Q: What’s the difference between customer service and customer experience?
A: Customer service is marked by a single interaction, such as a customer contacting your brand, while customer experience is the combined sum of all of a customer’s interactions with your brand.
Q: Why does this difference matter for my brand?
A: That’s a much longer answer, and one we’ll dive into in the rest of this article.
The truth is, customer service and customer experience have many similarities and overlap, which is why the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, understanding the differences is essential for creating great customer experiences as well as great customer service for your brand.
To begin, let’s understand the important similarities and differences, and how they matter for your brand.
|Typically a single interaction that’s customer-initiated and covers a single problem or concern.
|Encompasses the sum of all of a customer’s experiences with your brand and provides you with a holistic understanding of the customer journey
Customer Service vs Customer Experience: The Similarities
Customer service and customer experience are interrelated concepts, with a lot of similarities. When you look at your customer journey as a whole, it’s difficult to separate these two concepts.
In part, because good customer service leads to better customer experiences on the whole; and good customer experiences enhance your customer service. On the flip side, poor customer experiences—across the whole customer journey—typically lead to an increase in the number of customer service complaints, and make customers less likely to be satisfied with the service they receive.
In short: improving each one tends to improve the other, but they’re not interchangeable. Rather, customer service is a part of your customer experience. As such, the danger in thinking of them as interchangeable is that you’ll be likely to shortchange your customer experience by focusing only on customer service, instead of the full range of experiences customers have with your brand.
That said, consider some of the important similarities between the two:
- Both focus on the customer and their experience of their interactions with your brand
- Both aim to help the customer have a better experience with your brand
- Both are centered on the customer’s perception of your brand
- Both are essential for customer-focused brands to succeed
In addition, many of the techniques for improving one or the other will help improve both. For example, if you realize that customers are getting frustrated with long wait times in your phone queue (causing a negative customer experience) and decide to improve your customer service so phones are answered more quickly, not only do you improve your service, but also the overall customer experience.
Similarly, if you realize that customers value personalization and take action to implement more personalization throughout the customer journey, you not only improve the overall experience, but also likely improve your customer service as a byproduct—perhaps by implementing steps to personalize solutions or recommendations given by agents.
However, even more importantly, let’s consider the differences between these two concepts.
Customer Service vs Customer Experience: The Differences
The main difference, as discussed above, is the scope of these two concepts: whereas customer experience encompasses the entire customer journey and their experiences within that, customer service is a single isolated interaction a customer has with your brand.
Take a look at some of the other differences between the two:
|Single event, isolated interaction you can point to
|Interactions may be initiated by either you or the customer
|Typically rooted in a customer question or concern
|Experiences could stem from a need, concern, solution, support request, curiosity, or many other motivations
|Customer interacts with someone from your brand directly (or a bot)
|Customer may have direct interactions with your brand as well as self-directed interactions
|Typically reactive (reacting to a query from the customer)
|More proactive—both you and the customer initiate touch points
Some examples of customer service would be:
- a customer calling your technical support line for help installing a new product
- a customer emailing your support team to request a refund
- a customer interacting with a chatbot on your site to reset their locked account
On the other hand, some examples of customer experiences would be:
- a customer browsing a new display in your physical store
- a customer scrolling through your brand’s Instagram feed or watching your Youtube tutorials
- a customer receiving a personalized email with a birthday coupon
- a customer having to wait in the queue for a phone call
In general, the “customer experience” is the sum total of all the aforementioned experiences, while customer service is just one part of the customer experience. Of course, customer service makes a big impact on the overall customer experience, and can impact many stages of the customer journey.
How To Provide Great Customer Service By Creating Meaningful Customer Experiences
So, how does all of this make a difference for your brand? By properly understanding the place of customer service within the customer experience—rather than inaccurately conflating the two—you can offer better customer service by creating meaningful customer experiences across the entire customer journey.
In addition, you can strengthen your customer experience by properly considering the role of great customer service within your customer journey. Ultimately, a great customer service experience will contribute to meaningful and memorable customer experiences with your brand.
However, in order to do any of this, you need to understand what customers want and how they currently experience your brand. Here are four key ways to do this so you can improve your service and experience.
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Analyze all customer touchpoints
In order to improve your customer experience—including your customer service—you’ll need to analyze each customer touchpoint to understand exactly where and how your customers are interacting with your brand.
- Do you have social media channels? Do customers use them to message your brand?
- What percentage of customers call your brand or use live chat vs. non-live channels such as email or messaging?
- Do you have physical locations?
- How do customers find your products? Via social media, via web search, in-store placements?
- When are customers most likely to contact your service? Before purchasing, after purchasing, etc.?
Determining each customer touchpoint—of which there will likely be many—will enable you to have a starting place from which to then improve each touchpoint, as well as improve the customer journey overall.
For example, if you know that customers respond well to personalization (data suggests that most customers do), you will be able to analyze your existing touchpoints and see how to incorporate more personalized experiences throughout the customer journey, thereby improving the customer experience as a whole.
Get the right resources and support
The customer service and customer experience functions in your business shouldn’t be an island. Not only should they have support from the entire company, many companies need external support as well to carry out these functions completely.
In some cases, these resources can involve having the right tools and technology. For example, modern customer service and CRM software can enable your team to deliver omnichannel experiences, provide AI assistance for chatbots and virtual agents, or streamline your workflows to improve productivity.
In other cases, you may need additional resources and expertise. For many companies, outsourcing to a customer experience expert like Global Response can provide necessary assistance with strategy, resourcing, staffing and scaling. Outsourcing not only provides you with access to expertise and strategic direction to improve customer experiences, but can also help you scale your team affordably to provide better customer service.
The data on personalization is clear—customers who have personalized experiences are more likely to be satisfied and come back to purchase in the future. In addition, 80% of business leaders say “consumers spend 34% more on average when their experience is personalized.”
Incorporating personalization into both customer service and general CX touchpoints across the entire journey allows you to strengthen customer engagement and develop loyal customers. Of course, in order to do so, you not only need the right tools (see above) but also the right data that enables you to understand each customer individually.
With the right data and tools on hand, you can:
- provide personalized recommendations for customers based on past purchases
- schedule timely and personalized follow-ups post-purchase
- customize sales and deals based on customer preferences
- send birthday coupons and other rewards to loyal customers
- deliver personalized content based on customer interests and needs
- offer custom solutions in customer service interactions based on what you know of each customer
Personalization doesn’t have to be a major overhaul of your experience—a handful of small, personalized interactions go a long way. And with the right tools and data on hand, as well as an understanding of customer touchpoints, you’ll know exactly where and how to incorporate more personalized messaging and experiences into your customer journey.
Lead with empathy
Finally, treat each customer as a unique individual throughout both your customer service and overall customer experiences. Even in a world where personalization is becoming expected, 61% of customers still say they’re treated more like “a case number” than an actual person—an experience that, obviously, contributes negatively to overall brand perception.
By leading with empathy and connection, you can help your customers feel seen, heard and understood by your brand, developing relationships that drive loyalty. In each interaction—whether that’s a customer service call, a social media post or your post-purchase landing page—look for ways to lead with empathy and deliver a human touch.
At Global Response, this is one of our core values. Our customer service and experiences may be powered by technology, but they’re perfected by our people. We spend a lot of time and resources investing in our agents and teams to become customer-obsessed brand experts, who not only know your brand inside and out, but know your customers inside and out as well. With a deep knowledge and understanding of your audience, you can deliver empathetic experiences that keep customers connected for decades.
For support creating customer experiences and customer service interactions that make a meaningful difference for your brand—or for help creating personalized, human-centered brand interactions—connect with an expert from Global Response today.