Customer care vs customer service differences explained

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 9 November 2022

Published 19 May 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Customer care and customer service are both integral parts of a positive customer experience. Although these two terms sound similar and do overlap to a certain extent, they both refer to different aspects of the customer experience. If you're working in a role connected to either of these activities, understanding the differences and priorities can be very useful for your work. In this article, we explain what these roles entail, some key customer care vs customer service differences and answer some frequently asked questions.

Customer care vs customer service explained

To understand customer care vs customer service differences, it's important to first understand what each of these concepts means on its own. Both of them fall under the broader customer experience and are beneficial for most businesses. The respective definitions of each are:

Customer care

An important part of business success is ensuring that customers feel appreciated and looked-after. This can involve many things, such as how you and other members of the company treat customers and respond to their queries. Customer care occurs throughout the customer's interactions with the company, from the moment they first interact with you or anyone else until after they've purchased something. This can help the customer develop a positive emotional connection to the company and its employees and increase their loyalty to the brand.

A customer who receives good customer care feels like you're listening to them attentively, that you understand their concerns, that you care about what matters to them and that you're eager to do what you can to help them. This relies on soft skills like active listening, empathy and communication. It also typically involves a personalised approach to handling customers, where each individual feels like they're special and important. A customer who receives good customer care feels like they have a relationship with the company, rather than feeling like they're just another consumer among many.

Customer service

Another aspect of the customer experience is customer service, which directly relates to the purchase the customer has made. Almost every product, whether it's a good or service, has an accompanying service that the company offers. These services could be optional or circumstantial, such as free replacements for faulty items or a 30-day trial period. The service might also involve installing the product. You might offer support for customers to acquaint themselves with the product and learn how to use it.

Ensure the customer enjoys the product and can derive utility from it is customer service. The key concern for customer service is ensuring that customers have a convenient experience with the company's goods or services. This is important for customer retention and loyalty, as a satisfied customer who's happy with a product is unlikely to consider an alternative from a competitor. Customer service activities are also a great way for you to get feedback on product quality and functionality, which you can then relay to the relevant people in the company.

Related: Q&A: what is customer service and why is it important?

Key differences between care and service

Since both customer care and customer service are part of the overall customer experience, they can appear quite similar. Below is an overview of the key differences between these two roles:

Focus

An important difference between these two roles is which relationships they focus on improving. Customer care departments concern themselves with developing and improving the customer's relationship and opinion of the company itself. This is because a customer can form an opinion of the company based on how their interactions with company personnel go. If you're working in a customer care role, you're a representative of the company and how you treat customers is going to affect each individual's impression of the entire company, not just of yourself.

Conversely, the focus of customer service is on the customer's relationship with the product they're buying or have already bought. Products are also representatives of the company, so ensuring that customers have positive and smooth experiences with products is crucial for increasing customer loyalty and referrals. This relates to both positive and negative experiences. For instance, customer service can mean helping a customer to instal or set up their purchase, but it can also mean resolving an issue like replacing a faulty component.

Related: What is customer satisfaction?

Measurement

You measure customer care and customer service differently. Since customer care is mostly about how the customer feels after they've interacted with a representative of the company, it's difficult to measure it empirically. The closest alternative is a customer survey that asks them to rate their experience based on preset questions. How they perceive the questions, the personality of the individual customer and other factors can affect their perception of the company, regardless of how much time and effort you invested to keep them happy. Online reviews and written testimonials may offer a more in-depth way to collect this data.

Customer service can be easier to measure empirically. An important aspect of customer service is its convenience, and a major aspect of convenience is how quickly a customer can derive utility from a product or have an issue resolved. You could measure the average time it takes for a customer to set up and start using a new purchase, or how long it takes to resolve an issue. There are customer service metrics like the customer effort score (CES) that are dedicated to these measurements and can help quantify customer service performance.

Skills

Customer care and customer service require distinct skill sets, although they do overlap to a certain extent. Both benefit from excellent communication and active listening skills, tact, patience and sensitivity. Customer care has a greater focus on empathy and emotional intelligence, as the primary goal is ensuring the customer feels 'cared-for'. Customer service may involve more technical skills, as you'd require a good understanding of how the product functions to help customers with using or installing it.

Customer service agents benefit from these technical skills, together with an organised mindset. This is because resolving technical issues usually requires a structured approach, and you're going to want to both reassure and direct the customer while exercising tact and patience. An organised mindset also helps you give the customer clear instructions when necessary, whereas a customer care professional rarely gives instructions in the same manner. In some companies, to become a customer service agent, you'd require relevant experience with the product, which can be the case in companies that sell engineering and other hardware.

Related: Customer service skills: examples, definition and how to demonstrate

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Below are some frequently asked questions about customer care, customer service and their respective differences, along with the answers for each:

What is the customer experience?

The customer experience is the overall experience that a customer has with a company. This includes both customer service and customer care. If you want a customer to have a positive overall experience, you want to ensure that both customer care and customer service are good:

Are customer care and customer service roles always separate?

No. In many cases, both of these responsibilities are part of the same job. For example, if you're a customer service professional, then your primary responsibility might be to ensure that customers can use the products they've purchased effectively and that you resolve any issues that they encounter. How you do this and how you treat the customer throughout these interactions is also important for customer care, so you're performing both functions. Often, almost every person in a company who interacts with customers also ensures customer care.

Related: 15 consumer service jobs that pay well (with salaries)

Can customer care and customer service affect sales?

Yes. Both customer care and customer service can affect sales, although most times customer care has a more direct effect, whereas customer service's effect is more indirect. This is because many aspects of customer service take place after a customer has already purchased a product. If you're a customer service professional and you ensure a customer is happy with their purchase, they're more likely to buy from your company again or encourage their friends and family to consider you. This can indirectly increase sales.

The process of customer care starts from the first time the customer interacts with the company. This might start when they walk into a physical shop or when they contact you through a chat feature on an e-commerce site. If you provide this potential customer with excellent customer care, it makes them more likely to make an immediate purchase. This is how it can directly cause more sales.

Related:

  • How to write a cover letter for a customer assistant job

  • What are internal customer service best practices? With tips

  • What Is Customer Satisfaction?


Explore more articles