Customer service vs customer experience: 5 key differences

by Andy Nguyen
customer service vs customer experience

Curious about the differences between customer service vs customer experience?

Many organizations use the terms customer service and customer experience interchangeably.

However, they don’t mean the same thing. 

From the point of activation to their approaches, there are a lot of differences between both. 

In this article, we’ll explore what customer service and customer experience are and highlight five key differences between the two. We’ll also take a look at how you can provide fantastic customer service and customer experience.

This article covers:

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Let’s get started.

Customer service vs customer experience: 5 major differences

First, we’ll understand what customer service and customer experience mean. 

A. What is customer service?

Customer service is the assistance (or advice) your support team provides to your customers during and after purchasing your product or service.

Your organization can provide customer service in different ways, such as:

  • Chatbots and FAQs: To solve basic consumer queries via self-service.
  • Call support: For quick escalation.
  • Live chat and email support: For customers on the go.

Additionally, customers can rely on live chats or call support if they’re unsatisfied with the self-service options.

Why’s a positive customer service experience crucial to business success?

Customers who have a bad experience with your customer service team will most likely not remain loyal customers. As a result, to boost customer retention, your customer service team needs to avoid poor customer service.

Additionally, good customer service enhances customer loyalty and improves your chances of making an additional sale to the customer.

Next, we’ll look at what customer experience is and how it differs from customer service.

B. What is customer experience (CX)?

Customer experience refers to how a business interacts with its customers at every point in a customer’s journey.

In a customer experience ecosystem, your business interacts with the customer even before they complete their purchase and continues after the sale is made. 

As a result, customer experience is an ongoing process.

Here are the three most important areas to provide a better customer experience:

  • People: Customers want to communicate with helpful and qualified team members. This includes communication with your customer care team and sales team. 
  • Process: Customers prefer a seamless experience across their entire journey. By following a customer experience design process, teams can optimize processes at every touchpoint.
  • Product: Customers want high-quality products that solve their problems. As a result, you’ll need to identify your unique selling points to provide a good customer experience.

And while all three are distinct components, your company needs to improve on all of them to ensure a positive customer experience.

Now that we’ve understood what customer service and customer experience mean, let’s take a closer look at their differences.  

1. The point of activation

Customer service usually begins when a customer approaches your business for purchase, assistance, or clarification. As a result, the customer initiates the customer service process, and it ends once the issue or query is resolved.

Additionally, every customer service interaction is part of the larger and unified customer experience.

On the other hand, the customer experience process begins even when the customer is still just a prospect. For example, social media ads and blog posts can leave an impression on potential customers and hence are part of the customer experience.

In other words, customer experience remains active throughout the entire customer journey. Companies may also use insights about customer preferences from historical customer data to reactivate passive customers.

And it doesn’t matter if you have an online or brick-and-mortar business. You must always focus on giving customers the best experience across all touchpoints.

2. One-time interaction vs. overall experience

One of the key differences between customer service and customer experience is the number of touchpoints involved in the customer’s journey.

For example, your customer will only interact with your customer service team when there’s an issue to resolve. This will involve your customer-facing departments and typically require only one or two touchpoints.

On the other hand, from the initial sale to the post-sale service to repeated purchases, customer experience relies on multiple business interactions and impressions. 

And while not every customer journey is the same, one thing is certain – almost every customer will interact with your business more than once.

As a result, customer service is only a part of the customer lifecycle, whereas customer experience is the entire journey. 

3. Reactive vs. proactive approach

Customer service and customer experience also have unique problem-solving methods.

Remember, customer service is typically initiated by the customer while facing a pre-sale or post-sale problem. 

Here, customers can usually reach out to your business via their preferred communication channels, including phone, email, messaging, or live chat. In this regard, customer service can be described as a passive or reactive method. 

On the other hand, customer experience is all about anticipating your customers’ needs through various means. This involves using customer journey maps, satisfaction surveys, website analytics, or even useful metrics like customer churn rate. 

This proactive approach can help you improve your relationships with your customers and boost brand loyalty. 

4. Different performance metrics

Customer service and customer experience rely on different performance metrics to address customer’s needs. 

Performance metrics help you determine the effectiveness of your customer service and customer experience team. 

For example, customer service teams use the customer effort score (CES) or customer satisfaction score (CSAT) to measure performance. Since it’s calculated on a case-by-case basis, it’s always interaction-specific. 

On the flip side, customer experience is measured through extensive surveys depicting the entire customer experience or level of satisfaction. 

You can also measure customer experience by keeping a close watch on your company’s social media accounts, product feedback page, or feedback survey form.

5. Different tech stacks

Customer service teams generally use customer relationship management (CRM) platforms to keep track of customer interactions.

A CRM platform is a customer management software that helps customer support teams manage interactions with existing and potential customers. 

With CRMs, you can store customer contacts, delegate duties, and automate repetitive tasks. This way, your customer service agents can improve every customer’s journey.

Customer experience, on the other hand, is much more extensive and requires more than a single platform. Nowadays, to provide an exceptional customer experience, your company needs to collect relevant customer data from every possible touchpoint.

For example, you need to collect data from marketing channels (website and social media analytics), sales channels (CRM), packaging, and finance.

To truly improve your brand’s value proposition, you need to get both the overall customer experience and the customer service provided right.

So we’ll take a look at how you can improve your customer service and customer experience.   

3 actionable tips to provide good customer service

Good customer service is essential for customer satisfaction and brand loyalty. It also helps in positive word-of-mouth marketing, bringing in more sales and profits. 

Here are three ways you can provide great customer service:

1. Personalize customer interaction

Customers need more than just automated messages — they need human interaction as well.

To build a fantastic customer relationship, you need to personalize your interactions with your customers. This is crucial since most customers expect an experience that’s tailored to their unique preferences. 

For example, you can:

  • Use your customer’s name while communicating with them, whether that’s via email or live chat.
  • Use the customer’s past purchasing data to recommend products to their liking.

However, many customers are often reluctant to share their data. 

An Accenture survey found that 83% of respondents were willing to give companies their data for better personalization.

2. Make data-driven decisions

In 2017, the Economist published a report titled “The world’s most valuable resource is data, not oil.” Since its publication, “Data is the new oil” has become a common buzzword.

What does it mean?

Data can fuel everything from marketing strategies to AI-based chatbots.

To keep up with changing customer needs, you need to equip your employees with analytics and customer service software that gives them instant access to customer data across multiple channels. 

In doing so, you’ll enable your support team to go beyond capturing data and focus more on reacting to different data trends.

For example, once a customer is registered on your website using their email address, you can collect more data as they’re browsing your website.

In addition, having access to real-time and historical data means that your team can take action on what’s trending at the moment and change course if needed.

3. Provide omni-channel support

In this age of social media and chatting tools, customers prefer to connect with businesses in multiple ways. A customer on the move should be able to contact you via their preferred communication channel, like live chat.

By providing omnichannel support, you’re already halfway there in delivering excellent customer service.

So how do you do this?
Simple: by equipping your agents with technology that lets them switch across different channels quickly.

However, you should also train your customer support agents to handle questions via phone, email, social media, and live chat.

Lastly, customer service is just one part of the customer journey. You also need to provide a seamless customer experience.

So, how do you provide a great customer experience? 

We’ll find out next.

If you want a comprehensive understanding of omnichannel support, check out our guide on Omnichannel Contact Centers.

3 simple tips to provide a great customer experience

Delivering an exceptional customer experience is important for any business.

But what makes a customer experience great?

Here are three things to keep in mind to help you provide a great customer experience:  

1. Pay attention to customer feedback

It’s no secret that customer feedback is paramount for meeting customer expectations.

Constantly asking for your customers’ opinions and incorporating that feedback into your customer experience strategy can make your customers feel valued.

Here’s how you can use customer feedback to grow your business:

  • Follow-up with your customer base: It’s important to use real-time or post-purchase surveys to get a customer’s perception of your business. These follow-ups can give you insight into areas that you succeed in and need to improve on.
  • Pay attention to social media: Pay close attention to platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. For this, you can use a social listening tool to monitor and analyze online conversations about your brand.
  • Keep a close eye on review websites: Check for your product reviews on third-party websites like TripAdvisor or Amazon.

That’s why, regardless of your business type, you need to engage with your customers wherever they are.

2. Take advantage of analytics tools

How do you know if your customer experience efforts are paying off?

The answer lies in measuring business results.

You can monitor key customer experience metrics in real-time with the help of powerful business intelligence tools like Tableau and Oracle Analytics Cloud.

Many organizations also use the NPS (Net Promoter Score) to measure the success of customer experience. Since NPS is easy to visualize, it’s a favorite among marketing executives.

3. Optimize your customers’ journeys

You need to consider the entire customer journey when creating an excellent customer experience.

To do this, you need to create a customer experience design process with the help of your customer experience management team. 

Customer experience design is the process of optimizing the customer experience across all touchpoints.

Here’re some examples of how your team can optimize a customer’s journey:

  • Send them personalized recommendations of your new products based on their previous purchase history.
  • As the needs and habits of the customer evolve, their preference also changes. Consistently review your customer profile to keep offering a personalized experience.
  • Provide omnichannel personalization by collecting data from all channels, including websites, social media, phone calls, mobile apps.

Focusing on the customers’ journey and identifying problems within each step helps you determine ways to improve the customer experience.

Wrap up

Although customer service and customer experience are quite different, the two work hand-in-hand to build strong customer relationships.

A strong customer experience at every touchpoint increases the likelihood of converting a prospect into a customer. And a robust customer service setup will ensure long-term customer retention. 

Use the information we covered here to improve the way you serve your customers and achieve customer success.

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