Customer Experience Isn’t Customer Service

Customers now want a great customer experience over customer service.

But wait, how is customer experience any different from customer service?

Aren’t they one and the same? Well, you’re not alone!

With brands moving toward a customer-centric approach, customer experience (CX) and customer service (CS) have become two sides of the same coin. But since brands had little to do with customer experience earlier, differentiating one from the other is tricky.

CX and CS have become the game changers of every business. If you want them both to work in your favor, you need to begin with the basics.

Customer service vs Customer experience

Why is it important for businesses to understand the difference between customer experience and customers service? 

At times, businesses stop with great customer service and assume that they’ve done their part to deliver a good customer experience. However, with evolving customer expectations, people want brands to go beyond good customer service for a delightful brand experience.

What is customer service?

Customer service is the assistance provided by a brand when customers find any issues after they purchase any product or service. It is an important aspect of a business that retains existing customers. Organizations may have a full-fledged customer service team equipped with strong domain expertise and help desk tools to provide good customer service.  

Related resource: What is customer service? Skills and traits needed for customer service

Two other terms closely related to customer service are customer support and customer care. You can learn more about how businesses view these terms with reference to customer service here:

What is customer experience (CX)?

Customer experience, on the other hand, is the way a customer feels about a brand before, during, and after the entire purchase journey. It is more than just resolving customer issues or throwing in a discount to win them back after a bad incident. It’s all about creating a seamless experience for the customer right from the time they have the need for a product or service, to purchase, and after-sales support. It is safe to say that customer service is a part of the customer experience.  

Related resource: Customer experience - Definition, Importance, Strategy, Tips


Role of CX and CS in Customer Journey

A good way to know the difference between CX and CS is to understand the role of customer experience and customer service in the entire customer journey. Let’s dive right in.

1. Awareness

As a first step towards fulfilling a customer’s need, prospective buyers will want to know where to find a product and from whom to purchase it. Usually, they look it up on the Internet or ask their friends and learn about the various brands.

As a brand, there are a number of things that you can do to ensure that the prospective customer notices you or becomes aware of your brand. 

For example, an artist named Alicia Souza uses social media to bring in business for her website that sells accessories and gift items. Her funny illustrations are shared by many people thereby creating massive brand awareness.

customer experience example

Pro tip: Similarly, optimizing your website for search engines, boosting social media presence, creating emails and search ads as part of marketing campaigns are some of the things you can do to increase your brand awareness. All these initiatives enhance customer perception that adds to the overall customer experience.

Related resource: A toolkit to help you create great customer experience design

2. Consideration

This is the second stage of the journey where the potential customer is interested in your brand and wants to know further. They check your website and look up customer reviews for pricing and credibility. Some of them would even mail you to obtain information on return policies and payment methods. The kind of customer experience your brand offers at this stage is crucial to win their hearts and take them to the next step

It is the brand’s responsibility to create a positive customer experience by being active on social media platforms and keeping their website up to date in all aspects. 

For example, Barclays bank has left no stone unturned in getting the attention of customers through their website design. Right from the website tab name that boasts their history to the inclusion of growth reports on their main page, they give no room for any second thoughts.

barclays customer experience example

Pro tip: Making your website experience easy and interactive, adding testimonials, getting influencers to recommend your brand, and having an exhaustive knowledge base with chatbots to offer instant solutions to customer questions are a few things you could implement to increase your brand credibility.

This way, you are creating a customer experience that gives them confidence and trust in your brand.

3. Decision

Now that the customer is convinced with your brand, they are ready to make the purchase decision. However, the number of steps taken by them to hit pay varies with each industry. While buying a product from an online store gets over within five to six steps, buying software can take up to 20 back and forth conversations. And in both scenarios, customer experience plays a major part in nudging the customer towards payment.

For example, a customer who wants to buy Freshdesk customer support software can sign up for a free 21-day trial. During the trial period, the customer gets to use the helpdesk and they get a demo of the product. The success of this entire process depends on the product experience and the way the salesperson treats the customer.

freshdesk customer support software - customer service example

In this stage, you need to make sure that none of the touchpoints are broken and should address questions on the safety of information, trust, and swiftness. 

Pro tip: Easy navigation and a clean product description, adding case studies to your website for social proof, availability through chat or phone to aid customers in completing the purchase, and giving special offers and discounts are some things you can do for a better customer experience. 

4. Retention

The retention stage helps maintain a good post-purchase relationship between your brand and the customer, thus boosting customer loyalty. There are two subsets to this stage where customer experience and customer service are involved individually.

When your customer is happy with the purchase experience, make sure that they return to your website for more products or subscribe for higher plans. Find ways to interact with them even after purchase and boost customer engagement. This could be through proactively asking for customer feedback, upselling or cross-selling another product based on relevancy, or asking your customers to share an online review.

Related resource: Build and improve customer engagement at scale

On the other hand, when the customer is unhappy or unsure of how to use your product, they will reach out to you for help. Your customer support team then finds out what’s gone wrong, and provides a solution. 

Pro tip: Have an effective customer service strategy in place that offers swift resolution in a few steps or even at the first contact.  Going omnichannel and unifying different support channels like email, call center, messaging, live chat, self-service, and social media in one place help in giving a seamless experience. A good customer service experience not only neutralizes the negative experience for the customer but also has them coming back to you for more business. 

Related resource: 10 practical tips to improve customer service

5. Advocacy

People talk about both their positive and negative experiences with a brand on social media, through word of mouth, email, or by sharing content without any incentive other than their love/dislike for the brand. 

In fact, on average, an individual will tell 9 people about good experiences, and 16 people about poor ones. This is why turning your customers into positive brand advocates is very important. 

When you successfully pull off a long-term relationship with your customer, all you have to do is ask them to share your brand with their friends. After all, nothing can match the power of word-of-mouth marketing. 

Pro tip: Although advocacy depends on the quality of your customer experience and customer service in previous stages, find ways to win back your unhappy and frustrated customers.

Related resource: How to build customer relationships that last a lifetime

Key Differences between customer experience and customer service

Now that we know how customer experience and customer service impact different stages of the customer lifecycle, let’s look at the aspects at which CX and CS differ.

  • Purpose: The ultimate goal of customer experience is to create a seamless series of events for the customer at every step of their journey. This could be across marketing, sales, and support touchpoints. The primary purpose of the customer service function is to resolve customer issues and give knowledgeable solutions, which in turn affects the overall CX.
  • Role in the customer journey: Customer experience is the sum total of all the customer interactions across the entire journey, while customer service has a significant role after purchase, impacting retention and advocacy. 
  • Related with: The emotions and feelings that a customer has towards a business are majorly at play for a brand’s customer experience. Customer service is more about giving practical guidance and solutions for problems.
  • Responsible team: There is usually a customer care or customer support team for organizations dedicated to providing good customer service. A delightful customer experience falls on the shoulders of the broader organization and is everyone’s business in the true sense.
  • Performance metrics: Customer satisfaction scores (CSAT), Net Promoter Scores (NPS) that measures the likelihood of customer recommendation to others, churn rates, and Customer Effort Scores (CES) that gauge the effort a customer puts into any brand interaction are some of the leading CX metrics. Customer support ticket volume, first contact resolution rates, and response times are examples of tactical customer service success metrics.
Customer experience vs Customer service - Key differences
Key differences between customer experience and customer service

What’s the best way forward to delight customers?

At a time when business strategies are changing as we speak, it is very important that every company begins to understand the fine line between customer experience and customer service. Both are similar yet different in many ways and turn out to be powerful when used to one’s advantage.

While a critical focus is needed on giving excellent customer service, it’s only one part of the bigger customer experience. Freshdesk helps you extend a positive customer service interaction that paves the way for delightful customer experiences.