August 20, 2017

Customer Service vs. Customer Experience – Both are Vital but Not the Same

In looking at a customer’s interaction or series of interactions with a service provider, it’s necessary to draw a distinction between two often misused terms: “customer service” vs. “customer experience”. Not all companies look at them as separate entities, and some fail to consider either in the appropriate way.

Let’s look at basic definitions:

Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during, and after a purchase.

Customer experience is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier including awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.

Consider people’s typical reactions to their interactions with their service providers. You will often hear them say, “Wow! They really have great service…” (or the exact opposite at other times) but you’ll hardly ever hear them excitedly tell you, “What a great customer experience I’ve just had!” If somebody has received “great service”, it means that he or she has thoroughly enjoyed the “experience” of shopping or dealing with that particular company, store, organization, or service provider.

Furthermore, the “customer experience” is (and should be) more than a one-off event. It should relate to the entire relationship between the provider and the customer or client.

Take the case of Nespresso, the home coffee phenomenon that has taken brewing and drinking coffee at home to an unprecedented level of marketing success. All Nestlé did was offer coffee lovers the opportunity of getting a good “cup o’joe” at home; something anybody could do quite cheaply if they put a tiny bit of thought, planning, and effort into their home coffee drinking habits. But with brilliant marketing aplomb, Nestlé went one step further. They converted Nespresso from a product into an entire enhanced customer experience that was positive, exciting, enticing and totally compelling for devotees. From the moment you step into one of their beautifully appointed stores, to when you lift your perfectly self-made and frothy cappuccino to your lips, you are involved in an “experience” that is not to be forgotten. You want to repeat that experience again and again, making YOU the perfect customer and also blasting Nespresso into profit paradise! Nespresso did not became a huge success due to its high level of customer service, but rather the company gave the customer the belief they now could have the same morning coffee experience found at their favorite café.

While coffee is an essential accessory to the high-tech life, let’s talk pure high-tech marketing for a moment. With so much competition in the market to watch and stream movies online, Netflix found the perfect balance of easy and comprehensive access, competitive pricing, and portability. They essentially found what makes a perfect home movie viewing experience. No longer did movie fans have to leave their home for the rental location, find their movie of choice was not available, and suffer late return fees. Netflix allows them to remain in their pajamas and watch any movie they desire, whenever they want.

Turning to the customer service side, consumers can all recall negative experiences of long lines, multiple referrals to different departments or service representatives, and misunderstanding and incompetence in the answering of your questions. Once customers actually get to the service counter, the service may be nice and friendly and the agents chatty and helpful, but waiting in a line for up to an hour is going to sour that experience. Contacting the provider via phone or online will probably lead to disappointment and frustration or even anger at being electronically shuffled from extension to extension. All of this goes towards degrading, instead of enhancing, the customer experience, resulting in cries of “get me out of this company’s clutches!”

We’ve talked about consumer experience but have hardly touched on examples within the B2B or online world. Consider the success of LivePerson, a SaaS service that provides an opportunity for consumers to get immediate help from experts, either through online video calls or chat. In the online space, it’s the standards as brick and mortar, where customer service is a major part of the customer experience, but not the only part. It’s the relationship that takes precedence, where the business is giving the customer or client a great experience. Using web tools can enable this positive experience, making interactions both simpler and possibly even enjoyable.

How can your customer service and customer experience go one step further?

  1. Be proactive – Surround the customers’ world with your brand and make them feel like an integral part of the product or serve. Go the extra mile to make sure the customer gets all they need to complete an order and experience.
  2. Offer something different – Think outside of the box and offer services that are innovative or different from the norm. An example could be to offer video chat for your support center. Putting a human touch to the brand can make a world of difference.
  3. Get to know the customer – Learn who they are, and offer them unique services just for them. A “VIP” service for example, one that makes them come back for more because they received both optimal service and an exclusive experience.

You don’t need to compare the two methods. But you do need to use both customer service and customer experience tactics in order to build long-term brand loyalty. Working hard to please your customers will soon become part of the broader customer experience.

About Stefanie Amini 1 Article
Stefanie Amini is the Marketing Director and Specialist in Customer Success at WalkMe, the world's first interactive online guidance system. She is chief writer and editor of I Want It Now, a blog for Customer Service Experts. Follow her @StefWalkMe.

1 Comment on Customer Service vs. Customer Experience – Both are Vital but Not the Same

  1. Honestly, the best advice I’ve ever heard on delivering customer service was given to me by my father (whom I rarely, if ever, quote from) when he said;

    “Son, customer service is more than saying ‘Please’ or ‘Thank you’; it’s fixing the problem that is annoying the customer.”

    Every time I talk to a customer service rep on the phone, it galls me to no end when instead of than working with me to fix the problem I’m having the just spout out meaningless phrases such as “We really appreciate you being our customer…” or “Thank you for bringing this to our attention…”!

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