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Customer Service vs. Customer Experience: What’s the Difference?


Customer service has historically been the #1 priority for companies globally, and rightfully so! However, I am incredibly excited to see that the customer experience has emerged as a significant player in our growing digital world. Since the concept of the customer experience is still relatively “new”, it is easy for many to confuse it with customer service. The misunderstanding is common—both customer service and the customer experience are customer-centric, but they have a clear distinction. To preface our exploration in this blog, I’d like to share an analogy I like to use to describe the distinction between Customer Service and Customer Experience:

You’re hosting a dinner party and your guests request you make your famous lasagna dish. In this analogy:

  • Your guests are your customers
  • Customer service is one ingredient, the “meat” of the dish.
  • Customer experience is the lasagna itself.

If you’re missing the meat, then all you  have is a noodles, herbs, cheese and sauce. That’s not quite what your guests were expecting. If you just have the meat, then you still don’t have that delicious lasagna dish to serve your guests. That leaves your guests (customers) unhappy and hungry! In fact, that might very well be the last time they attend one of your dinner parties.

Hopefully that helps to paint a picture for you, but let’s explore further in more technical terms:

Customer Service

First off, customer service works with a customer in a single interaction with a single focus to satisfy the customer and help with an issue. In many ways, customer service is often reactive. It is a response to challenges that your customer is currently having. Customer service is focused on the satisfaction of a customer by answering questions, helping with a product choice whether it’s troubleshooting a problem or picking the right product for them. But what can we do to make our customer service proactive?

Customer Experience

A Forbes article said it best – “Customer experience is the total journey of a customer’s interactions with a brand.” While customer service is limited to the interaction between a company representative and the customer, the customer experience takes into account all interactions. How does the customer feel about your company? Is your customer connected with your brand? Is your customer likely to buy more from you? Will your customer likely refer you to friends and family? These are all just a few of the questions that you must consider when you are crafting and fine-tuning your customer experience. When done right, it can turn your reactive customer service into a proactive customer service—intuitively solving your customer’s problems before they even start!

A typical customer goes through what they call a “customer experience journey”.  In that journey Ameyo Callversations lists there are eight stages of this journey:

  1. Awareness / Interest
  2. Discovery
  3. Attraction
  4. Interaction / Action
  5. Purchase
  6. Use
  7. Cultivation
  8. Advocacy

Many times, companies focus on one or two of these stages.  That means the customer isn’t getting all they need for a product or service. To allow proper focus of all stages in an effort to build an effective customer experience, customer journey mapping is critical. When the customer’s entire experience is mapped out from start to finish, you can figure out where areas of opportunity are and address them right away. This opens the door for customer loyalty, satisfaction, return, and recommendation.

The Cost of Customer Experience

It’s human nature for us to want to be treated with respect and dignity, especially if we are paying for a product or service.  Think about it, everyone would like to have those “moments that matter” where you are the main focus. Many times, people get aggravated or fed-up in one stage of the customer experience journey, which affects the business. It only takes one poor customer service interaction to send your customer into the arms of your competitors.  According to the Harris Poll 2017 Statistics one of the main reason companies lose their customers is:

“Companies lose more than $62 billion due to poor customer service.”

– NewVoiceMedia

Many companies might cut costs in the customer satisfaction department in order to provide lower prices. Truthfully, this may be a mistake. A research study shows that:

“55% of consumers would pay more for a better customer experience.”

– Defaqto Research

In closing, I would like to reiterate that mapping out and building the customer experience is the best way to meet the entire need of a customer during their entire journey, and not just a part of it. Here are a few actionable items you can consider:

  • Leverage customer data to determine what actions you need to take to improve the customer experience
  • Empower your staff with the knowledge they need and the power to make reasonable exceptions
  • Give staff the right tools and technology they need
  • Continuous learning and development for your front-line staff

If you’re interested in learning more about CH Consulting Group and how we can help your contact center build a customer experience that satisfies and delights, please contact me! I would love to learn more about your business and provide you with a free proposal on how I can help.









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