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Customer Service vs Customer Experience: What’s the Difference?

Liz Alton
March 13, 2019

3 minute read

Customer service vs customer experience—in today’s customer-centric business environment, one thing is clear. Customer expectations are on the rise, and there’s an increasing demand on brands to deliver at every level of the organization. One important component of delivering a winning CX is navigating the difference between the customer experience and customer service. Here’s a quick introduction.

Customer experience is the new battleground

More companies are paying attention to the customer experience than ever before. In fact, Gartner notes: “More than two-thirds of marketers responsible say their companies compete mostly on the basis of CX, according to the 2017 Gartner Customer Experience in Marketing Survey. And in two years’ time, 81% say they expect to be competing mostly or completely on the basis of CX.”

How can you frame customer service vs. the customer experience for conversations within your organization? Customer service is a critical function within organizations—resolving customer issues, answering questions, and shaping brand perceptions. However, customer service is just one part of the larger CX. The customer experience is the sum of all touchpoints that a customer has with your company, including sales, marketing, training, customer service, and more.

Analyst Jordan Bryan writes, “The quality of support a customer receives fundamentally affects customers’ perceptions of brands. Customers evaluate the overall value proposition of service providers on an ongoing basis, especially as they are presented with competing offers. Given these realities, customer service leaders must focus on and demonstrably improve their part in customer experience.”

The focus on CX has changed the way we look at customer service

If your brand’s CX is the total result of every brand interaction, that throws customer service into a new spotlight. In many ways, customer service works on the front lines to build your CX.

According to McKinsey, many companies have looked at customer service as a cost center, rather than a source of competitive advantage. “Until recently, the majority of the discussions around customer care focused on reducing labor costs by optimizing service levels, implementing lean practices, and achieving the optimal mix of offshoring.” CX has become a more vital lens through which to view the business, putting customer service within the context of the larger CX journey.

Designing your customer service experience

For businesses that turn an eye toward improving their CX, focusing on quality customer service is an important part of the equation. In fact, organizations that are designing their CX can benefit from paying close attention to customer service, says McKinsey. “As the natural owner of a large part of the customer journey, customer care can provide invaluable insight by helping to define journeys, identify pain points, and spur collaboration across functions. Such actions can produce additional benefits: an end-to-end redesign of the customer journey can not only transform the customer experience but also reduce operating costs in customer care.”

Offering your customers the best CX means improving delivery on every front. For many organizations, that journey begins with mapping customer service vs customer experience. While the CX encompasses all aspects of your business, focusing on improving customer service and gathering insights from the front line of your CX can help your organization delight customers.

Liz Alton
Liz Alton
Liz Alton is a writer and content strategist specializing in B2B technology, digital marketing, and the customer experience. Her clients include creative agencies, Fortune 500 brands, and venture-backed startups.
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