Don’t know the difference between customer service and customer experience? Read this to find out what they are, how they’re different, and how to measure them.
Freya is an SEO consultant who helps brands scale their organic traffic with content creation and distribution.
Customer experience and customer service are used so often in marketing that they can start to sound the same.
Although there are undeniable similarities, they aren’t the same (or interchangeable).
In this blog post, we’ll explore what customer experience and customer service are, plus their four most significant differences.
Customer experience (CX) is the journey your customers go on, starting from when they hear about your brand to when they become loyal, repeat buyers.
This is often called the “sales cycle” or “buyer’s journey.” It includes five main stages:
Each stage is an opportunity to provide a top-tier customer experience, pushing the customer to the next stage. Customer experience doesn’t occur in just one stage—it happens across all five.
Customer experience is also multichannel. Everyone who interacts with your brand (whether they’re already customers or not) should have a positive experience no matter where they are.
For example, customer experience can be impacted by your social media content, blog post content, free content offers and lead magnets, customer service team, email newsletters, reward systems, and more.
HubSpot breaks providing a high-quality customer experience down into three simple steps:
The “delight” stage includes customer service (which we’ll discuss next), as well as self-service options, customer support, collecting customer feedback, and more.
Customer service is an interaction between customers and a brand’s customer support team.
Someone from the team helps the customer solve problems, answers their questions, explains how to use a product, and ensures they get the most out of their purchase.
However, in digital marketing, customer service can include automated and self-service options. These features allow customers to quickly get the help they need without having to call someone.
One of the most popular self-service options is live chat. For example, The Patel Law Firm has a live chat feature that lets potential clients find answers to their questions 24/7, including after the firm’s working hours have ended:
Shaked Law has a similar feature that allows new visitors and existing clients to text them 24/7 from their website’s homepage:
You can easily add live chat to your website by downloading a plugin supported by your hosting system or hiring a WordPress developer.
There are countless ways to provide high-quality customer service outside of self-service options and staying patient with busy customers on the phone. To name just a few:
While your customer service team will mostly interact with existing customers, it’s essential to note that providing world-class customer service to those in the first few stages of the buyer’s journey can heavily impact their decision to buy from you.
Plus, customer service plays a major role in graduating customers from the “decision/purchase” stage to the “loyalty” stage.
Positive customer service keeps retention high— data from Zendesk reveals that a positive customer service experience led 42% of customers to purchase from the company againm and according to further research, repeat customers spend 67% more than new customers.
Finally, customer service is especially important when dealing with existing clients in a service-based business. Many times, you’ll need to communicate with the client after they’ve signed a contract or placed an order to get the details you need to provide the service. This is usually done through an onboarding process.
In this situation, your customer service team’s goal should be to make the process as easy as possible. How can you simplify it to take less time? How will you request client files in a safe, secure manner online? Who will be supporting your new client throughout the process?
Now that you know customer experience and customer service, let’s explore their four most significant differences.
Customer experience starts when someone realizes they have a need and comes across your brand in their search to fill it.
It’s how they interact with your brand and the experience they have with it—how helpful were your blog posts? How engaging is your social media profile? How easy is your website to navigate?
Customer service is not a journey—it’s an interaction that often happens just once.
However, it’s critical to note that customer service impacts the customer experience. Positive, helpful customer service contributes to a customer’s overall experience with your brand. Customer service falls under the “delight” step of improving customer experience—it’s one piece to a much bigger puzzle.
HubSpot summarizes this excellently by describing the steps brands take to improve customer service compared to just a few factors that impact customer experience.
Because of this, customer experience and customer service cannot be used interchangeably. And it’s not a direct relationship that flows both ways.
In other words, if your customer service is poor, customer experience will suffer. But just because your overall customer experience is good, doesn’t mean your customer service is.
Because customer experience and customer service are different, the way you improve and measure them will be different.
Customer experience entails a seemingly endless list of parts to your marketing strategy, from social media to website navigation. So measuring it is typically less straightforward than customer service.
Because of this, companies use tons of metrics to track progress. A few of the most common ones are:
Some of these metrics—such as CES, CSTAT, and NPS—require you to use surveys. You can calculate the other metrics by collecting and using data you already have, such as Customer Retention Rate and Trial-to-Paid Conversion Rate.
Although customer service is much less broad compared to customer experience (due to being an interaction and only a piece of the overall experience), it’s more difficult to measure without the help of your customers.
The most common way to measure customer service is through customer feedback surveys.
These can be done quickly at the end of a customer service call. Or you can ask a list of people—previous customers, customers who have recently made a purchase, customers with recently closed support tickets, etc.—to fill out a quick online survey.
Whichever option you choose, make sure to keep the survey as short as possible. It should take a minute or less to complete.
Customer experience can be measured at any point in the buyer’s journey based on data you already have. This makes it easy to be proactive about the positive and negative results you discover from those metrics.
Customer service, on the other hand, is a response to customers reaching out to you with problems or questions. It’s reactive. If no one emailed, called, or submitted support tickets, your customer service team would be jobless.
Anyone who works with any of your brand’s teams automatically impacts customer experience in some way, whether they’re behind the scenes or on the frontlines.
To name a few examples:
Customer service, though, is only handled by your customer service team—a group of individuals specifically trained to deal with customers in need, solve problems, and maintain clear communication.
Knowing the difference between customer service and customer experience is important.
They aren’t interchangeable terms, and understanding how they affect one another can improve your conversion rateand (most importantly) retention rate.
But although they’re different, the most impactful similarity is that they should both continue past the purchase stage and start before it.
No matter which stage your prospects are currently in, if you focus on attracting, engaging, and delighting them, you’ll be on the road to more revenue and a loyal fan base.
Freya is an SEO consultant who helps brands scale their organic traffic with content creation and distribution. She is a quoted contributor in several online publications, including Business Insider, Fox Business, Yahoo Finance, and the Huffington Post. She also owns CollectingCents- a personal finance blog that she grew from the ground up.