Last updated November 13, 2020
Customer service has been around forever, but customer experience has become a popular term in the last decade, gaining a lot of attention in the past few years.
The two terms are often used interchangeably, but they’re not the same thing, and understanding their differences is important for investing in the right resources and achieving a competitive advantage.
What is customer service?
Customer service is the assistance or advice you provide to your customers and represents the human element and voice of your brand. The goal of customer service is to improve customer satisfaction by answering questions, providing tech support, troubleshooting problems, and taking care of any other customer needs.
Expectations for great customer service continue to grow. In fact, 90% of Americans use it as a factor in their decision to do business with a company and almost 50% of customers switched to a different company in 2019 after poor customer service.
And customer service isn’t just about friendly and knowledgeable phone reps. It matters on all platforms from email and texting to live chat, chatbots, and social media messaging. Customers want great service anywhere, anytime.
Customer service examples
Customer service is a wide range of interactions you and your team have with customers from the first point of contact, such as:
- Social media responses to direct messages
- Social media responses to comments
- Responses to customer reviews
- Responses to emails of any kind
- Sales representative interactions
- In-person interactions like design meetings or model home tours
The possibilities to provide great customer service are endless, available anytime a customer or potential customer reaches out to you.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience (CX) refers to the customer journey as a whole. It takes into account every single interaction someone has with your company, including but not limited to the human interaction of customer service. It is a culmination of customer service, product and service experience, and overall brand experience working together to create an emotional, physical, and psychological connection with your brand.
Customer experience is gaining momentum with 76% of customers expecting companies to understand their needs and brand expectations. And more than 80% of companies who prioritize enhancing their customer experience have reported an increase in revenue. Brands who present a seamless, enjoyable, and consistent experience retain more customers and improve their customer loyalty.
Customer experience examples
Customer experience includes every touchpoint of a customer journey from using your website to working with you one on one. Here are a few examples:
- An easy to navigate and mobile-friendly website
- Personalized messaging that creates an emotional connection with specific buyer personas
- Having a seamless process for onboarding new customers
- Sending out nurturing email drips with personalized content
- Having a dedicated team to field customer inquiries and problems in a timely manner
There are many ways to create a customer experience people rave about. It all comes down to listening to the voice of your customer and tapping into what they want and are asking you for.
Key differences between customer service and customer experience
We know customer service refers to limited service interactions and is a part of the larger customer experience. But both are similar in their quest for customer satisfaction and seem quite similar in practice, making it somewhat difficult to differentiate them in theory.
So, let’s dive a little deeper into their major distinctions.
Specific interactions vs. a holistic experience
Customer service is generally just a few touchpoints in the customer journey, usually towards the beginning of a customer-company relationship when customers ask the most questions. For homebuilders and remodelers, this is the discovery and awareness stage when customers are researching which housing professional to work with. For building product manufacturers this is the same beginning stages when builders are looking for the right partnership. And it usually involves a customer service team or a few customer-facing departments.
Customer experience, however, involves many touchpoints along the entire customer journey from discovery and awareness, to purchase and post-purchase. This is especially significant for homebuilders, who continue to communicate with buyers after move-in to fulfill their home warranty service agreements and manufacturers that must maintain a continuous positive relationship with builders. Unlike customer service, which requires customer-facing teamwork, customer experience requires every single department to collaborate from sales and marketing to product development and executive teams, making it a monumental, but rewarding task.
Reactive responses vs. proactive processes
Another difference between customer service and customer experience is which party is initiating and spearheading the process.
Customer service is almost always started by the customer. They have a question or need help, so they reach out to a company through whatever options are available to them; ie. email, phone, online form, live chat, etc. Customer service representatives then react to the customer’s inquiry, making customer service by nature, reactive.
Customer experience on the other hand is proactive. It’s about understanding customer expectations, so a company can anticipate their needs and deliver a seamless experience that helps reduce customer problems and the need to contact customer service in the first place.
Quantifiable events vs. ongoing relationship building
The last major difference between customer service and customer experience is measurability.
Customer service is made up of isolated, quantifiable events. When a customer asks for help or has a complaint, metrics like average response time, first contact resolution rate, customer satisfaction score of the interaction, and ticket volume can be measured to assess how customer reps are doing individually, and how the company’s satisfaction rate is overall.
Customer experience cannot be measured by single interactions because it’s the ongoing curation of customer relationships. Customer experience can be analyzed of course, with the right data and feedback from a variety of resources, but it requires more insight than a “how did we do” survey after a service call.
Experience is key
Customer service will always be important and is a critical component of a customer’s overall experience with your brand, but it’s just one element. Customer service alone cannot sustain or improve customer satisfaction in today’s consumer climate the way it may have 20 years ago, so make sure to put necessary resources into your customer experience management. With Avid Ratings, you can receive all the customer insights and competition benchmarking data you need to make educated customer experience improvements. Learn more here.