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Do Not Confuse Customer Experience With Customer Service

Customer Experience

Do Not Confuse Customer Experience With Customer Service image CX is not CSThere are too many people who use the customer experience and customer service/support terms interchangeably. Even well respected authors and customer centricity consultants, like Don Peppers, occasionally slip into this ambiguous trap. Here are some basic definitions found on the web with a simple query:

“Customer experience (CX) is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods and/or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier. This can include awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.”

“Customer Service is the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services. “

Customer service is just one of the attributes that comprise customer experience, but it is most definitely not the same thing. For some businesses it could be the most important ingredient, and for others in could be completely inconsequential one.

Here are some examples to make the distinctions a little more clear:

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• You can have great customer experience without the participation of the customer service department at all, but sometimes even the best customer support efforts cannot salvage overall customer experience:

• The most attentive waiter can’t improve a poorly cooked dish, but a scrumptious meal can be remarkably experienced in self-served establishment.

• Expertly installed TV cable service does not guarantee quality entertainment.

• Customer Success Managers can only help to retain customers for a short period of time if the software does not perform as expected.

• A product plays the leading role in delivering customer experience, not efforts of customer-facing employees. If a product sucks, no heroics of the front line personnel can deliver excellent customer experience. From this perspective it is difficult to understand how product managers, and even more so product marketing managers, manage to avoid the customer experience responsibility spotlight. These are the people who interpret customer needs and wants into a product design. It is a best practice to have them handle customer support lines on a regular basis to learn firsthand how accurate were their interpretations.

• Marketing is the group that creates customer expectations, and when these expectations do not meet reality of a product, customer experience suffers. Classical marketing is supposed to “learn” what customers need and translate this learning to product designers and advertising messages that attract the “right” customers to the “right” product. Instead, marketing is too often focused on “pimping” products designed by engineers overseas without any connection to actual consumers. Focus groups and survey are designed to figure out how to sell what they have got, rather than to make what customers want. No wonder the distinction between “market research” and “marketing research” is so blurry. Customer service can be very helpful to facilitate the return of an unwanted product and deliver great product return experience, but it cannot deliver a great customer experience.

Confusing customer service/support with customer experience puts an unfair and unbearable load on the shoulders of an organization that already is the second most stressed group, after sales, in the company. Even though its performance has relatively limited ability to influence delivery of customer experience, it is measured, dissected and optimized completely out of proportion. When you see that happen, it is the first sign that the company is focused on financial engineering – not on their customers.

Comments on this Article: 6

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  1. James R. Halloran says:

    You made some good key points here, Greg!

    There is definitely a difference between the customer experience and customer service, but there is also a difference between customer service and handling negative reviews online.

    One of our recent interviewees discussed it on our blog here: http://www.brand.com/blog/martin-waxman/

    His advice basically goes hand-in-hand with your article above, but focuses a little more on how to sufficiently handle the customer service realm.

  2. Gregory Yankelovich (@piplzchoice) says:

    James, I am not sure how the subject of handling negative reviews online came up. I re-read the article twice, but could not find any connection.

  3. Joseph Rangel says:

    Great article! It is a tremendous challenge when the Customer Service Department, is the group responsible for the Customer Experience, since the CE is thought of as post-sale, not all inclusive.

  4. Gregory Yankelovich (@piplzchoice) says:

    Joseph, I am glad you liked it. If Customer Experience delivery is thought of as post sale activity, it is destined to fail. There is no way a single department can salvage the organizational failure.

  5. Prathish says:

    Well said Greg. I have a small doubt- your example says “You can have great customer experience without the participation of the customer service department at all….” Is that really possible. While we are clear that customer service is an attribute that comprises customer experience?

    • Gregory Yankelovich (@piplzchoice) says:

      Prathish, there are many examples when we have great experiences with products without any need to reach CS department. I have purchased my PC and 2 monitors that were easy to find on Amazon at a reasonable price. The product collateral was easy to understand and to relate to my needs. The deliveries, packaging and installation instructions were sufficient to get me going, and I had no interruptions using them. While I could offer a few ideas for minor improvements to these products, there was no reason for me to contact customer support of Amazon or the manufacturers. I am sure you had similar experiences as a consumer. Of course complex B2C and B2B products often heavily depend on customer support to deliver good experience, but IMHO most consumer products using the CS as a crutch to inferior marketing or product management.

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