I recently stayed in a Vrbo rental. It was a really nice place with a high-tech security system. We knew it was high-tech because we accidentally triggered it early one morning.
Unfortunately, we didn't have the disarm code, and we had no way of directly contacting the owner of the house. So we decided to call the security company, even though we weren’t the owner and likely wouldn’t receive any help. The rep read my frustration and told me they authorized a "special protocol" and would manually disarm the alarm for us.
I knew there wasn't a special authorization protocol. This rep read the sincerity in my frustration and made a judgment call to go against his company's standards. That's not just customer service, that's customer care.
In this post, we'll explain what customer care is and how it differs from customer service. Then, we'll wrap things up by listing a few customer care examples from real companies.
What is customer care?
Customer care describes how people are treated when they interact with a brand. This includes all experiences with the company and its employees before, during, and after a purchase. Customer care is an important aspect of customer service because it fosters an emotional connection with the brand's community.
Customer care isn't measured in the same way as customer loyalty or success. That's because things like loyalty and success are a byproduct of caring for your customers. It's impossible to build a trustworthy, emotional connection with your customer base if you're too focused on measuring it. Customer care goes a step further by ignoring the metrics and instead fully investing in your customers' goals and needs.
Customer care is often confused with customer service, customer relations, customer success, and customer experience. However, these functions are distinctly different from one another. Let's explore those differences below.
Customer Care vs. Customer Service
Customer care is the process of building an emotional connection with your customers, whereas customer service is simply the advice or assistance your business provides them. Customer care is less quantifiable than customer service and is more concerned with one-to-one customer interactions.
While both functions increase customer satisfaction, customer service does this by answering questions and providing support. Customer care, on the other hand, focuses on active listening and understanding the customer's emotional needs as much as the physical or business ones. By doing so, your company creates a long-term, mutually-beneficial relationship with your customers.
Customer Care vs. Customer Relations
In customer service, the closest concept to customer care is customer relations. Both are functions of customer service and deal with long-term relationship-building. However, customer relations aims to quantify this relationship with your target audience. Its goal is to create loyal customers and eventually turn them into advocates.
Customer care works toward a similar goal but is much less calculated. Its purpose is to assist customers for the sake of helping them, even if the customer's goal isn't related to your business. By doing so, your company becomes a trusted resource in the eyes of your consumers.
Customer Care vs. Customer Success
Customer success is also sometimes called customer support. It differs from customer care in that it typically extends beyond a single instance and requires the expertise of a company’s IT or engineering department. Customer care is more about emotion; customer success is more about solving a technical problem.
Customer success departments are more commonly found at SaaS companies, where the product they sell has a learning curve. Customer success departments deal with everything that has to do with the product experience. They carry out tutorials, walk the customer through a problem on their end, and be the first point of contact when bugs appear in the product.
Customer Care vs. Customer Experience
Customer care typically refers to the relationship-building aspect of customer service, so it requires interactions with a representative. Customer experience encompasses the whole of the customer’s journey before, during, and after a purchase; the customer doesn’t necessarily need to interact with a representative.
Something as simple as the user experience on the website can impact the customer experience. Customer care, on the other hand, refers to moments when a problem was promptly resolved and the rep went above and beyond to find a solution. Make no mistake: customer care can make for a great customer experience, so the two are closely related.
While all of these are different from each other in many ways, they impact your customer satisfaction score. It’s important to emphasize them all equally when creating a service strategy for your business or scaling your service team.
Since customer care is less quantifiable than its closely-related counterparts, it's easier to demonstrate it using live examples. Luckily, we've tracked down some memorable instances of customer care and put them together in the section below.
Customer Care Examples
1. Spotify — Personalized Customer Interactions
One of the best ways to foster a relationship is to personalize the service experience. When your team provides a personalized response, customers become more engaged with the interaction.
That's because they feel more valued by your business. They're not being rushed through as another service case that needs to be closed. Taking the time to craft a thoughtful response is an excellent way to demonstrate customer care.
Spotify does exactly this with its social media team. In fact, they created a dedicated Twitter account for responding to customer messages. It’ll respond to customer questions and complaints with creative, customized solutions. For example, one customer tweeted that they liked the app but was still learning how to use it. So, Spotify responded with a special playlist that welcomed the new user.
Spotify could have just said this in a tweet, but the company took a satisfied customer and, through customer care, turned them into a viral advocate.
2. Hertz — Staying Late for the Customer
Your most loyal customers are also the most valuable ones for your business. They spend the most money and are more likely to advocate on behalf of your brand.
But, that advocacy can go both ways. Like in the case of this Hertz customer who arrived late to the terminal and was still able to rent a car because the employee stayed after hours.
This is an excellent example of customer care because the rep went above and beyond to exceed the expectations of the customer. The best part? Hertz responded straightaway and thanked the customer for the compliment. Customers expect an immediate response, especially when it's online.
3. Trader Joe's — Above-and-Beyond Customer Service
Sometimes it's hard to bucket customer care. You just don't know it until you see it in action. And, that's exactly how we can describe this next example.
At Trader Joe's, a child was having a rough shopping experience. He was crying in the checkout line until three employees started dancing to cheer him up. Needless to say, it worked.
This is a perfect example of customer care. These cashiers didn't have to go out of their way to do this. They could have just apologized to the parent, acted extra-friendly, and gave a smile to try and smooth the situation over.
Instead, they went all out. They dropped what they were doing and focused on the well-being of a person, not a customer. That's why this act of above-and-beyond customer service is a fundamental example of customer care.
4. Real Canadian Superstore — Customer Convenience
A huge component of customer care is understanding customer needs and creating convenience for consumers trying to achieve short- and long-term goals.
One Canadian grocery store does just that by offering a service that lets you purchase products online. Then, you drive to the store where they deliver the groceries to your car. One customer described her positive experience in the Instagram post below.
And that's not all. When the service team realized that this customer purchased an item that wasn't in stock, they called her to suggest alternatives. This convenient experience created a long-term customer for the Real Canadian Superstore.
5. Drybar — Unique Customer Experience
As a business, you can differentiate yourself by mastering one aspect of your industry. For example, the hair salon, Drybar, positions itself as a "blowout bar" that only performs a handful of procedures.
"The customer service experience is everything." - Michael Landau, Drybar Co-Founder
Its customers love it because Drybar not only offers a specialized service but provides it through a unique experience. Its locations have elaborate interiors with customized decor and seating areas. The stylists provide exceptional customer service and focus on customer care at every touchpoint. Customers can walk away with a high-class salon experience at just $40 a visit.
6. Virgin Atlantic Airlines — Service Accountability
It's hard to please every customer you interact with. With each one having their own unique needs and goals, it's impossible to be perfect. But, when you make mistakes, your team needs to own it.
That's exactly what Virgin Atlantic Airlines did after one customer had a poor experience in first class. He wrote a detailed letter to the company describing his meal on an international flight. To spare you the visual, he described his meal as a "miscellaneous central cuboid of beige matter."
Instead of offering an apology, Richard Branson, the company's founder, invited the customer to overhaul Virgin Atlantic's menu. He also added the passenger to the company's airline culinary council so he could represent the voice of the customer during future culinary decisions.
"A complaint is a chance to turn a customer into a lifelong friend." - Richard Branson, Virgin Atlantic Founder
7. Waitrose — Kind and Helpful Service
Sometimes, an embarrassing incident for a customer can turn into an excellent customer care opportunity. Upon visiting Waitrose, a grocery store, a customer hurt her leg and ripped her trousers. The duty manager immediately jumped to help, and the customer promptly went to Twitter to praise the team for their helpfulness. She even called them peonies!
Of course, the grocery store responded to her in kind. When your business receives accounts of positive customer care interactions on social media or elsewhere, it’s always important to follow up. If you don’t, the customer won’t feel appreciated. Retweeting or replying also helps spread the word about the positive customer care interaction.
Care for the Customer and They’ll Care For You
Customer care is an ever-important part of a strong customer service program. When possible, try to go above and beyond for your customers and create a strong emotional connection to let them know that you care. In doing so, you’ll create a long-lasting relationship with them. They might even praise you publicly, spreading good word about your customer service and helping your business grow better.
Editor's note: This post was originally published in October 2019 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.