What’s the Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Experience?

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Customer service and customer experience are similar terms, and they’re both relevant to improving customer perceptions, but these are not interchangeable. Understanding the difference between customer service and customer experience can help you put together a better customer-centric strategy, and ultimately win more customer loyalty.

Customer Service: The Basics

Let’s start with the basics of customer service, which most people reading this will be familiar with. Customer service is all about providing the knowledge, resources, and assistance necessary for customers to resolve problems and/or get answers to their questions.

This can be provided with the help of an intricate knowledge base, which customers can consult directly to get answers to their questions. It can take the form of an experienced human customer service team, answering emails and phone calls to assist customers directly. It can even be a semi-automated AI, taking the form of a chatbot to resolve customer issues. Or it could be a combination of all of these.

Successful customer service is often defined as providing answers or resolutions to existing customers who have questions or concerns. If done properly, it can increase customer satisfaction and loyalty. Contrastingly, bad customer service can push even loyal customers to a competitor.

Customer Experience: The Basics

Customer experience (CX) is much broader, encompassing all of a customer’s interactions with your brand as well as their total exposure to it. Customer experience starts with a customer’s first impression of your brand. It follows through their exposure to your sales, marketing, and advertising strategies. It manifests through their purchases and their interactions with your products and services. And of course, it also encompasses customer service and your ongoing communications with customers.

Most brands know the importance of customer service, but customer experience gets neglected. Since it covers more ground and is even more responsible for your brand reputation, customer experience is arguably more important.

Key Differences

Let’s highlight some of the key elements that differentiate between customer service and customer experience:

· Sheer breadth. Customer service refers to a relatively narrow range of potential customer interactions. By comparison, customer experience refers to far more interactions and opportunities for engagements.

· Interactions vs. exposure. Most customer service strategies deal with direct customer interactions, such as chats, email threads, and phone conversations. Customer experience, however, deals with the total exposure a customer has to a brand; it can include their experiences with your product, even if they’re not interacting with your brand in any direct way.

· The customer journey. Customer experience attempts to document the entire customer’s journey, from beginning to end. By contrast, customer service tends to focus on a customer’s journey immediately before and directly after a purchase.

Why Does This Matter?

Why does it matter that customer service and customer experience are different? Is this just an arbitrary discussion of semantics?

The distinction is important because many brands neglect the fact that customer experiences are shaped across a vast spectrum of interactions, beginning long before their first purchase. If you realize this, you can reshape your customer interactions and CX strategy to improve customer retention, your brand reputation, and more.

Perfecting Your Customer Experience Strategy

So what steps can you take to perfect your customer experience?

· Minimize friction. Friction occurs whenever something prevents or impedes a customer from purchasing something from your brand. It could be a lack of available information, confusion about your core products, or bad product design that makes it hard to use. Minimize friction with better service, better design, and more transparency.

· Keep brand experiences positive. This should go without saying, but all your brand experiences need to be consistently positive. Whenever a customer sees an ad, engages with your brand on social media, receives marketing material, or visits your website, they should walk away feeling good about the experience. This means refining your writing and design as well as better training your employees.

· Consider every stage of the journey. Customer service can be considered one phase of the overall customer journey. For your CX strategy to be successful, you need to consider every stage of the customer journey.

· Measure and adapt. Finally, make sure you’re consistently measuring your results and adapting to the new information. Keep an eye on metrics like customer churn and customer satisfaction, and experiment with different techniques to see how your metrics change in response to them. Keep pushing for greater advancement and better results.

Learning the difference between customer service and customer experience is just the first step. From there, you have to take action. Review your current customer service and customer experience strategies, if you have them in place, and consider revising them or polishing them if necessary. Then, be ready to adapt as you learn more about your customers and their relationship with your brand.