The Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Experience

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Every once in a while someone will ask, “What’s the difference between customer service and customer experience?”

My answer used to be easy. Customer service really drove the customer experience. That was during a time when the main way customers interacted with the companies they did business with was with people-to-people interactions. A customer could visit a store or business. Or a customer could call a phone number to ask a question, resolve a complaint, etc. It was all about delivering great customer service, which was 90% of the customer experience.

Today my answer is changing, as the customer’s experience goes far beyond delivering great customer service. Due to new and amazing technology, smart companies are interacting with their customers in ways never before imagined. Multiple social media channels allow companies to communicate with customers the way they want and like to communicate. Gamification, (I love that word) allows for interactions that get customers to engage in some of the most fascinating ways.

Some examples: Home Shopping Network has a game arcade featured on their website that features a number of interactive games including a daily jigsaw puzzle that customers can solve. When they do, they discover the new “deal” or special promotion.

Coca-Cola has an app that allows you to buy someone a coke on the other side of the planet. The lucky recipient’s Coke machine has a video camera which allows the gift-giver to watch the expression of the person when they find out their drink is free. How much fun is that!

Television shows allow you to pull out your computer, smart phone, iPad, etc. and interact during the TV show. Sometimes comments from Twitter, Facebook, etc. can be seen on a “feed” at the bottom or the side of the screen.

All of this takes customer experience from the customer service department to the marketing department. So, what does that mean to you and me?

Customer service is still as important as ever. However, it is no longer the sole focus of the customer experience. Now, the customer experience brings a company new ways of deepening their customer relationships through really cool technological breakthroughs. It’s changing the way we do business. Still, just as the way we’ve always conducted business, no matter how cool and fun the technology is, if there is a problem, complaint or question, we must be able to deliver the outstanding customer service that our customers have always expected.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Shep, thank you for calling attention to difference between customer experience (CX) and customer service (CS). This is a great question, and is largely a difference only people in the industry understand and care about. As you mention, mobile and multi-channel marketing is changing the way people interact with companies, and that is going to continue to change and evolve.

    I agree that customer service no longer lives in a vacuum, and marketers truly need to own the entire customer experience. However, being in the industry, I see the answer as being a bit less complicated. From my perspective, CX is your customer’s holistic experience and ‘feeling’ toward your brand as a result of that experience. At its very core, customer service is how you respond when a customer reaches out to your brand. How easily, quickly and painlessly do you answer their question?

    Customer service, on the other hand, is your enterprise’s collective efforts to affect your customer’s experience with your brand. It is their perception and perspective on everything about your brand – not just their personal interactions.

    For both CS and CX, continuous improvement of the customer experience is paramount. Too many organizations set their customer contact strategy and then forget about it. But the key to achieving and sustaining strong customer satisfaction is continuous improvement. It is important to measure and analyze results on a continuous basis to ensure the solution is optimized. Customer service must flexible and constantly changing, accounting for shifting trends and consumer preferences.

    Justin Lemrow, Contact Solutions

  2. Great comment. I agree with you, however, the landscape of a customer experience is changing. Watch and adapt, but keep the principles you mention in your comment, especially the focus on customer service, and you will be successful. Thank you for taking the time to write in.

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