Know the Difference Between Customer Experience and Customer Service

February 14, 2018

Contributor: Jordan Bryan

Customer service doesnt equal customer experience but both aim to drive customer loyalty.

Did you have a bad experience after making a recent purchase or trying to resolve a service issue? Chances are you formed a negative impression of the company, shared your experience with family and friends, and maybe even wrote about it in a public forum.

“ Customer service is not the totality of customer experience”

Organizations increasingly try to prevent such reputational risks by mitigating customer pain points. When customers can’t resolve issues themselves, organizations make dedicated customer service resources available — but that means more than just answering the phone.

Service leaders are the first to recognize that customer service is not the totality of customer experience. Rather the service experience is just one component of the set of elements that comprise the overall customer experience.

The role of customer service

The quality of support a customer receives fundamentally affects customers’ perceptions of brands. Customers evaluate the overall value proposition of service providers on an ongoing basis, especially as they are presented with competing offers. Given these realities, customer service leaders must focus on and demonstrably improve their part in customer experience.

“ Customer-centricity can be a powerful way for organizations to differentiate themselves from competitors.”

Customer service works to make it easy for customers to resolve specific issues. The challenge of customer experience is to inject that same ease across all the cumulative interactions the customer has with the organization over time. In order to deliver ‘low effort’ customer experience,  it’s important to look beyond isolated issues, and remove friction, such as lack of data or the need to repeat information, that causes frustration in the customer’s experience over the lifetime of the relationship.

Customer-centricity across the business

As more organizations count on superior customer experience to drive growth and market share, all functions — from IT to customer service — have to contribute to that experience.

“ Bad service interaction is only outweighed by price 30% of the time”

Leaders across functions should drive and reinforce a customer-first culture in which employees are empathetic when issues arise, quick to get to the the root cause of customer problems, and empowered to use their judgement to deliver the best solutions. In this way, customer-centricity can be a powerful way for organizations to differentiate themselves from competitors.

A shared outcome

“Customer loyalty is driven by numerous factors, but the importance of customer service within the customer’s experience is clear.”

Gartner found that service experience plays a role in approximately one quarter of all customer attrition. Furthermore, bad service interaction is only outweighed by price 30% of the time, and changing customer needs, 28% of the time.

Customer service can significantly impact the customer’s perspective of overall experience. Reducing the level of effort required by the customer can increase the chances that a customer will be loyal — and failing to provide a low effort experience can just as easily fuel disloyalty.

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Recommended resources for Gartner clients*:

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