At any point in time there are numerous business buzzwords doing the rounds. I am fairly certain that you will have heard the phrase ‘customer experience’ in recent times, and you might be forgiven for thinking that this is just a new buzzword to supersede ‘customer service.’ But is there a difference between the two, and if so what is it?
In fact customer service and customer experience are very different things and it could very well be argued that the latter is a product of the former. I would contend though that the truth runs a little deeper still. A customer’s experience is an output created by the service that they receive – this is true, but Harvard Business Review suggest that we need to consider things a little more holistically. Customer Experience is created by every interaction that a customer has with your business – this includes brand awareness, quality of your product/service, the buying journey, ease of interaction etc., etc. Essentially we are talking about every key touchpoint.
Consider how the following example highlights the difference between customer service and customer experience. I recently paid a sizeable amount of money to have a home office built, which was completed three weeks ago. On the positive side the sales person was very pleasant, the workmen worked very hard and the finished product is excellent and overall I am ver pleased with it. However, the downsides were numerous – the sales person had insufficient knowledge of their product and could not answer almost any question without first ringing his supervisor. A key element of the site was omitted from a site visit report which then resulted in the build taking seven visits rather than four. On the day of construction a window was broken, which I was promised would be replaced in a week and is only now going to be replaced next week (4 weeks later than promised). When I rang to chase up the window replacement I was told by the person that answered the telephone that she could not give me an update ‘because Customer Service wasn’t in that day!’
It is a huge mistake to think of, and certainly to refer to, customer service as a department. The distinction between customer service and customer experience is more critical than ever, especially if you want to differentiate yourself from your competition. Customer experience and the service that leads to it must be a cultural thing and be developed rather than excused when it goes wrong. There will indeed be times when staff with customer service responsibilities are absent but that cannot mean that nobody else picks up the baton because I can guarantee that for your customers their Customer Experience Department is always open!!