chance before switching to a competitor

Providing excellent customer care is your chance to differentiate your brand and  increase customer satisfaction, loyalty, and retention.

Man and women looking at customer care and experience graphics

Customer service or support might sound synonymous with customer care. To support someone, you have to care about them. But they’re not the same thing.

So what is customer service? It’s when a company responds to customer requests, questions, and issues with their product or service.

Although it’s crucial for your company to offer excellent customer service, support teams are often bound to key customer service metrics that may prioritize speed and efficiency over other factors.

What is the role of customer care? A customer care program is for everyone at your company. It’s an ethos centered around building one-on-one customer connections that can happen at any point in the customer journey.

Here’s how you can combine a customer care mindset with your customer service:

  • Respond with empathy and understanding. Empower your customer service agents to use their best judgment to solve customer problems. This could mean allowing your employees to bypass a return policy under special circumstances.
  • Put customer needs and convenience first. Give customers many different channels to reach out (phone, email, chat). Consider making returns easy or no-contact.
  • Reconsider your definition of success. Zappos is well known for its responsive, above-and-beyond customer service. That’s because they have a unique approach to customer service, including how they measure success. For example, Zappos doesn’t penalize call center employees for long service calls. In fact, they celebrated one of their customer service agents for spending eight hours on the phone with a single customer.

The customer experience is how customers see your brand before, during, and after they purchase from you. Some of the customer experience, like your customer service or your purchase experience, is in your direct control. Other brand perception or reputational aspects of CX, like word of mouth, can be more challenging to manage.

That said, you can definitely control a customer care program and make sure it touches every part of the customer experience. Here are some examples:

  • Monitor your social media mentions and engage with customers. This doesn’t necessarily have to be in response to a complaint or a positive review. Proactively connect with customers on an emotional level, like celebrating something they’re happy about. Or just let them know you’re listening and grateful for their business.
  • Build a Voice of the Customer (VoC) program for your business. A VoC program means regularly collecting customer feedback and sharing key insights with your employees. You should also let customers know you hear them and are making improvements based on their feedback. 
  • Encourage a customer-centric culture. Each of your employees should understand your customer’s point of view and think about their experience on a weekly basis. Your employees should also know that your company truly cares about the customer experience and takes customer satisfaction seriously.

According to our research, 81% of consumers say they’re likely to share a poor customer experience with friends or family. Without good customer care, you could be losing customers and feeling the effects of negative word of mouth.

Fortunately, our same research revealed that 91% of consumers are likely to recommend a company after a positive experience with them. If you’re committed to great customer interactions, you could be building your customer base and keeping your current customers around.

If you want to boost employee engagement, build a customer-centric culture. Our research shows that feeling connected to customers is a big factor when it comes to employee happiness and retention:

  • Among employees with low customer empathy, only 49% find their jobs meaningful.
  • Among employees who say they think about customers at least once a week, 72% find their jobs meaningful.
  • Among employees who say customer satisfaction is a key priority for their company, 83% think they’ll still be working there in two years. Only 56% of those who don’t see customers as a high priority feel the same.

Not sure how connected your employees feel to customers? You can use our Customer Centricity Survey Template to see where you stand–and make improvements from there.

You’ve likely heard that retaining a customer is much less expensive than attracting a new one. Plus, there are many benefits to customer loyalty and retention, from increased customer lifetime value (CLV) to improved profits.

And the more care you show for your customers, the better. An article published in the Harvard Business Review titled “The New Science of Customer Emotions” shows that customers who are fully connected to a brand are 52% more valuable than customers who are just highly satisfied.

NPS question with results on a scale of 1-10 and results at the bottom of graphic

It would be great if there were one number that could tell you how well your customer care program is working. Because customer care is about cultivating relationships with customers, and thinking less about your aggregate customer data, you might find it difficult to understand the impact of customer care on your brand image or growth.

The good news is that you can measure different dimensions of customer satisfaction with some industry-standard metrics:

A 2019 research report by Business Wire found that 69% of C-suite executives said they were increasing investment in customer loyalty efforts, with 55% saying their investments will continue to grow over the next two years.

Of course, it’s one thing to say you’re investing in customer loyalty. It’s another to implement a customer care program that touches all of your employees.

A good customer care program takes time and resources to get right. In addition to leadership buy-in, you’ll need to get all of your employees to take customer care seriously. This could include updated employee training and incentives to truly put the customer first.

Even if you provide the best customer care, you have other factors to overcome. Consumers may leave your brand for a competitor because of lower prices or better products and features.

It’s a good idea to run regular market research to see how you can compliment your customer care with competitive insights.

Customers like being rewarded for their loyalty with special recognition and benefits. But you don’t necessarily have to offer these perks for free. A 2020 survey by McKinsey showed that members of paid loyalty programs are 60% more likely to spend more on a brand after subscribing, while free programs only made it 30% more likely.

According to a study by Acquia, 75% of US consumers say that if a brand understands them on a personal level, they’re more likely to be loyal. You can get a better understanding of customer needs by collecting customer feedback and connecting it to existing customer data in your CRM like Salesforce or Hubspot.

Build meaningful connections with your customers by proactively showing them you care about their experience.

For example:

  • A hospital’s emergency department can keep comforting items, like teddy bears, on hand. Let staff give away these items to children at any point during their visit. A new stuffed animal is an extra cost, but it might pay off in the long run because of what it means to a scared parent or child. 
  • Fitness center owners should encourage their trainers and instructors to notice new class attendees and follow up with them. A yoga instructor can email a new student, telling them they did a great job in class and to come back soon.
  • Small ecommerce businesses can include a handwritten note thanking customers for their business. You can even give them a discount code for their next purchase and remind them that they can reach out with any questions.

Remember that customer care is more than customer support or service. It’s about connecting with customers on an emotional level throughout the customer journey. And it’s simpler to build those connections when you can truly empathize with the customer experience.

SurveyMonkey makes it easy for you to understand the customer experience and gain actionable insights. Automate your customer surveys, connect feedback to customer data, and collaborate with your team. Because when your employees and your customers can truly connect, everyone wins.

Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are trademarks of Satmetrix Systems, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

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