What’s the difference between customer service and customer experience – and why does it matter?


September 2021

Milos Djokovic

Making your customers feel valued and important is a key business differentiator, which in some competitive industries may be the difference between thriving and floundering. Succeeding entails an approach that considers both customer experience and customer service – and no, they are not the same thing.

Customer service is just a facet of customer experience. Here’s what each means, and how they work together.

Customer service is part of the customer experience.

Customer service represents just one aspect of the customer experience (CX). Generally, it’s most important immediately after a sale. The customer has just made a purchase and may have questions about product delivery (or how to access the service), how to assemble or use the product, concerns about the payment method they’ve used – any of a number of common issues. The goal of customer service in this scenario is to automate the resolution or get the customer connected to the right person and have the issue resolved quickly and pleasantly.

Sometimes, this simple directive isn’t achieved neatly or effectively. When the customer calls, there’s a hope that the company will know who they are and why they’re calling – just as if they bought the product or service at a local business and walked back in a week later. The staff would recognize them, remember what they purchased, and have answers to their questions. In reality, the customer often dials into a call center where they’re put on hold, then passed from agent to agent before having their issue resolved.

On top of that, it seems as if many companies don’t even want customers to contact them – possibly because they’ve cut costs and no longer have the staff to accommodate live calls. They bury phone numbers deep within their websites in the hope that customers will use email or chat instead. Yet, at the same time, they have not provided enough information for
customers to solve problems on their own – which is what many consumers would actually prefer.

The key to great customer service is proactivity: provide all the information customers may need on your website in a way that’s easy for them to find solutions. Alert them in advance of issues such as shipping delays, product updates, service disruptions, or even money-saving bundled offers or packages. Great customer service should require minimal customer effort. But to achieve this successfully, customer service can’t exist in a silo – it must be integrated with sales, marketing, product development, and other departments.

Problems with customer service negatively impact customer experience.

Customer experience encompasses every interaction a customer has with your business throughout their journey – marketing, sales, delivery, customer service, and beyond. A great customer experience begins with a great product. A high-quality, reliable product or service that solves a real problem is the foundation of every positive customer experience. It’s driven by honest marketing that resonates with the target audience, and then supported by wonderful, responsive customer service.

A great customer experience can be a challenge to achieve – even with the best product. It requires both great people and innovative technology, and these have to work together harmoniously. But businesses have a tendency to silo people and technology: marketing sits in one office with one platform, product is on another floor with its own software, and customer service may be in another building entirely with a completely different set of tools.

The lack of collaboration and communication between teams will be obvious to the customer. It will surface when marketing launches a promotion so popular that there isn’t enough product to fulfill all the orders, and customer service is overwhelmed by calls from unhappy customers who want to know when their order is arriving. It will surface again when a product is updated and marketing hasn’t been informed with enough time to alert customers, and again, the service desk is flooded with calls from customers with questions the customer service team can’t answer.

Customer experience is worth the investment.

Ever heard that saying about customers, “A happy customer tells a friend, but an unhappy customer tells the world?” It’s true – one look at any major brand’s Twitter feed will prove it. Customer experience may be viewed as a cost center, but it should be viewed as an investment. Not only will it prevent the potential damage of a bad review, it will win lifelong customers – and any company should place a high value on that. It could also earn your organization a higher Net Promoter score, an important metric to ensure you’re able to grow your customer base in a competitive market.

At Eventus Group, we advocate for what we refer to as The Orchestrated Customer Experience. An ideal customer experience is seamless, with a technology foundation that allows the CSR to serve as the “human touch,” rather than the sole facilitator. An Orchestrated Customer Experience entails moving beyond the simple integration of technology, data, and people and transforms each interaction into a synchronized, optimized engagement. Ultimately, the business will be able to deliver productive, predictive, and personalized interactions that allow customer service representatives to feel empowered and customers to feel valued. As a result, customer satisfaction improves, retention improves – and cost per interaction plummets.

As an example, an Eventus Group Client in the direct-to-consumer personal care space worked with us to transform their contact center and operations. By collaborating with IT, marketing, sales, and the contact center itself, we were able to integrate information across all aspects of their business to inform contact center strategy and tactics. The result? A six minute reduction in hold times and a boost of over 30 points to their NetPromoter score. And those results were on top of $4 million in labour savings over a three-year period.

A good customer experience is critically important to the bottom line of a business, and investing in improvements pays for itself in short order.
Every company should be striving to create delighted customers that promote their products and services to others – and who want to buy more because they’re so happy. A customer experience that delights creates a competitive edge that wins customers away from rival brands – and keeps them. It adds perceived value that keeps customers coming back, attracts new customers, and even justifies a higher price point. Investing in an Orchestrated Customer Experience means bolstering your brand and ensuring it has a long, bright, prosperous future – and what could be a better investment than that?

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