What Came First: Customer Experience or Customer Service?

 Which  experience  do you want your customer to have when they interact with you?

Which experience do you want your customer to have when they interact with you?


What is Customer Experience?

Customer experience is the sum total of all interactions between a customer and your organization.  Their experience is also the blend of your organization’s physical performance, the emotional state of being that you created, all measured against customer expectation.

Let’s explore an important distinction between customer experience and customer service.

What’s the Difference?

Before beginning any customer experience improvement initiative, it’s important to define and distinguish experience from service. Although each are powerful tools in improving your organization’s ability to retain loyalty and grow market share, they are different.

Customer experience is often a subjective variable because it hinges on the emotions and attitudes interpreted by your customer. Customer service on the other hand is more tangibly measured…hours of help desk availability, guaranteed response times and other service level agreements.

Customer experience can exist with or without customer service. Any given customer is going to have an experience of your company, brand and/or people regardless of whether or not you have formally planned it.

How is this possible? It’s possible through exposure to social media. Through news media coverage. Through conversations with others who have an opinion about your brand, your company or your workforce. Through past experiences driving attitudes that influence what they think or believe to be true—or not true—about your company. These influences can be positive or negative. The real dilemma is that you have less control over it because it’s a step or more removed from that customer being directly served by your people.

So, Then, What is Customer Service?

Customer service is a generalized term that encompasses the total performance of your company’s people, systems and processes. In other words, it’s how your company physically serves the customer. Whether it’s how your call center answers customer inquiries, how your drivers, service men and women conduct themselves on the highway, how you install your product or how you process invoices…every way you perform and serve your customer is customer service.

In this context, customer service is the device with which you can improve customer experience.

The Power of Distinction

Keeping these two aspects distinctly identified will enable you to establish the groundwork for improving customer experience. For example, if you want to improve customer resolution metrics, look at how you are serving customers through the touchpoints around complaints, billing or problems with product. At each touchpoint you can evaluate how the customer is being served and implement improvements that raise customer experience metrics.

Take a moment to examine the distinction of how customer service and customer experience exists in your organization. Identify customer experience—the sum of all interactions —as something distinctly different from the mechanics of how you serve customers.