Customer Service vs. Customer Experience: Knowing the Differences and Excelling at Both

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It’s a common mistake to use customer service and customer experience interchangeably. The truth of the matter is that they are very different, although kind of related. 

Understanding the difference between customer service vs. customer experience is critical. Both are equally important to the success of your business, and you won’t be able to excel at one without the other. Therefore, it’s imperative to know what they both are and how they are different. Only then will you be able to make sure your business excels at both.

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What Is Customer Experience?

Customer experience, often shortened to just CX, is a term used to describe the whole journey a customer takes with your business. It embraces all the ways a customer interacts with your company and how they perceive those interactions. 

Some of the interactions include the marketing material they see before they become a customer, the sales experience, how good your service or product is, and the customer service they receive after making a purchase. 

Three Ps shape a customer’s experience:

  • People: These are the employees your customers speak to, including sales agents and support agents. The customer could be speaking on the telephone, Live Chat, via email, or social media. 
  • Process: Ideally, a customer wants the experience to be a seamless and memorable one. There are many ways to ensure this happens, such as accessible communication with customer support or simplified payment methods. 
  • Product: Customers typically want a product that is intuitive and solves their problems. 

Customer experience can be a key brand differentiator and a crucial factor in your business’s success. A study by Harvard Business Review found that customers spend 140% more and remain loyal for longer when they rate a company highly for customer experience.

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What Is Customer Service?

Customer service is the customer support function of your business. It relates to the help and advice a customer can expect to receive when they’ve got an issue or a question about your service or product. 

Customer service is more of an isolated event and tends to involve one particular customer-facing department. This might be an employee in a physical store or an agent in your contact center. 

Traditionally, the customer service role would be undertaken by a real person, but increasingly technology is becoming more involved. AI chatbots, for example, are used more and more for fielding initial inquiries to the right agent and for dealing with FAQs.

Customer service comes under the umbrella of the customer experience and has an essential part to play if you want to provide a good customer experience overall.

Plenty of surveys have been done on how important customer service is to the success of a business. Forbes, for example, found that seven in ten US consumers prefer to deal with companies that provide excellent customer service.

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What Are The Differences Between Customer Service and Customer Experience?

Now you’ve got a clearer understanding of customer service vs. customer experience, let’s look in detail at the main differences.  

Approach: Reactive vs. Proactive

Who leads the process is one of the key differences between customer service vs. customer experience. Does the customer lead it, or is it your business that’s doing the leading? Is the process reactive or proactive?

Customer service is almost always initiated by the customer. In other words, they discover they’ve got a problem or want to ask a particular question, and they get in touch with a customer service agent. They use a preferred channel, which might be telephone, social media, live chat, or email. All this adds up to make customer service reactive. 

Customer experience, on the other hand, is all about being proactive. The aim of providing a good customer experience is to anticipate what your customers need throughout all stages of their journey. There are various ways you can be proactive, for example:

Being proactive and making the customer experience a good one takes a lot of constant hard work. One way you could improve your customer experience is to steer customers to initiate a customer service interaction.  

Team: One Team vs. Multiple Teams

Customer service tends to be a single team effort, whereas customer experience includes the work of several teams. For example, it could include the sales team, marketing, professional service, and product development, all working together to provide customers with a great experience. 

Duration: Short Term Interaction vs. Long-Lasting Relationship

Customer service is one small piece of the customer experience. In general, it only involves a couple of touchpoints, after which your customer’s issue should be resolved. 

Creating a great customer experience involves multiple departments and numerous touchpoints, one of which may or may not be the customer support department.  

Engagement: Transactional vs. Relational

Customer service is more transactional. In other words, the customer comes to you with a problem, and your customer service team solves it. 

The customer experience is relational because it’s about building and nurturing a relationship with your customer throughout their journey.  

Focus: Issue Resolution vs. Customer Journey

Customer service focuses on a one-time interaction, generally initiated by the customer when they’ve got a problem or issue. The ultimate goal is to solve the customer’s problem and leave them satisfied with the interaction. 

Customer experience has a much wider remit and includes the entire customer journey, of which customer service is a part. Customer experience includes customer care and customer service and begins with potential customers before they’ve made a purchase or taken advantage of a service. It doesn’t end once a customer has made a purchase either.   

Metrics: CSAT vs NPS

There are ways to analyze how successful customer service and customer experience can be. Some of the metrics you can use include CSAT, or Customer Satisfaction Score, and NPS, or Net Promoter Score. These are good ways to measure service quality and customer satisfaction. 

Retention rate, customer churn rate, customer lifetime value (CLV), and customer effort score (CES) all capture data on how people experience your business as a whole. 

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How to Upgrade Your Customer Experience by Enhancing Your Customer Service

Your customer service can make or break your customer’s experience. Luckily, there are several things you can do to enhance your customer service, thereby upgrading your customer experience to new levels.

If your customers are happy, it will have a massive impact on your business. For example, 89% of consumers are more likely to make another purchase after a positive customer service experience. And on the opposite side of the line, 58% of US consumers said they would switch companies because of poor customer service.

So, what can you do to improve the customer service you provide? Here are some ideas to get you started:

  • Address customers by name.
  • Always send personalized replies and messages.
  • Allow customers to contact you in the more traditional human contact ways.
  • Train your customer service to have a conversation with customers to understand their needs
  • Always come up with a solution, even if the problem is the customer’s fault.
  • Provide fast, convenient customer support.
  • Provide omnichannel contact center services
  • Don’t be afraid to respond on social media.
  • Use non-generic auto-replies.
  • Provide self-help options such as an in-depth knowledge base or FAQ section.
  • Offer 24/7 customer support.
  • Offer a money-back guarantee.
  • Provide a trial period.
  • Offer free return shipping if possible.
  • Reply to all feedback.
  • Identify some common recurring complaints and provide solutions.

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Nowadays, a business won’t survive if it’s not prepared to work at providing the best possible customer experience. Offering excellent customer service is a vital part of that customer experience. 

Now you appreciate the difference between customer service vs. customer experience and appreciate how the two are interlinked. It’s time to work on making improvements to one, which will ultimately improve the other. 

Cyrus Nambakhsh

Cyrus is a serial entrepreneur, product-led-growth expert, a product visionary who launched 7 startups. He has built scalable platforms to help businesses and entrepreneurs. Visit my profile here: ==> For Guest Posts and Links Contact: [email protected]