Talk to many organizations about customer experience and it is not long before they move into talking about their customer service team. I experienced this first hand in a recent conversation when the VP began discussing their customer satisfaction scores and the investments they had made in their customer support department.
There is no doubt that organizations should invest and look to continually provide great customer support. However, do not be fooled into thinking that if you have exceptional customer support the same will hold true for customer experience. The fact is, they are fundamentally different things.
If you are struggling to make the case in your organization that service does not equal experience or you’re reading this now and disagreeing with my assertion, let me list three ways that demonstrate how customer service and customer experience differ.
Customer Experience Begins Before Your Customers Buy Anything
When thinking about customer experience, organizations need to think about the full arc of the customer journey. This includes the interactions a potential customer has with your brand and also during their buying process. Every single potential touch point must be considered when architecting a customer experience strategy.
Given the understanding of the full arc, it would mean that customer service (which is delivered after the customer buys something) is actually a part of the full arc and therefore a part of the overall experience.
If an organization is simply focusing on service in the hopes of delivering exceptional experience, they are only impacting a fraction of the full arc of the customer journey.
You Can Deliver Great Service - But Your Customer May Still Have a Bad Experience
There are many stories about customers who have received great service. I myself have been on the receiving end of great customer service, however that does not equate to a great experience.
Here is a simple example to prove the point. A few weeks ago my wife and I went to one of our favorite restaurants for dinner. While we usually have a very enjoyable evening at this particular establishment, this night was a bit different.
We had to wait an extraordinary long time for our table as the hostess missed our name and provided a table to another party. The entrees were not as good as in nights past and the dessert we ordered was just plain bad; mediocre night in the food department.
Despite the experience – long wait and bad food quality, our waiter was exceptional and went above and beyond to provide a refund, keep tabs on us and ensure a manager visited out table. In essence, he provided great service despite the bad experience.
Customer Experience Is More Proactive Than Customer Service
Those organizations that understand that customer service is a part of customer experience know that they must be proactive. B2B organizations that deliver exceptional customer experiences are proactive in doing so. They have a process for actively connecting with their customers across the full journey, they seek to help their customers improve their businesses and they act more like partners then vendors.
However, most B2B customer service or support departments are rather reactive. They wait for the phone to ring or for the customer to make contact when things have gone wrong. At that point, even though the service may be exceptional, the opportunity to deliver a great experience is often lost.
Great customer service is a must as it is part of the fabric of customer experience, however, it cannot stand on its own as a game changer for any brand. If you are working towards a customer experience strategy, you must know the difference as your customers surely do.