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Customer Service

The Difference Between Customer Experience and Customer Service

Customer service teams are being asked to focus on the 'customer experience' more and more, but this requires far greater collaboration with other teams than in the past

The job of a customer service manager is no longer as simple as making sure the phones are answered quickly and the metaphorical lights are kept burning. Across the past decade, customer service teams have increasingly been asked to focus on and show that they are improving customers’ experience with the company.

This is all because management teams have realized that their brands are fundamentally affected by the quality of the support they offer to customers, and that customers now place a lot more importance on the overall “value proposition” that a company offers them, rather than just the usefulness, quality etc, of the product or service they’re buying.

The main result of this realization is the decision to make companies “customer centric,” which essentially means ensuring all processes and decisions put customers first rather than other common business goals, such as cutting costs or making a process quicker for employees to complete.

Customer Service ≠ Customer Experience

This focus on customer centricity has meant numerous changes to the way that customer service teams work. And, while customer service managers would be the first to recognize that customer service is not synonymous with customer experience, there are many points across the  stages of a “customer lifecycle” where customers talk to suppliers:

  • The purchase experience.
  • “Onboarding” customers into using a product, and engaging them with the brand.
  • Using the product or service.
  • End-of-term renewal or repurchase.

The Importance of Loyalty

In common with changes to the work environment throughout a large multinational, customer service teams must now collaborate far more with a host of other teams and corporate functions elsewhere to provide a consistently good experience for their customers. And at the heart of this effort is the shared goal of customer loyalty.

Although a wide range of factors make a customer loyal to a brand or particular product, customer service often plays an important part. The customer service experience plays a role in about a quarter of all customer attrition. A bad service interaction is only outweighed by price and a change in customer needs (see chart 1).

Chart 1: Reasons customers switch providers  Percentage of customers indicating the reason; n=4,584 customers  Source: CEB Customer Experience and Loyalty Study

So it’s important for all teams to work together on maximising customer experience but too many teams across the world’s companies still work in their own silos, which gives rise to different challenges and – sometimes conflicting – goals for different managers. This series of posts will look at how and why those differences arise.


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One Response

  • John Coles says:

    Yes. It seems like organizations are finally coming around to the fact that a call into their Support Center causes more dissatisfaction, and that delighting customers is overrated.

    There have been arguments for a long time that Marketing should own Customer Support. But I believe this truly won’t happen until Academic Institutions begin including “Customer Support Operations” into their curriculum.

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