Customer Service vs. Customer Experience…What the Heck’s the Difference?

(An excerpt from the new book, “The CX Edge: Critical Customer Experience Questions to Help You ATTRACT, KEEP and WOW Customers” by Jeff Tobe)

As I travel the world speaking, training, and consulting with professionals in hundreds of different industries and spheres of influence, I have been surprised that the question, “What is the difference between customer SERVICE and customer EXPERIENCE?” still stumps even the most-savvy CEO!

Customer service is what you should already be doing well. It comes from the heart. “What can I do for you?” “How can I help you?” If you customer service is outstanding, then this is just a given with your people. If it’s not top notch, then you need to do something RIGHT NOW to make it right. Perhaps you need to go back to basics and re-examine your customer service journey.

The unfortunate thing is that customer service is no longer a differentiating factor in the marketplace. I can almost guarantee that, if I were to ask your competitors what sets them apart, they are going to tell customer service. It’s not your products or your services that set you apart and it is certainly not your customer service!

  • Customer service is the assistance a company provides to customers before, during, and after purchasing or using its products or services. Good customer service leaves customers satisfied and involves creating bonds with customers, with the aim of developing them into long-term relationships.

A good customer experience means the company has provided great customer service, and that the service offered has left the customer happy and satisfied with the service received. I don’t know about you BUT, I am no longer settling for a SATISFIED customer. That brings us to the question “What exactly is the difference between customer service and customer experience (CX)?”

Customer experience (by my definition) is the ability to step back and ask ourselves that critical question, “What is my customer’s experience from the minute they make contact with us until the minute they are done?” This involves so many more people than the one who is offering great service. This sounds easier than it is. We can look at the customer experience journey from the minute they sign on to our website until they sign off. A financial planner might examine the journey from the minute the young twenty-five-year-old client signs on to their services until their death 75 years later. And, my plumber might consider the journey from the minute I call until my leaky faucet is fixed.

Customer Services vs. Customer Experience

You see, it’s a personalized experience for your specific business or organization.

Simply put, customer experience is the perception the customer has of your brand. It’s how customers perceive their interactions with your company or brand. While you may think your customer experience and brand is the same thing, a customer may have a different perception, and that would be regarded as the customer experience.

Customer experience is not restricted to how many interaction mediums you have, and it’s also not to be confused with a once-off experience. It is the overall experience a customer has across platforms where they can engage with your company, measured across an entire purchase cycle.

A company may focus on certain parts of the customer journey but may fail to impress the customer on other aspects. That results in a customer experience that is weak due to ignoring an aspect of the customer’s journey. For example, a customer may have a wonderful experience when purchasing a product but have a negative experience when requiring assistance from customer service. That happens when you don’t pay attention to all aspects of the customer journey.

There is a fine line between customer service and customer experience. Customer experience actually encompasses customer service. Customer service is limited to one aspect of the customer’s journey. This is when the customer is experiencing some sort of issue with your product or service. When a business assists the customer with the help they require, it’s good customer service.

Customer experience, however, is more extensive. It’s understanding how your customer is feeling and what they’re thinking every single time they interact with your business, from the moment they’re aware you exist. It involves every aspect of what a company has to offer, including how its customer care is rated, packaging, product and service features, reliability, ease of use, and other elements.

Customer service is reactive, whereas customer experience is proactive. When you’re reactive to your customers, you’re not preventing disasters from occurring, you are simply fixing what needs to be fixed once it has taken place. When you are proactive with your customers, it’s taking the time to analyze what issues may potentially arise and stopping them from taking place before they do. In my last book, ANTICIPATE: Knowing What Customers Need Before They Do , I made it clear that with customer experience, the business’ objective is to provide customers with a better overall experience, which leads to happier customers by anticipating those issues that might arise.

“Customer Experience is understanding how your customer is feeling and what they’re thinking every single time they interact with your business, from the moment they’re aware you exist.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Scroll to top