Customer Service vs. Customer Experience: A Critical Part of the Whole

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Customer service is a term most people are familiar with. As consumers ourselves, we’ve all used it. We rely upon it. Sometimes we have a love/hate relationship with it. But when we need it, it’s an essential, invaluable service.

Customer experience, on the other hand, can be a more nebulous concept, although it’s just as pervasive. While customer service refers specifically to the support customers seek out when they have questions, troubles, or issues, customer experience is the holistic experience a customer has with a brand. Helpshift defines customer experience as the proactive and deliberate orchestration of an end-to-end journey between a customer and a company, and it encompasses a lot more than just support. 

While customer experience transcends customer service, customer service remains anchored at the center of it all. They’re different concepts but are part and parcel of each other. Here are a few things to consider to ensure that your customer service and customer experience strategies complement each other.

Customer experience is a big-picture emotional relationship

How your customers feel when they see your ads, read about your company, interact with your product, engage in your services — these are all facets of customer experience. Consider the Starbucks customer. An average of 750 people frequent every Starbucks store every day. They come for the coffee, sure, but their relationship with Starbucks goes way beyond the bean. 

In any given town, there might be an indie coffee shop right across the street serving superior, cheaper brew. But does it have a drive-through? Is there a signature drink for every member of your family? Is it even worth the risk? Safer to stick with Starbucks, where you know exactly what you’re getting, and it’s good enough.

There’s a strong emotional component to customer experience. Ideally, you want your customers to associate your brand with the kinds of things Starbucks brings to mind for millions of people a day: quality, reliability, comfort, and familiarity. Not to mention easy snacks and clean bathrooms.

Customer experience includes every marketing touchpoint

Customer experience happens across a wide range of platforms and channels. It might include conversations with a friend or strangers where your brand is mentioned. It definitely includes social media impressions and interactions. And it also includes any internet searches that lead a customer to your website or one of your digital ads.

While customer service typically occurs while a person is in the process of making a purchase, or after the purchase has already been made, customer experience starts long before the moment of purchase. The first time a customer hears about your brand or product, their experience begins. It doesn’t end until the day they walk away from your product, a moment you certainly hope never happens. And that’s where customer support comes in. 

The role of customer service is essential to overall customer experience

While customer experience involves a lot more than traditional customer support mechanisms, customer support is still central to the idea of customer experience — more than ever, in fact. You might be doing everything else right — slick advertising, ubiquitous digital presence, awesome product — but one botched customer service experience can destroy your relationship with a customer. On the other hand, giving customers the ability to get consistent and instant information across channels ensures that their experience with your brand is harmonious.

Customer service needs to be updated for modern expectations

And here lies the catch. To be effective as a mechanism for ensuring solid customer experience, your customer service must meet the needs and expectations of today’s customers, who expect that you’ll deliver consistent customer service across channels so that they can access support in the ways they prefer. 

In particular, messaging technology can ensure that customers are always able to reach you directly in-app and provides a clear way to deliver instant answers and important information quickly. For this reason, automation, too, is essential to scaling your customer service efforts so that no one ever has to wait for an answer. AI-enabled issue classification automatically routes customer inquiries to the right agent. At the same time, bots allow you to lighten your agent workload and lower your customer-service costs.

Metrics for success: Customer service vs. customer experience

While the success of your customer support efforts can be tangibly measured through CSAT scores, especially if it’s built into your customer-support technology, customer experience is a much harder entity to quantify. Yet, it’s critically important to your brand’s success. Adobe and Econsultancy’s annual Digital Trends report in 2019 noted that customer experience is the top “exciting opportunity” for the 2020s according to B2B companies.

Bottom line: you can’t afford to ignore the state of your customer experience, and your customer service platform is an essential element of that.

Published January 7, 2020
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