Customer Service is Not the Same as Customer Experience. Here’s Why.

customer service is not the same as customer experience

Customer Service is Not the Same as Customer Experience. Here’s Why.

People often mistake customer experience as just another term for customer service.

Newsflash: It’s not.

customer service is not the same as customer experience

Customer experience, or CX, is the overarching journey your customers take with your business.

It’s the feeling customers have before, during, and after the buying process.

Customer service, on the other hand, is usually reactionary.

And here’s the key:

Customer service is typically a reaction to a lapse in your customer experience.

The truth is, if you’re focusing solely on customer service, you’re running a reactive business.

And it’s important you understand how the work you do in customer service differs from the overall customer experience.

So, I put together this blog post to dive deep into the differences between the two. As you’re reading, consider whether you’ve built a customer experience strategy or if you’re only focusing on customer service.

A Simple CX Definition and Why It’s Important

If you’re wondering how important a good customer experience is to your business, think about these stats from a study conducted by Oracle:

  • 97% of executives agree that CX is critical to business results
  • Potential revenue loss for a poor experience is up to 20%
  • 89% of customers have switched brands due to a poor CX

And a recent Walker study claims that by the year 2020 customer experience will overtake product and pricing as a key differentiator.

So, it’s pretty clear that the customer experience has a huge impact on your business.

Companies and customers are taking customer experience more seriously than ever.

Companies that received a ‘good’ or ‘excellent’ score for customer experience hit a 6 year high in 2017.

customer experience ratings

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But here’s the thing:

While it may be on the rise, 38% still isn’t great.

More companies need to turn their attention toward enhancing their customer experience.

But, before you can do that, you first need to understand the definition of CX.

As I mentioned at the start of this post, customer experience is the entire journey a consumer takes with your organization.

And the journey doesn’t start the first time you make contact with a lead.

Instead, the customer experience starts when a potential buyer first learns about your business.

We can break down the CX definition into a few major categories:

  • Awareness
  • Research
  • Interaction
  • Purchase
  • Advocacy

Those categories cover all three stages of the customer journey: pre-purchase, purchase, and post-purchase.

customer brand touchpoints

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As you can see, the customer experience is clearly not limited to one interaction.

Instead, it is a sum of all the parts of the customer’s journey.

More than anything, it’s the feeling a consumer has when they do business with you that defines your customer experience.

As Blake Morgan explains in her article on Forbes:

“Customer experience can include a lot of elements, but it really boils down to the perception the customer has of your brand. Even if you think your brand and customer experience is one thing, if the customer perceives it as something different, that is what the actual customer experience is. You may think you have high-quality products and a strong customer experience, but if a customer gets a broken product that isn’t fixed, their perception of your company as lower quality then becomes the reality.”

So, regardless of what you think your customer experience is, it’s the customer’s perception that truly defines it.

And that perception is important:

On average, happy customers tell 9 people about their experiences with a company.

And according to McKinsey research, creating a stellar customer experience can increase revenue by 15 percent and decrease customer service costs by 20 percent.

But that doesn’t mean customer experience dismisses the need for customer service entirely.

In fact, customer service plays a large role within your customer experience.

Here’s how:

The Role of Customer Service vs. Customer Experience

Look, there are a lot of differences between customer experience and customer service.

But the two aren’t adversaries — it’s not customer experience against customer service.

Where customer experience is a proactive strategy, customer service is reactionary.

Customer service supports your overall customer journey, especially when a customer is dissatisfied with part of their experience.

And because of that, it plays a critical role in your overall experience:

David Brennan’s article on Maximizer does a great job explaining customer expectations for service and support and how that plays into your overall CX strategy:

“Modern customers demand 24/7 customer service via a myriad of online and offline channels, coupled with the fact that your competitors are probably investing in expanding their customer service teams and response times, it is imperative for your business to excel at customer service, if you want to provide a second to none customer experience. Customer service also functions as a last chance to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one.”

As Brennan points out —

Customer service can actually save your customer experience.

When part of your customer experience fails, your customer service team can rectify the situation.

So, even if something goes wrong, your customers can still feel positively about your organization.

In fact, 70% of unhappy customers would purchase from the company again if customer service resolved their problems.

And customers are most satisfied when your customer service team takes accountability for a mistake.

customer experience apology

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Owning mistakes and working to rectify them is the central role customer service plays in your overall customer experience.

But it’s not a replacement for CX.

Many companies today only invest in building out their customer service teams instead of proactively designing a quality customer experience that mitigates the need for more customer support.

And while customer service is one of the most critical aspects of the customer journey, if you’re solely focusing on customer service, you’re too reactive.

To be a successful business in the CX era, you need to be proactive with your customer experience strategies.

Customer experience is what differentiates us from our competition.

How are you differentiating your brand today through your customer experience?