The Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Experience

Many businesses design their processes around the idea that “all things customer” are solved or created in customer service. This lingering misperception of customer engagement is an outdated way of thinking, and it’s one of the reasons why efforts to improve the overall customer experience fall flat.

One Event in a Complex Web of Events

Customer service solves immediate issues, questions or queries at a particular moment in time. For the most part, these are one-time, transaction-driven and often triggered by experiences that should run smoothly, but do not. How customers respond to your customer service could be greatly impacted by their current emotional state. These emotional responses, and memories of them, often play out in survey results.

When companies receive disappointing feedback, they may focus exclusively on finding problems within the part of the organization being criticized, such as customer service. But that’s a tactical fix. Often, problems surface as a symptom in one part of an organization, but the root cause extends far deeper and touches many parts of the business.

Customer service interactions are just one component of the customer experience, and simply optimizing customer service departments for more positive transactions is not good enough anymore.

View the Customer Journey Holistically

True customer experience, on the other hand, is the result of connections made across all functions and touchpoints. Every interaction in the customer journey matters, including the emotions and relationships that have been built along the way with your brand.

Maintaining an overall positive experience requires deliberate connections of business silos behind the scenes and delivering on the customer’s critical “moments of truth.” Mastering the craft of this design means connecting purpose and emotions, hard work, and an entrepreneurial mindset for thinking outside the box.

Without this mindset and approach, the majority of businesses will deliver only mediocre experiences to customers. The cost in brand loyalty is enormous. Walker, a leading customer experience consultancy, predicts that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator for B2B companies by 2020.

Move up the Hierarchy of Customer Engagement

Because of the competitive landscape of doing business today, making only tactical improvements is too short-sighted, unsustainable and unprofitable. Instead, leading companies must address systematic issues based on consistent refinement and re-engineering of the customer’s holistic or entire experience. Start by focusing improvement efforts in three areas:

  • Define your hierarchy of engagement with your customers

Is your goal to satisfy your customers by delivering “good enough” customer service? Or do you want to build a differentiated and long-lasting relationship? Satisfied customers are happy with the purchase of a product and service. You met their expectations so far, although they’ll continue evaluating their level of satisfaction with the brand. Loyal customers experienced consistent and positive interactions, for which even minor hiccups in product quality or service are tolerated. Advocate customers reign at the top of the hierarchy. Their experiences using your product or interacting with the brand have far surpassed expectations. They have made the leap from simply being loyal, to voluntarily offering their time, resources and voice to promote your brand and influence your next potential customer. As a result, advocates are crucial business assets.

  • Design your business model from the outside in

Look at engagement from the customer perspective. All too often, businesses create processes and practices that serve internal needs. There’s little thought given to how these practices could negatively affect the customer’s ability to do business with a company. A smarter design is one with a common organizational purpose that everyone in the company understands. This includes making the connection between company employees and the customer and understanding the impact their work has on the customer experience. Enabling this type of understanding and harmonious interdepartmental work also strengthens employee engagement.

  • Design experiences that connect with your customers and build empathy

Understanding your customers’ pains and needs is a start. But take this idea further and align with their business values and their proposition. Put yourself in their shoes. Be flexible enough to design all your services, support and add-on products to connect with them. This means meeting customers where they are and showing them how far they can go by using your product or by staying with your brand.

End the Confusion: Customer Service Isn’t Customer Experience

According to Bain & Company, companies that excel at customer experience grow revenues 4-8% above the market. But short-term customer service interactions are just one of the building blocks of long-term customer experience. Customer service will continue to be an integral part of a much broader and strategic practice of customer experience.

In its simplest terms, customer experience is strategic—a holistic view that connects all the dots of each event. It dives deeply into solving the root cause of an issue, bridges organizational silos, and helps to drive clearer business strategies. Look across the customer experience from the customer’s perspective and across all touchpoints. It’s a smarter way to do business.

Learn more about building processes that focus on customer experienceJourney Mapping eBook: An Outside-in Approach to Delivering Great Customer Experiences