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

What is customer experience? How is it different from customer service? Let's take a look.

Articles published October 19, 2017 by Bobbie Jo Barry

great customer experience

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 customer service; it develops into the customer experience.

What is customer experience? How is it different from customer service? Let’s take a look.

Customer Service 

Why am I starting with customer service? Customer service is a logical place to start because it has the most direct impact on customer relationships. Another bonus of moving forward with customer service teams is they typically already measure their success on key customer experience metrics, like customer satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Score. Customer service leaders generally welcome the opportunity to lead the charge and can demonstrate how small changes can inspire powerful progress.

Customer Experience

Customer experience (CX) can be defined as the sum of all 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 that 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.

Ten years 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. 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.

So, what is the big difference between customer experience and customer service? The basic difference is that customer experience encompasses every interaction between customer and company, whereas customer service only includes interactions in which customers seek and/or receive support. 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.

So, as we stated earlier, customer service is just one of many components that contributes to customers’ overall brand experience. But it’s a BIG one. Customer service includes everything from interactions with support agents, 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.

The statistics tell the story of the impact customer service has on the customer experience. Take Zendesk’s findings on customer service:

  • 55 percent of people are willing to recommend a brand to others because of outstanding customer service (more than price or product quality).
  • 82 percent of people have stopped doing business with a company because of poor customer service.
  • 85 percent of people would pay up to 25 percent more for exceptional customer service.
  • 95 percent of people have acted because of a bad customer experience—and 79 percent of them told other people about it.
  • 45 percent of consumers share bad customer service experiences via social media.
  • 52 percent of U.S. consumers have switched providers in the last year because of poor customer service.               

Other consumers are just as ready to listen. Nielsen found that 66 percent of global consumers “somewhat or completely trust” the consumer opinions they read online. That makes consumer opinions the third most trusted form of advertising, only behind “recommendations from people I know” (83 percent) and “branded websites” (70 percent).

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

Now that we’ve established the difference between customer experience and service, I want to dive deep into customer service and why it is such a critical component of the overall customer experience. I will touch more on customer experience in future blogs, but my next three blogs in the coming weeks will be focused on the important customer service aspect of the customer experience.

About The Author

Bobbie Jo Barry

Bobbie Jo Barry has more than 19 years of contact center experience in multiple areas, including designing client facing solutions, managing day to day operations of two contact centers, leading workforce management and contact center managers to success, managing client relationships, and provid ... read more

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