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Updated: 5 April 2024

Contributors: Alex Iacoviello, Amanda Downie

What is customer care?

Customer care is a proactive approach to providing information, tools and services to customers so they have positive experiences at each point they interact with the brand. More than just providing great customer service—which is providing the appropriate assistance to customers—customer care is more comprehensive and less quantifiable.  

Excellent customer care focuses on building a strong and satisfactory emotional connection between the customer and the brand. This might include actively listening to customer problems, providing real-time solutions, following up with phone calls, considering customer feedback and establishing an ongoing relationship with the customer. Companies today are modernizing customer care, by using advanced AI to ensure a positive customer experience (CX) from the first interaction through post-purchase.

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The value of customer care

When done well, customer care can be a smart business investment by improving brand reputation, building customer trust, reducing churn and overall exceeding customer expectations. Customer care boosts the overall customer experience by providing answers to common questions through the website, social media, chatbots, or with customer support agents.

Companies benefit from investing in customer care for multiple reasons:

  • Customers get the insights that they need to make an informed purchase.
  • Customer satisfaction can increase, which improves customer loyalty.
  • Customer service agents spend less time on routine tasks and answering commonly asked questions, through automation enabling agents to do more meaningful tasks.
  • Business leaders that use AI to optimize customer care can increase their bottom line and provide a positive return on investment.

There can be challenges to customer care. For example, consumer expectations are extremely high, putting increased pressure on companies to improve their customer relationships. According to Forrester (link resides outside ibm.com), 64% of US CX leaders anticipate increased budgets to accommodate the challenges faced to show the value of their organization. However, businesses that focus on the value of customer care can increase their number of loyal customers.

Customer care versus customer service

Customer care and customer service together help create a positive customer experience, or the overall impression a person has when interacting with your company. Both are vital, but there are subtle differences in how they are implemented.

High-quality customer care is proactive—the needs displayed throughout the customer journey are anticipated. This make customers feel more supported. That, in turn, helps create an emotional connection between the customer and the company. On the other hand, customer service is reactive. Here, the focus is on helping with customer problem-solving or by answering questions before purchasing, either in a self-service fashion via FAQs or by contacting the customer care team.

If a company neglects customer care, it can negatively impact the customer service experience. For example, when a website chatbot cannot provide key information about a product, customers are more likely to get frustrated and reach out to a customer service agent for help. This places a greater burden on the support team to quickly address the issue and mitigate any effects of the negative experience.

To achieve satisfied customers, your reps should address customer needs quickly and with as few customer interactions as possible. According to Forrester (link resides outside ibm.com), 75% of global business and technology professionals report customer experience as a high priority for their business. Forrester notes that the obstacle companies are facing is through finding ways to increase customer engagement and brand loyalty. To stay competitive, businesses can adopt a few customer experience trends.

The main differentiator is that customer care is less quantifiable than customer service because it focuses on the emotional connection with the customer. According to Qualtrics (link resides outside ibm.com), delivering excellent customer service is important because it can increase ROI, improve customer loyalty and garner recommendations from customers. For example, Deloitte found that brands were 60% more profitable when they were customer-centric compared to brands that neglected customer experience.

Customer care is better articulated through use cases instead of quantitative data. For example, Apple is known for their customer care via their “steps of service” approach—adapted from the Ritz-Carlton. Their store experience essentially provides a positive customer experience where employees are trained to understand the pain points, listen to the customer, and present a solution—all coupled with a warm and welcoming demeanor. Apple also chose to brand their stores as “Town Squares (link resides outside ibm.com),” to highlight the concept that they are centers of the best of Apple coming together, and that it is an open forum to promote inclusivity. These efforts can increase customer loyalty and customer retention through fostering an emotional connection. Also, the company considers the entire customer journey and the needs of the persona, highlighting an excellent customer experience strategy.

Omnichannel approach to customer care

Call centers were once the go-to option for customers seeking help with a product or service, but customers today want great customer service on the channels most convenient to them. Omnichannel customer service strategies consider the various touchpoints where a customer interacts with a brand. 94% of B2B executives saying that omnichannel sales strategy is either more effective or as effective compare to pre-pandemic models, according to McKinsey (link resides outside ibm.com). Part of this popularity is rooted in convenience, as well as the enthusiasm from Gen Z in having a positive customer experience.

Touchpoints of omnichannel customer care


Call centers/customer service desks: This method provides a direct interaction with a customer support agent trained to respond and address customer questions and complaints. The quality of customer care leading up to this interaction can greatly influence how much time it takes to resolve each case, and in turn impact your customer satisfaction score (CSAT).

Onsite service: Actions can often speak louder than words, the speed at which a business can provide support to customer needs can help exemplify good customer service. It is still essential for businesses whose model calls for potential onsite customer care to have an efficient and positive process for getting customer service agents directly to the customer.

Live chats: Instead of tying up customer support agents via phone calls, live chats can make employees more efficient in answering customer questions as they can service multiple chats at a given time. Also, this provides an alternative option for customers who prefer to text or instant message as opposed to communicate over the phone.

Self-service/webpages: FAQs, chatbots and resourceful websites are self-service tools that are easily accessible through mobile devices and available 24-7, so customers can consistently ask questions at their fingertips. Self-service options can directly address customer needs, for example, if a call center has a recurring question that customers are asking, they might consider adding the answer to their website via an FAQ or chatbot.

Social media/user forums: Brands should meet customers where they are. Word-of-mouth marketing and communication have taken to social media, and in the age of influencers this has invited more people to join the conversation, including brands. Social media has become a method of public. troubleshooting for brands, as they can directly address customer needs. Also, social media virtually connects people, and it can help to connect a company to its customers.

How AI can support customer care

Technology like generative AI can provide a hyper-personalized customer experience. While some organizations are already implementing this technology, it is expected to become the norm over the next year. IBV reports that 84% of organizations are expected to deploy generative AI text-based chatbots by 2025, and 42% are using those bots. Other areas where generative AI usage is expected to grow are gaining new customers through outreach initiatives and increasing engagement by using voice technology. However, business leaders are taking precaution, 72% of executives said they will step back if there is a noticeable ethical cost when using generative AI.

Also, generative AI and chatbots alone cannot replace departments of employees, rather they can enhance the performance of support teams. IBV also reports in the same study that 87% of executives expect generative AI to augment roles rather than replace them. Moreover, organizations delivering top employee experience outperform revenue growth by 31%.

Guided by customer care teams, gen AI can evolve to better understand your customer base. While it can be a powerful tool to create happy customers, it is the customer service representatives who remain essential for driving emotional connection through things like face-to-face interactions. The use of AI to compliment reps working in customer relations provides organizations with a competitive advantage.

Customer service metrics and analytics

To properly manage customer care, companies must understand how they are succeeding and what needs improvement. This requires establishing key performance indicators (KPIs) for customer service and creating a system of gathering metrics across channels.

Organizations providing good customer care can lower their churn rate—the number of customers leaving their service. According to Qualtrics (link resides outside ibm.com), 52% of customers in the US switch companies because of poor experiences in the last year alone. Along with customer churn, companies can monitor external KPIs gathered from customer data via surveys, email communication or engagement on social platforms. CSAT, Customer Effort Score (CES), Net Promoter Score (NPS), and social media metrics are all important external metrics that can be gathered via omnichannel communication with the customer.

Customer data platforms (CDP) are another way organizations can retrieve metrics to improve their customer experience. An IDC survey (link resides outside ibm.com) found that about 75% of business respondents plan to increase their CDP technology spending over the next year. Organizations can stay competitive by providing a personalized experience for customers through using trusted CDP to better understand the customer needs.

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