Customer Experience

CX is Not Equivalent to CS


There 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.”

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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:

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:

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

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

o 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.

  Discuss This Article

Comments: 4

  • Great article! I’ve spent the last 35 years promotting to my team, “customer service starts when the customer experience fails!”

  • Chris, that’s a great quote. It is probably not accurate for every business, but it is dead accurate for many. Can I use it (with attribution of course)?

  • With respect, Gregory, I think there are just way too many buzz words out there, each one with a particular set of defenders. I think your definition of the distinction between service and experience is useful, but even that parsing of terminology begs a few questions. For instance, when a customer community provides customer service for other customers, that falls outside your definition of “customer service”? And by the “classic” definition of CX (which I also think falls short), would we classify word of mouth discussion (plus or minus) a part of “the sum of all experience”?

    We’re all working toward the same goal here, which is basically making the world safer for customers, no matter how you define the terminology… IMHO.

  • There is no disagreement here, Don. The goal is to obtain a clear and practical definition of terms that allows us to communicate constructively.

    In my opinion today, for what it worth, community support falls out “customer service” definition, but is a part of “customer experience”. The word-of-mouth is most definitely a part of “customer experience”.

    I think this distinction is very important because it reflects a difference in approaches to management of processes and departments involved.

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