Customer experience and customer service. What is the difference?

By Published On: December 16th, 2016Categories: Articles3.6 min read

How is Customer Service different from Experience?

But is that the real case?

Tempting as it may be, the fact remains that these two terms are distinct from each other despite sharing some similarities.  To be fair, customer service and customer experience are two sides of the same coin- well almost.

For any business venture, customer experience is one of the most important strategies to achieve long-term success and keep a significant competitive edge over its peers.

What exactly is customer experience and why is it important to understand its difference with customer service?

Customer experience refers to the total of all touch-points entered into by the customer with an organisation or company.  This sums up all aspects of a customer’s journey with the company they interact and it includes key engagement areas. It includes researching the brand image, engaging with its sales team, purchasing a product, using it and dealing with the customer support team.  A combination of these touch-points is ‘customer experience’ as we know it.

So, customer service comprises of specificity. When an employee of a company provides a specific service to a customer, that is customer service for you and NOT customer experience. What happens after that specific point between the customer and the employee is an important contributor to of customer experience, but it is not customer experience per se.

Generics Vs Specifics

Let us take the example of a mobile phone company that is doing a good job for increasing its sales and net profit. Despite its robust sales, the company’s leadership team realised that something was amiss, which was evident in the spiralling customer complaints and grumpy customer support team.

Upon further investigation through a CRM, it was found that while the firm’s sales were not dented due to its stunning reputation, customers were not happy with the service quality. Meanwhile, even the employees were clueless. A series of meetings with internal audit concluded that the entire team must redirect efforts towards customer expectations and not only meeting them.  All the processes, systems and workforce were to realigned towards this singular aim and that worked well. The dealership’s net profit and sales skyrocketed by a whopping 40%.

The takeaway is that customer experience begins when customer service ends and also before that, building from there. It includes company’s brand image, sales, marketing, product packaging, features and post-sales experience among others.  Customer service ensues because a service ‘has to be’ provided to the customer. In contrast, customer experience is about a holistic engagement process that entails ‘wanting to provide’ good quality service.

It is important to understand the distinction in today’s context to keep a competitive advantage that makes them ‘different’. In that context, there are three practical steps that an organisation can take:

  • Develop a common blueprint: A company would do well to create an inter-organizational common plan that is communicated to the entire team. This is important because there should not be a situation where the sales team doesn’t know who has interacted with the sales/after-sales team or vice versa. Getting everyone on the same page will help the entire team to work and contribute towards a heightened customer experience level without any confusion.
  • Create emotional relationships: Your endeavour must be to know your customers beyond their immediate service needs. Understand what they want, what are they seeking from the product, what makes them tick and their innate emotional connections. Developing strategies to engage with your customers at a deep emotional level help you form long-term relationships which will go a long way in creating a superior customer experience.
  • Consider customer experience as a long-term investment as opposed to a non-productive expenditure. Since it will help you reach your customers at an emotional level, they will repay you by trusting you with your requirements in the near and distance future, thereby translating to heightened sales and profits. To that end, the ROI for offering a great customer experience more than compensates for your immediate expense or investment.


It would not be unfair to conclude that customer experience is more inclusive and expansive than customer service. It deals with employee engagement and understanding the requirements of customers, thus giving you a clear-cut direction to plan to do top class customer experience.  

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