Customer Service Vs. Customer Experience

When I need to return an item to Nordstrom, I know I’m not going to encounter a problem. The company’s return policy makes me more willing to shop online and in-store. In my opinion, this is great customer service. But this quality alone doesn’t make the entire customer experience package—that includes the store setting, retail staff and all the other elements that create the total experience.

The difference between customer service and customer experience is that while customer service is one piece of the puzzle—focused on human interaction and directly supporting customers—customer experience is the sum of the entire customer journey with your business.

In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we’ll look at these differences in more detail and why it matters to your business.

Customer Service. This is the assistance and advice provided to a customer for your product or service as needed. Customer service requires your customer-facing team to possess a particular set of skills, including product knowledge, and tenacity, so they can provide the answers and assistance a customer needs. It’s the human element in the customer journey and the voice your customer will recognize as representative of your organization.

Customer Experience. This refers to the broader customer journey across the organization and includes every interaction between the customer and the business. Customer experience involves all the ways your business interacts with a customer, including traditional direct, customer-facing service and all approaches outside of it.

Customer experience includes three main components:

1. Customer Service: This includes customer support, customer success, and self-service support—the points at which your customer interacts with your team.
2. Technology: This is the product itself—how it works and the interactivity points.
3. Design: This is the brand touchpoint—the marketing, the design and the feelings your brand creates for your customer.

While those three areas are quite distinct, there are no hard lines between them. All of the pieces combine and work together to make up the customer experience.

The key difference between customer service and customer experience is that the latter involves the whole customer journey, including customer service. Customer service is limited to the interactions a customer has when seeking advice or assistance on a product or service. Understanding the customer experience, on the other hand, can involve analyzing data from non-customer-facing teams who contribute to a customer’s overall experience with a product or service.

The line between how customers use a product and how they interact with the people supporting it are more blurred than ever. It’s important to understand the distinction between both customer service and the broader customer experience in order to create a memorable, engaging interaction and profitable customer interaction.

Source: Sarah Blackstock is a freelance writer specializing in technology and customer support and a former happiness engineer at Automattic.