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Customer Experience vs. Customer Service

23rd February 2015

As a Customer Service manager I pride myself on ensuring that the experience of dealing with our company for our customers is professional, enjoyable and above all efficient.  But what is the customer experience and how does this differ from customer service?

Think about a time when you were able to say that you received a high level of customer service – perhaps this was on a garage forecourt during the exciting purchase of a new car or at a customer service desk returning a faulty item.  If your experience was a good one do you remember sharing that experience with colleagues, friends and family?  The truth is people expect good customer service and why not, especially when a good experience is often down to the delivery rather than differences in costs across products and services.

One thing to consider is that customers are not always inclined to volunteer praise when good customer service is received.  On the flip side you can almost guarantee bad press if the experience provided wasn’t up to scratch, it is just human nature.  What is consistent, however, is that people remember bad experiences and are always happy to share that feedback with people, far more so than to encourage following a good experience – again this is human nature.  Therefore ensuring good service is key and if you don’t feel that it is contributing to your bottom line you will only need take your foot off the gas before quickly noticing your sales decreasing as word of your lack of customer service gets out.

When you have a good experience you may express that experience to others by describing it exactly as such.  For example, “that company gave great customer service!” However, in actual fact what you’re most likely referring to is your overall experience of dealing with the company. It’s easy to see then, why the terms “customer service” and “customer experience” can be so easily confused and this is not just for the customer but for the provider too, as many companies claim to provide good customer service, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that their customers are having good experiences.

It is often said that if a customer feels the need to call customer service, then something has probably gone wrong at some stage during their experience.

Customer service is a key function of the overall customer experience, but it must be recognised that it is just one piece of a very large equation. For example, the Customer Experience can be defined as the way in which a customer perceives their dealings with the company throughout the entire sales process from prospect through to delivery which in itself reinforces the notion that customer service is just one element of the customer experience, all be it quite a significant one!

Customer experiences can also include a buyers’ perception of a company, their interaction with that company and their recollection of the entire process.  Customer service is simply assisting customers and meeting their needs, which helps to shape the overall experience but doesn’t fully define it, signified by the earlier example of people calling customer service departments only when they have a problem.

In summary, confusing customer service with the customer experience can lead you to overlook the other vital components that contribute to the customer experience such as quality, price, efficiency and so on.  You may be the most polite person in the world and react to issues quickly and efficiently but if the customer continues to have problems due to quality then the overall experience of dealing with your organisation has fallen down, and no matter how strong a customer service department is it will have been let down, potentially to such an extent that the relationship may not be recoverable.

Equally, if you believe that something must have gone wrong for a customer to contact Customer Services then there is in fact something wrong with their experience. Customer service then also functions as an opportunity to turn a potentially negative experience into a positive one – a tricky one to master - however, if a company anticipates its customers’ needs then the right service will be provided from the outset to help define the customer experience as “good” from the start.

Remember customers may not always volunteer the information of a good experience because it is expected but you can bet your life that people will hear about someone having a bad experience so be mindful of the objectives of a customer service department and of your customers overall journey when doing business with you.

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