Customer Experience Vs. Customer Success: What’s the Difference?


The phrase “Customer Experience” has surfaced somewhat recently, but the need for it began about ten years ago, with the proliferation of brand touchpoints. The term describes, not just whether or not a customer can successfully use a product, but what their experiences at every single touchpoint are as they use the product.

Think of the much bemoaned process of setting up home WiFi. The steps included are:

    1. Pick a plan online
    2. Schedule a technician to set it up for a ridiculous amount of money, or ask for the self service installation kit
    3. Interaction with technician or interaction with online chat agent/phone agent to try and figure out why the self service installation kit is not working
    4. Working Internet!
    5. Failed Internet. An hour long hold for a customer service rep
    6. Online review of service

How AI Can Empower Customer Service Leaders

In this process you have online ordering, online chat, phone call, interaction with technician, and interaction with the product itself. That’s at least five different points of communication with the brand– and for the experience to be positive, each touchpoint must be positive.

The key to crafting a positive customer experience is not just having a superb customer support team; it’s ensuring that at every single touchpoint the customer has a positive, seamless experience. This means one very important thing for companies trying to build out their customer support team: it cannot exist in a silo.

Jeanne Bliss, the author of Chief Customer Officer 2.0: How to Build Your Customer-Driven Growth Engine put it this way: “The work we do is defined as “Customer Experience” rather than “Customer Service.” Customer Experience is the proactive and deliberate orchestrating of an end-to-end journey between a customer and a company. Each stage of the journey is architected to understand the emotions and needs of the customer, and what he or she is trying to achieve. The work then is to unite the organizational silos to deliver a one-company experience to deliver value at each stage, and across the journey.”

Of course, this is easier said than done. It requires that there be channels of communication between product teams, customer support teams, sales teams, and leadership teams. Most importantly, it requires that there be a roadmap for customer journeys.

Five Touchpoints Does Not Equal A Journey

While customer experience is built around numerous touchpoints, it’s not enough to just ensure that each individual touchpoint is positive. Take this infographic, which delineates why, in customer experience, the whole is more than the sum of its parts:

customer success journeyA large part of determining a customer journey is figuring out which touchpoint matters most to your customers. For instance, if friendliness of customer service reps matters more than speed at checkout, then you know that a 60% customer satisfaction for interaction with agent plus a 95% satisfaction rating for checkout does not equal a 78% satisfaction rating, but rather a 60% satisfaction rating. Not all touchpoints are created equal.

Design The Experience For Success

Customer Success is just one facet of Customer Experience. That said, though, it is the end factor, the part of the process that determines whether or not you will have a user/customer. That’s why, even though Customer Experience is having its heyday, it’s crucial that we not forget that part of the goal of providing a good experience, is setting the customer up for success.

Customer Experience is dependent on so many disparate factors that it’s essential that your business test and measure which factors determine satisfaction and success the most, and emphasize those. You can also manipulate these factors by applying behavioral psychology to, for instance, ensure that your customer ends their interaction on a positive note– which will affect their perception of the interaction as a whole, even if only the end was great.

The real key to a phenomenal customer experience is a company-wide, top-down philosophy on what the result of the customer journey should be. It’s not enough to just have good CSAT; you want your customers to have an overall positive association with your brand as a whole. Customer success is just one part of this macro vision of the customer.

As Teddy Roosevelt said, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

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Published September 7, 2016
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