The Keys to Great Customer Service, Part 1: Customer Experience vs. Customer Service

If customer experience is the sum of its parts, then fantastic customer service should be a top priority for your organization.

Articles published October 19, 2017

These days, everyone wants an experience. They want to be wowed and treated as though they’re the most important customer. This interaction goes beyond basic customer service — it develops into the customer experience.

What is Customer Service? 

Most people are familiar with customer service and have expectations of what that service looks, feels, or sounds like. Customer service includes everything from interactions with support agents and social media inquiries, all the way to the self-service resources that empower customers to find their own answers. And the moments when customers interact with your customer service department are often the most important ones. Customer service puts a crucial human element to your brand and has the most direct impact on customer relationships. That’s why it’s so important to have customer service representatives who are kind, patient, and fully understand both your product and your culture.  

Customer service is one component of the overall customer experience. Customer service teams typically measure their success on key customer experience metrics already, like customer satisfaction (CSAT) and the Net Promoter Score, where customers who rate their customer service experience high on a 1-10 scale are viewed as brand enthusiasts who will continue to use your brand and even refer others to you.

What is Customer Care?

Another component of customer experience is customer care. Customer care refers to how a customer is taken care of throughout all of their brand interactions. It takes customer service one step further by not just establishing a human element but also providing an emotional component.

Simple as it may sound, customer care means truly caring about the customer — listening, problem solving, and guiding them towards a helpful resolution. 

Customer Experience is the Sum of its Parts

Customer experience (CX) can be defined as all of the interactions a customer has with a company. Whether placing an order online, chatting live with an agent, visiting a store, talking with a sales agent, receiving a shipment, or just browsing a website; each of these brief encounters have a major impact on how we perceive a brand. As we move through each stage of the customer journey, we’re exposed to numerous customer touchpoints that ultimately make up our overall experience with that company. The sum of all these touchpoints is the customer experience.

More than a decade ago, Don Peppers and Martha Rogers wrote the groundbreaking book, Return on Customer, in which they declared that customer experience is the single most important factor for business success. Since then, countless case studies have been published about the importance of optimizing a business around the customer experience. Former Gartner Vice President Tiffani Bova stated, “Customer experience is the last source of sustainable differentiation and the new competitive battleground.” Many industry scholars and top companies agree with Bova’s statement. Today, CX is as important as ever. 

How Customer Service Impacts CX

Customer service is just one of many components that contributes to a customer’s overall brand experience, but it’s a BIG one. Data from Zendesk highlights the impact of customer service in the overall customer experience, noting that “77% of CX leaders at midsize companies say they evaluate success based on providing multiple ways to contact customer service.” 

The importance of customer service, and the power of an omnichannel solution, is underscored by findings in the 2018 Gladly Customer Service Expectations Survey:

  • According to the data, a typical customer uses an average of at least three channels to contact the companies they do business with
  • 92% of customers polled would stop purchasing from a company after 3 or less poor customer service experiences
  • 68% of customers polled would pay more for products or services from a company with a track record of good customer service
  • 54% of customers polled make decisions based on customer service

These statistics should raise your eyebrows and make you think twice about how your company’s customer service is affecting your overall customer experience.

The Difference Between Customer Service & CX

So, what is the big difference between customer experience and customer service? The basic difference is that while customer service includes interactions in which customers seek and/or receive support, customer experience encompasses every interaction on every channel between customer and company. Though customer service tends to impact customers more than any other department, customer experience is much larger than customer service.

Every department impacts the customer experience in some way—even the non-customer facing teams. Whether it is marketing, sales, operations, product, finance, customer care, or customer service, each department and function contribute to the customer experience. Since every department impacts the customer experience, every department should care about it.

How could your organization improve your customer experience?