Customer Service or Customer Experience?

Customer service or customer experience? Are they the same thing?

There’s been a lot of talk about whether marketing and customer experience are one and the same or if they replace each other – you know, “Customer experience is the new marketing.” Well, I have a bone to pick with that one, but this post is about yet another debate – one that I’ve written about before, and one that we should continue to define and discuss: the difference between customer service and customer experience.

Since this is Customer Service Week 2013, I thought it would be a great time to bring up this topic again and to shout from the rooftops: “Customer service and customer experience are not one and the same!”

When I wrote about this topic before, it was because I was flabbergasted by how many job listings claimed the title of Customer Experience This or Customer Experience That. Ironically, the postings were really sales positions or call center/customer service jobs. And sadly, many of the job descriptions never even mentioned the customer! How can that be?

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Yes, customer service is a role (e.g., customer service rep), and it is a discipline (i.e., it’s everyone’s job to deliver great service). And customer experience is a role (e.g., VP of Customer Experience) and a discipline (i.e., it’s everyone’s job to ensure the customer has a great experience).

So why can’t sales or customer service roles hold Customer Experience titles? Let me elaborate by starting with some definitions.

What is customer experience? In its simplest definition, it is (a) the sum of all the interactions that a customer has with a company over the course of the relationship lifecycle and (b) the customer’s feelings, emotions, and perceptions of the brand over the course of those interactions.

Customer service? It’s just one of those interactions or a type of interaction.

Another way to look at it: customer experience is what the customer feels; customer service is what the company does (for the customer).

Still not convinced? How else can you tell the difference?

Map the customer journey – from the customer’s perspective – and plot all the ways in which the customer touches or interacts with your organization. Yea, the touchpoints. They are parts of the experience – a point in time – but they are not the sum total experience.

Customer service starts where customer experience fails. -Chris Zane

  Discuss This Article

Comments: 4

  • Ava Cristi says:

    Thanks for writing this, Annette. Many are still confused that even if they deliver satisfactory customer service, it doesn’t affect the whole experience. What’s important is you still ensure the customer sees the worth in his/her investment towards your product/service even if you are not talking to each other.

  • You make a very interesting point and I completely agree with you…I will try to explain the difference in a different way, customer service used to form the basis of the customer experience. The customers main interaction with the business was a person to person one to one exchange, either by visiting a store, or by speaking to an employee (a customer service representative) from the company on the phone.

    But customer service has changed – it is not just as above any more. Companies can now connect with customers in other ways on the Internet. Companies can now pedict what a customer needs before they know they need it.

  • Steven Salamon says:

    Perhaps plugging in some classic definitions might help: Marketing is an umbrella term that covers and includes pricing, advertising, merchandising, public relations, promotion and, argueably, customer service. The customer experience is a product and result of all of these, as well as technologies and methodologies employed in their execution, but is not synonymous with any one of them. Hope this is helpful.

  • Thank you all for adding to the conversation!

    Annette :-)

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