What’s the difference between customer service and customer experience?


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Sadly, Bill Gessert passed away suddenly on October 3rd, 2018 – leaving behind his beloved wife, Lisa and four adult children and five grandsons. It’s was a complete honor to have had Bill on my podcast The Fast Leader Show. While I knew our time together would be full of sharing and insight, I especially loved the way he was able to answer the nagging question, “What’s the difference between customer service and customer experience?”

I had known Bill through digital interactions for several years and deeply respected the huge impact he had made on the entire customer service and contact center industries over his career. I finally had the chance to meet him face-to-face at Customer Contact Week (CCW) in Las Vegas in June 2018.

During our brief 15-minutes together at CCW, he introduced me to 3 passers by and we discussed his guest appearance on the Fast Leader Show. It was a whirlwind chance meeting that I’m grateful for and I’m happy to share with you an edited version of my interview with Bill – where he shares the difference between customer service and customer experience.

Start of edited transcript of interview (FULL EPISODE CLICK HERE):

Jim Rembach: Bill Gessert, are you ready to help us get over the hump?

Bill Gessert: I am absolutely ready. I’m looking forward to this today Jim, thanks for having me on board.

Jim Rembach: I’m glad you’re here. Now given my legion a little bit about you, but can you tell us what your current passion is, so that we can get to know you even better.

Bill Gessert: Other than the Green Bay Packers? Okay, let’s do that. You know really the thing that I’ve been passionate about my entire life is customer service. Interesting thing – and you and I talked about this Jim is that today there’s a lot of talk about the term customer experience which is legitimate. And I get asked all the time, what’s the difference between customer service and customer experience.

I have written about this, I actually get a little video about this too. I think I can give you a really short clear explanation that will help people understand. And my passion is all about service. So, here’s how I view the difference.

Let’s say you’re going to go out to eat this this weekend with your wonderful wife. You choose your favorite restaurant and you call them to make a reservation. That’s the starting point of your experience your customer experience with that that restaurant.

So, you make your reservation. You show up. You get greeted by the valet. You go inside, the hostess greets you. You get to your table. The table is spotless – it’s clean. The dishes are clean. You order from a menu that you’re familiar with and it has items on it that you like. All of these things contribute to your overall experience. From the time you made that reservation to the time you pay your check, get in your car and drive home. That’s the experience.

But now let’s go back and look at that. You called to make that reservation and you spoke to somebody – that’s a service interaction – that’s a touch point that makes up customer service. The valet greeted you – that’s a touch point that makes up service. All part of the overall experience, but it’s a critical part of service.

So, my passion has always been, how can we improve those touch points. What can we do to increase the professionalism, the friendliness, the overall experience that’s created during that touch point. My whole life has been devoted to helping individuals and organizations improve those service interactions. Those touch points – that when they’re all combined make up the overall customer experience.

It’s my philosophy Jim, that you cannot create exceptional customer experiences without focusing on those touch points – those service interactions. That’s why I’m passionate about customer service.

Jim Rembach: Thanks for giving that clarity. For me, I started asking another question of myself – in that where does the whole strategy piece come into play? Because, I almost see strategy coming in a lot of different places. I have the strategy associated with that overall customer experience and then I have the strategy associated with those touch points. I can even break it down a little bit further and talk about the strategies within those touch points as far as is it inbound, outbound, digital, mobile. It goes on and on and on. Is that another confusion point or do you see it more clearly than I do at the moment?

Bill Gessert: You know, first of all I understand exactly what you’re saying. What you’re really addressing is what some people sometime call silos. Because if you do map out the entire customer journey, you’ll see that those touch points, those interaction points happen in different areas. And they happen under the jurisdiction of different organizational departments.

Marketing could be responsible for some, the customer service department could be responsible for some, product development could be responsible for some, so that’s why in many organizations you’re now seeing the role of the chief customer officer. That’s a person who has the responsibility to really rein and all of those silos and look at everything strategically.

They have to do so not only from the from the organizations point of view but more importantly from the customers point of view. You’ve got to bring in the voice of the customer, you’ve got to bring in feedback, data – whether it’s NPS scores or more intensive customer satisfaction surveys, social media. All of those things go into evaluating what kind of experience we’re creating and how can we improve.

Now, once those decisions are made at the strategic level then somebody’s got to implement that at the tactical level. To me that’s where those touch points are that’s where the service interactions are.

Learn even more from Bill Gessert on the Fast Leader Show.


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