Customer service vs experience: The differences
The words ‘customer service’ and ‘customer experience’ are often used interchangeably but the truth is, they’re not the same thing (just closely related).
Customer service is the assistance you can give to your customers. The goal is to satisfy your customers and that usually means ensuring their questions are answered and they find what they’re looking for. For example, helping a customer choose the right product or service before purchase or advising how best to use the product/service.
Customer experience is the total journey of a customer’s interactions with a company. It’s the sum of all the touchpoints your customers have with your brand, from discovering it for the first time and browsing your site to purchasing the product/service and actually trying it then any aftercare support that may follow.
The short story? Customer service focuses on human interaction – ensuring your customers are supported, their needs fulfilled and wishes granted. This then leads to customer experience, which is the impression of your business that you leave with the customer across all stages of their journey with you.
The better the customer service you can provide, the happier your customers will be and the better the experience they’ll have with your company overall.
What do your customers actually want?
We mentioned earlier that customer expectations are always changing. It’s important to at least meet your customers’ expectations (but exceed them as much as you can), otherwise they’ll dump you in favour of a competitor.
Technology is a major force behind these changing expectations. Customers have always wanted to be treated as though they’re special by companies and for their questions or problems to be resolved. Before social media and smartphones, people may have been more willing to wait for a customer service team to get back to them.
Nowadays, they want responses instantly, support while they’re making a purchase (whether it’s via live chat, over the phone or a chatbot) and more.
Here are some more interesting statistics:
What do these statistics suggest? It means always remembering that your brand and the way your customers perceive it is extremely vital. Every touchpoint your customers have with your company, from the website to speaking to one of your sales team, needs to show that they’ll be treated with care and as that they’re special.
You need to show your potential customer that your company and its products/services are worth buying. Providing your sales teams with the information they need to satisfy customers is the first step. For instance, ensuring notes on customers are up-to-date so if a new salesperson takes over, the customer doesn’t have to answer the same questions again. Instead, the switchover is seamless.
In industries such as discrete manufacturing, a secret to excellent customer service is embracing both core service support and field service. While aspects like an efficient production process, high product quality and delivery are important, it’s also about offering your customers an attractive service package. One that supports your customers and takes on a proactive approach, rather than a break/fix model.
We discuss this in more detail in our blog on what customers expect from discrete manufacturers.
What defines excellent customer service and experience (and what doesn’t)?
Remember when we discussed the definitions of customer service and customer experience in the first section of this resource? Customer service is about advising and assisting your customers, with the end goal of satisfying them. Customer experience is the overall impression customers have of your company after all the interactions they had with you.
So, excellent customer service means (and this list isn’t exhaustive):
- Helping your customers find the products or services they’re looking for (or as close to as possible).
- Helping your customers get the most out of their products or services after purchase.
- Taking their feedback and using it to continuously improve your offerings.
- Being there for your customers whenever they need you (such as quickly responding to them and offering omnichannel support).
- Being determined to solve their problems.
And all of this leads to good customer experience. A great customer service (along with an excellent product/service), positively impacts your customers’ perception of you and their decision to return to you in the future and recommend you to others.
It’s also vital that your customer service is consistent, no matter the situation. Your company could be in the midst of a cybersecurity disaster, there could be a pandemic going on or your best customer service staff might be on holiday. Whatever the situation, you need to put your customers’ needs first. Read here for tips on how to improve your customer service during a crisis.
Watch the video below to understand how you can create excellent customer service and get some ideas to improve customer experience. Notice how automatic notifications and connected systems keep teams across the business informed about customer orders and preferences? We’ll get to that later in this resource.
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