Customer Care vs. Customer Satisfaction

When I was in my early 20’s, I clearly recall sitting on a bench in the busy hallway of the Eaton Centre in downtown Toronto interviewing for a retail position and being asked by the interviewer, “what is the difference between customer care and customer satisfaction?”

“Hmmm?? Great question”, I thought as I stammered my way through a fabricated response.  With only waitressing and bartending experience under my belt, I could only relate to ensuring the beer was flowing and the customers were happy.

Fast forward to present day and what is deemed to be the ‘Experience Age’, the topic of customer care and customer satisfaction dominate the conversation around the boardroom table.  Combine this with the Information Age that we exited in recent years and the prominence of online reviews as a reputable resource, and we find ourselves in a time where expectations being set by consumers couldn’t be higher.

So how would I answer that interview question 25 years later?

Simply put, customer satisfaction is the result of taking a personalized approach to your customers to ensure you understand their needs and then respond to them with appropriate solutions through your products or services.

It is not treating customers like a number.  It is about treating each person like a real living, breathing being with feelings and extending genuine care through an experience and outcome that leaves them feeling respected.  And with today’s competitive environment, if you are not making your customers feel heard then remember that there are always other options for them to consider.

Today more than ever, the personal connection to your customers is important which essentially contradicts a world where communication by text and email is so much more prevalent than verbal conversation.  Perhaps this is the exact reason why –  are we are starved to feel as important in a one-on-one purchase experience as we do by the 1000+ followers on social media that make us feel special?  Something to think about.

Customer care should not be a significant effort; it should be a natural result of being human and caring for others – treating others the way we want to be treated.

When a quality experience is extended through simply smiling and saying hello, asking questions and truly listening, and providing a quality offering that responds to the customer’s needs, it is then that customer satisfaction is created. And from there, customer satisfaction breeds customer loyalty and referrals, all of which can only benefit your company.

So, did I get the retail job that so deeply challenged my understanding of customer care and customer satisfaction?  No, I didn’t, which in retrospect I am grateful for because this question has remained with me over the past 20 plus years and has guided many of my actions.

Nothing is more important than the experience that we provide to our customers and as the late great Maya Angelou said,

“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”