Customer Service vs. Customer Experience: Do You Really Understand the Difference?


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So many companies are talking about customer experience (CX).

They’re putting it at the top of the corporate agenda. They’re creating new positions within their organizations and hiring customer experience representatives. They’re making CX software part of their investment priority. And they’re viewing customer experience as the single most important way for their organization to achieve success.

Just getting started with your customer experience strategy in time for 2018? If so, it’s not unusual to have some initial confusion about what exactly CX is — and what it isn’t. So let’s clear a few things up.

One of the most frequently asked questions is: how does customer experience differ from customer service?

The Difference Between Customer Experience and Customer Service

First, let’s start with a traditional definition of customer service: it is the act of taking care of the needs of the customer by providing service and assistance before, during, and after the customer’s requirements are met.

Customer service can be delivered by the front office staff at your hotel who checks a guest in upon arrival or serves the welcome drink while the guest waits for their room key. Or the sommelier who pours the wine for diners at your restaurant. Or the voice on the other end of the phone that provides tech support to a new smartphone owner who has run into a snag.

Many think of customer service as a department in an organization, one that reacts and responds to customers at certain points of contact: in the cases of the examples above, a hotel check-in, a restaurant visit, an after-sales telephone call.

In today’s business landscape, customer service should be part of a larger strategic effort: customer experience.

Some companies like to define CX as the interactions between a business and a customer over the duration of their relationship. Others see CX as a digital benchmark: a customer’s interactions on, say, your website or mobile app. Others, still, view customer experience as the ability to respond to customer questions and cases.

If you’re hoping to manage customer experience as part of your organization’s mandate, here’s a practical, encompassing definition: customer experience is the cumulative impact of all interactions and experiences between your business and the customer, at every touchpoint across the entire customer journey, and viewed entirely from your customer’s perspective.

Customer experience isn’t a department. It’s a core value that should involve everyone in your organization, from the C-suite to the frontline. Every team or department, from marketing and sales to customer support and product development, has a stake in the customer experience. The Welcome Drink guys has a stake in it; so does the CEO, along with everyone else in between.

Customer experience isn’t reactive. You don’t wait for a phone call, an e-mail, or an online review to resolve the customer’s problem or meet their requirements. The idea behind CX management is that companies become truly proactive and intuitive, with the goal of seeing through customers’ eyes and better understanding their needs, wants, and expectations.

Customer experience isn’t determined by a single point of contact. As we define it, CX encompasses the entire customer journey — through processes, policies, and people; it can therefore include a customer’s initial awareness or discovery of your company, product, or service, and it can begin long before the customer sets foot in your physical business location, such as when they’re conducting online research or discovering your brand while they scroll through social feeds.

The Role of Customer Feedback

One of the most effective customer service tactics you can employ is to respond to customer feedback.

After all, people are drawn to businesses that respond publicly to online reviews, promptly answer phone calls and e-mails, and proactively join conversations on social media. (Think about it: have you ever applauded the service of a company that doesn’t respond to or even acknowledge your feedback as a customer?)

Customer feedback also plays a vital role in managing and improving customer experience. One can go so far as to say that great CX — the kind that delights and wows customers, and which creates those moments of magic so crucial to fostering loyalty — is founded on a company’s ability to leverage customer feedback.

By “leveraging,” though, we don’t mean just responding; you can also make use of rich information often contained in feedback in order to gain valuable insights and improve your brand, your products, your customer service, your marketing and sales efforts, and your overall customer experience.

By leveraging feedback in its many forms — online reviews, social media comments, survey responses, call center notes, phone calls and e-mails, and Voice-of-the-Customer data — you can also gain a more accurate and complete view of the customer. That’s because you get to hear their story and their experience — through their own words and from their own perspective.

Migs Bassig
Migs is the Content Strategist for ReviewTrackers. He loves sharing his marketing knowledge to help businesses succeed, and has helped brands like Intel, Dell, Honda, and Acer communicate more effectively to audiences. His work has appeared on Forbes, the New York Times, CNN, and Ad Age, among others.


  1. good one, Migs. Just that in my experience you cannot manage the customer experience – you can influence it, though, through consistent engagement. As you correctly write the experience is the cumulative impact of all interactions. Experiences are created through engagements. They result in single experiences, which gets summed up on customer experience. The single experiences, though, can be heavily influenced by the customer’s current state of mind.

    As a side remark – since touch point seems to be more and more occupied by marketing, I tend to think in terms of contact point nowadays instead of touch points.

    Thanks for your article


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