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September 4, 2019   |   5 min read

Blurred Lines | Customer Experience vs. Customer Service

Emily Parham   |   Strategist

Customer Experience and Customer Service are being talked about a lot lately, but what’s the difference between the two? While it’s difficult not to see them as ubiquitous terms, in this blog we’ll examine their true differences.

 

Understanding Through the Consumer Lens

When we think of personal interactions with a brand, there are many variables and touchpoints throughout the journey. Some of those variables include walking into a store, shopping online, or maybe even sending a snarky tweet to the company about a less-than-stellar experience. Customer Service via social platforms has really stepped up its game (even if someone is simply yanking the brand in question’s chain). See for yourself…

Example of upset customer Tweeting at Delta

Back to the point: All of these brand touchpoints come together to make up the total Customer Experience. We asked a pool of consumers to tell us, in their own words, what they think Customer Service and Customer Experience mean independently:

“Customer Service is way a company or brand treats you through the buying process, whereas Customer Experience is the way you feel as a consumer through the buying process.”

“Customer Experience is my entire experience with a brand. Customer Service is where I turn when I have a bad experience.”

“Customer Service is transactional but Customer Experience is the overall interaction with a company on all fronts.”

“Experience = how the customer interacts with your product. Whether that’s digitally, offline, or elsewhere. Customer Service = how you handle the relationship with your customers. Whether that's dealing with issues, providing assistance via chat, being easily accessible.”

And these consumers aren’t wrong. Although Customer Experience and Customer Service aren’t interchangeable, they do still intersect in an important way. Think of the former as the sum of the equation, with the latter being one variable. That variable, however, can be quite significant and pivotal when it comes to a customer’s overall perception of a brand. We posed a question about this very intersection. Take a look at the results.

Importance of Customer Experience ResultsScale of 1 (not important at all) to 5 (extremely important)

Acknowledging the Implications of Service on Experience 

This brings up an important question: How heavily does a good or bad Customer Service interaction impact the overall Customer Experience?

In a survey by Customer Think, 73% of customers said they would stop purchasing from a brand because they are dissatisfied with the service they receive.1 Taking that into consideration, we then set out to understand what aspects of the experience could reconcile lackluster Customer Service. The majority of responses cited not one single thing could do the trick, but rather multiple. See the breakdown of responses below. 

What other aspects of your Customer Experience could "make up" for the poor Customer Service?

  • Satisfaction guarantee
  • Discounts and/or promotions 
  • Resourceful and/or personalized communication

 

Identifying Roles by Reactivity & Proactivity 

Often times, Customer Service is reactive. It’s more likely customers will reach out due to a problem or roadblock (like faking being sucked out of an airplane toilet as was seen earlier) than it is to offer a compliment.

Customer Experience, on the other hand, is becoming more and more of a proactive effort and is about what happens before, during, and after the service interaction.

Brands are inclined to be proactive about increasing their Customer Experience because statistics show how it affects returns. Forrester released research that examines the relationship between a company’s Customer Experience quality and its stock performance in order to show a correlation between the two. The study revealed that the top 20% of brands in the Customer Experience Index (CX Index™) had higher stock price growth and higher total returns than a similar portfolio of companies drawn from the bottom 20%.2



Studying Brands with a Proactive Approach

If Customer Service is a part of Customer Experience, why can’t it be a proactive effort as well?

Although it’s important to view the experience as a holistic journey, we can’t shy away from the important role service plays. Consider a few examples of companies that have proactive Customer Service:

AT&T

AT&T discovered a high volume of customer service calls are related to their customers not understanding their bill when it arrives in the mail. Recognizing this pain point, AT&T proactively began providing a link with the customer’s bills that directs them to a personalized video walkthrough of what they owe.

Screenshot of AT&T's video walkthrough

Brooks Brothers

Brooks Brothers leverages social engagement as a way to boost both Customer Service and Customer Experience. When someone digitally checks in at a Brooks Brothers store, one of the store associates reaches out via Twitter to make sure everything went smoothly or to offer a “nice touch” engagement. This strategy makes customers feel supported, connected, heard, and ultimately yields loyalty to the brand.

 Brooks Brothers Twitter Example   

Amazon

Many of us are familiar with Amazon’s commitment to its customers. Package damaged? They’ll send a new one at no cost. Amazon Prime delivery later than promised? Not only will they notify you of its updated delivery date, they’ll add a credit to your account. From one-click ordering to fast delivery and pickup options, the retail bohemoth is providing a great customer experience. Layer in their service strategy which supports at every touchpoint, and that’s why we see such a high number of loyal customers and Prime members.

Message from Amazon Customer Service

 

Knowing the Value of Superior Service & Experience 

In a survey completed by Salesforce, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. But only 1% of customers feel vendors consistently meet their expectations.3 This proves opportunity for more brands to adopt the customer-centric mindset of focusing on each piece of the journey—especially Customer Service—to have a positive impact on the overall Customer Experience.  

By reducing friction and being proactive about Customer Service, brands can boost their Customer Experience and differentiate themselves from the competition. Proactivity allows brands to effectively address, own, and reconcile mistakes, all while building trust with their customers through communication. Understanding and supporting your consumers throughout their journey while having a customer-centric mindset will lead to the impactful Customer Experience every business needs. Need help bringing yours to life? Our latest whitepaper offers up all the pointers, free of charge.


Sources:

1. Powton, Martin. (2017, October 7) Customer Service Vs Customer Experience Vs Customer Engagement. [Blog Post] http://customerthink.com/customer-service-vs-customer-experience-vs-customer-engagement/

2. (2019, June 11) Forrester’s 2019 Customer Experience Index Reveals Early Signs of Advancement. [Blog Post] https://investor.forrester.com/news-releases/news-release-details/forresters-2019-customer-experience-index-reveals-early-signs

3. Hanington, Jenna. (2014, April 7) 9 Must-Know Stats for the Customer-Centric Marketer. [Blog Post] https://www.pardot.com/blog/9-must-know-stats-customer-centric-marketer/

 

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