Customer service (CS) and customer experience (CX). Two of the most mentioned phrases a business can hear day-to-day, but what is the difference between the two? And how do businesses successfully offer both at a high standard? It depends on different aspects of a business, and you can certainly tell a good business from a poor one based on it. In most cases, when a customer thinks a business has given good customer service, they’re thinking of the experience they’ve had with the company.
Put simply, customer service is assisting customers and meeting their needs. It helps to shape the overall customer experience but doesn’t fully define it. Customer experience includes a customer’s perception of a company, a customer’s interactions with a company and a customer’s recollection of that entire process, from start to finish, at all touch points. But don’t worry, we'll be going into a lot more detail further on.
It is more important than ever to keep your customers happy. With a click of a mouse, they can share a bad CS experience with millions of people across the web, and that makes damage control harder. So, being aware of how your CS and CX can each affect your customers is important to ensure that you steer clear of any nasty bumps throughout your CS lifetime.
Defining Customer Service
The Oxford Dictionary definition of customer service is ‘the assistance and advice provided by a company to those people who buy or use its products or services.’ This includes after-sales support and is the backbone of many businesses, it can even affect customers who are thinking of purchasing as, if they can't find a CS contact for you, they might be put off. Not only is it an essential element of a company, it can impact your bottom line: if you provide a good level of CS, you may retain your customers which results in them spending more money with you. If customers feel tempted to share their bad experiences with the world, your well-built reputation can be destroyed with one, simple message.
The best way to explain what CS truly is, is by looking back at some examples of good and bad occurrences of it. Sainsbury’s got great CS bang-on when one of their customers, three-year-old Lily, contacted them asking why they called tiger bread "tiger bread", when in fact it looked a lot more like a giraffe. And Lily was right, we would agree that it certainly has a more giraffe look - and it wasn’t just us who saw Lily’s side. Chris King, a customer service manager at the supermarket chain wrote back letting her know that she was right, and set about changing the bread’s name completely.
But it can’t all be stories of Lily and the Renamed Giraffe Bread. Sadly, many businesses end up with the wrong kind of publicity when they provide bad CS. Walmart fell victim to this when a customer went to buy a rather large TV and was asked if they would like the TV to be carried to their car. But when taking the TV from the shelf, the salesperson proceeded to drop it and then continue as if it hadn’t happened. The customer asked if they could have a replacement (who wouldn’t?) but was reassured there would be nothing wrong with the product. But lo and behold, the customer got the TV home and it was broken, which Walmart quickly dismissed responsibility for when he returned to the store.
This wouldn’t be appropriate in any circumstances, especially when their policy states “If an item you received from Walmart is damaged or defective, you can return it.” To ease your mind, the customer did eventually receive a new TV, but the whole process took over three hours to sort when it could have been fixed in an instant.
Defining Customer Experience
Forrester Research defines customer experience as “how customers perceive their interactions with the company.” We like to define it as all the interactions and experiences a customer has with a business. We don’t know about you, but we’re certainly more likely to pay more for a good CX (in fact, 55% of customers willingly pay more for a guaranteed good experience). A customer will deal with many elements of your business as they browse, buy and receive your products or services. So it’s important to ensure whenever your customers are in contact with your business, they are receiving a high standard of service. CX, in layman’s terms, is basically how a customer sees your company and how they may recount that to others so it can be a bit harder to nail down examples of good and bad CX.
When fitting a new kitchen in his house, Aaron Weiche of Get Five Stars wanted a large center island for his family and quickly found one from Cambria. After the installation of the island, Aaron was surprised to receive a package from the company containing a custom cheeseboard. This was made from the same material as his island with attaching thank you note and of course, a request for feedback. (Businesses don’t do this stuff for nothing in return!) Cambria went the extra mile with a personalised gift to match and luckily for them, he shared this experience with the world which makes for a pretty good referral.
How can you make sure they are both #TopNotch
It is important for businesses to ensure they provide both good CS and CX, especially as they tend to go hand in hand. It can be easy for a business to provide excellent CS (be present on all the channels your customers want you to be on, answer back within a reasonable length of time – depending on the channel - and be pleasant and amicable) but providing gold-star CX on top of that can be troublesome. To ensure you, as a business, are providing high quality CS and CX you need to make sure all customer-facing parts of your business are of a similar level that you can be proud of. Remember Aaron’s experience with Cambria? That only worked out so well because the business was aligned together so no holes were left in the CX.
By ensuring your CS is there if any problems do occur, you can ensure that you solve them quickly and without any hurt to the customer, and that your CX is well-managed. Your CS is there to make your customers' experiences of your business a happy one; you should be covered across all bases to retain your current customers and keep new customers constantly coming in.
Article Written By: Elena Lockett - Marketing Assistant, focusing on helping us build up strong personal relation contacts and improving the exposure of the company through appearances, events and entering awards suitable for the company.