The Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Experience

Customer Experience | 2 minute read

The Difference Between Customer Service and the Customer ExperienceSomething serious has come to our attention: Some organizations still don’t know the difference between customer service and the customer experience for the contact center. Let’s start by saying, we know there’s a linguistic confusion, and we can go ahead and blame the English language for that. However, the function of customer service and customer experience (although they often work together) are two very different business strategies.

Here we’ll decode these often-confused terms so that your organization can learn to prepare and strategize for both properly. And even if you’re well-versed on these two subjects, it’s important to remember that technology has made them ever-changing and they might be worth a quick refresh.

Let’s get started with a quick donut analogy….

Take a look at these plain unglazed donuts:

Plain Donut

They look pretty good; I’d definitely eat them if I didn’t have any other options. Now take a look at these yummy sprinkled donuts shown here:

Sprakle Donut

Admit it – the latter donuts look a little more enjoyable than the former plain ones now don’t they?

Consider this: The plain donut is what we can call “customer service”; its one key factor in the entire “customer experience” – and its role is to provide support. “Customer experience” contains all the extras – like sugar glaze, sprinkles, and jam – that make you feel something about the donut, like “Wow! That donut looks delicious. I’ll try that.” Customer experience is about how it’s made, who made it, how it was delivered, the packaging it came in, how quickly you received it, and so on and so forth.

That’s the difference: There’s no doubt that the plain, underlying donut (customer service) plays a huge role in the overall perception of the donut (aka the perception of your company), it’s a must-have attribute, but the customer experience (the journey to and around customer service) is what really makes it satisfying.

Okay – donuts aside – from an operations perspective, what does customer service and the customer experience involve? This chart should help you create a distinction between the two:

Customer Service vs. The Customer Experience

In this chart, we can really start to see the difference between customer service and the customer experience, and why it’s so important for them to work in synergy. Customer service requires the overall customer experience to work seamlessly, from every touchpoint in the customer journey (i.e. live chat, mobile SMS, IVR, etc.). The customer experience needs to be proactive in that it should predict what a customer wants before they want it, whereas customer service is reactionary, for example when a user error occurs or on the off-chance that a process fails.

Simply put, the customer experience is more than just a buzzword; it’s a way to attract customers and make them feel good about their interactions with your brand. The customer experience is the ease in which your customers can access customer service, and customer service is a single touch-point for resolving and satisfying your customer’s needs. Both, however, have one critical function: keep customers coming back time and time again.


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