Customer Service Vs Customer Experience: Get The Basics

Whether it’s a customer or a colleague, we’ve all encountered confusion when it comes to separating customer service from customer experience.

While we’ve broken down specific parts of what makes up the overall shopping experience in the past, it may be helpful to get back to the fundamentals of what exactly customer service means when we think of it in the context of the greater shopping experience.

First, we’ll break it down by looking at how service fits within the bigger picture of customer experience, then lay out how the difference between service and experience goals make the distinction an important one to understand.

Framing Customer Service As A Piece Of The Larger Experience

To understand the difference between the two, it’s helpful to understand why they often seem the same to customers.

Say a customer encounters an issue while they’re shopping inside a store, and gets in touch with the customer service department for help. After getting the problem solved quickly and easily, they tell their friends about how great the shopping experience was because the service department was efficient and knowledgeable.

See where mix up happened? Although the customer service department did a great job fixing the problem, a great customer experience shouldn’t create problems for customers in the first place. If you asked that customer how well their shopping experience was if the service department failed to help, it wouldn’t have been so positive.

This shows that while customer service is crucial to a good experience, it’s just one part of a bigger system that needs to be working with all its parts in harmony. In fact, when every component is accounted for, customer service makes up just 5-6 percent of the total experience.

Harley Manning and Kerry Bodine of Forrester Research put it another way in their book, Outside In:

“People call customer service when they have a problem. So equating customer service with customer experience is like saying that a safety net is a trapeze act. Yes, the net is important to the act. But if the performer needs to use the net then something has gone wrong with the show.”

How To Practically Differentiate Service From Experience

So what’s the bottom line? To create a truly great experience for shoppers, you have to deliver one that they remember because it went above and beyond what they expected––not one that simply solved a problem that never should have happened.

Take Target’s recent customer data breach for example. It took weeks before customers received word about what exactly was stolen, who was at risk, and what to do next. Instead, they relied on customer service to handle the bombardment of questions coming from customers about their credit card information.

Although they answered questions, they failed to proactively get that information to customers who were at risk and instead, played defense.

Start focusing on being proactive rather than reactive with customers when they walk through the door. Instead of being ready with answers, anticipate your customers’ needs and fulfill them right away.

To find out exactly what kind of experience your customers expect to get, the first step is simple: Evaluate and measure.

Whether it’s mobile shopping tools, online order pickup, or expert associates to answer questions about your products, you need to know what your customers expect to get when they shop with you. Since no two stores are the same, you’ll have to gather that data and find out which improvements will give your store results.

Customer experience evaluation is the first step to creating a great in-store experience that doesn’t rely on the customer service department to save the day. Now that we’re clear on how service fits into the bigger picture, it’s time to start giving customers a new reason to come back for more.

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