9 Additional Answers
(Management Consultant, JL Watson Consulting)
The Customer Experience is the sum total of all interactions between customer and supplier throughout the customer life cycle. This includes interactions through marketing, pre-sales, sales, product delivery and post-sale customer service and support.
Customer Service is a set of business processes that generally take place after the sale, to support the customer's use of the product and relationship with the supplier.
Simply stated, Customer Service is one contributor to the overall Customer Experience.
(President, Heinz Marketing Inc)
I second what Jim said, well put. Customer service is what you (the company) do. Customer experience is what they (the customer) receive.
If every company thought in terms of the experience for the customer, rather than how to minimally 'service' the account, I bet churn rates everywhere would plummet.
James Feldman, CITE, CPIM, CPT, MIP
(Chief Innovation Expert, Synectics Open Solutions, LLC)
It has been said that 'you are what you charge for.' Customer value experiences not products. They purchase the product of the product. Customer service is the minimum expectation of today's consumers. They demand more, but have shown that they will also pay more if the experience is worthwhile. The more sensory the experience, the more memorable it becomes, and the higher the price.
Customer service is no longer a competitive differentiator. The customer experience coincides with the increased interest in creative thinking. The challenge today is to make every customer contact, whether on the phone, by email, on the internet, or in person, seamless. As an early adopter of products and technology I can personally attest to the difference between 'service' and 'experience.'
Often the issue comes down to picking the right people to interact with the consumer. For me the benchmark has been raised by Apple. Whether you speak to someone on the phone, respond to an email, or visit their stores, the experience, in my opinion is exceptional. They have found a way to match individual skills to appropriate roles.
I refer to the process as D-A-T-I-N-G Your Customer. Everyone remembers their first date. Yet some where in the relationship the commitment to DAZZLE becomes less important as we reach a more familiar relationship. ANTICIPATING the needs of the customer have little to do with service...it's all about the experience. Some might call it suggestive selling but in reality it is suggestive solutions. INNOVATIVE solutions call for an understanding the 'point of pain' for the consumer. The greater the pain the greater the potential to NURTURE the relationship. Service, when offered today, is often automated, and offered passively by some outsourced individual that has little, if any, ownership. Experiences on the other hand require that the choices are made by real people that are accountable for the results and the overall experience. This GUARANTEES that the company has created a competitive differentiation that is often called TRUST. People buy from those they trust.
Many companies today seem to observe their future in a passive manner that fails to understand that their behavior may be the major factor in keeping a consumer. The Wall Street Journal says that is costs 91% to get a new consumer than to retain an existing one yet many company has 'acquisition' models rather than retention plans.
Service opens up the possibility of creating an experience by moving from 'what is required' to 'what is perceived.' When we exceed consumer expectations we move beyond goods and services to relationship. And that's what DATING is all about...the next date.
(Author, Speaker, Business Owner, Radio Talk Show Host, Small Town Marketing.Com)
I had lunch at McDonald's the other day. Did I get good customer service? Did I have a good customer experience? I got the same customer service and experience that I got in San Diego, CA, Toledo, OH, and Little Rock, AR.
The point is that good customer service has very little to do with the customer and everything to do with the business that delivers it..
Question: Can I deliver customer service so bad that I'd have to close my doors? Answer: Yes. Question: Can I deliver customer service so good that it would be economically impossible to deliver? Answer: Yes.
As you can see, of these two extremes, all I can do, as a business, is deliver the best possible service I can, day in and day out, and still be profitable. I would like to be better. I try to be better. But I have to be profitable. As much as I would like to, I can't pick customers up in limo's and bring them to my business.
McDonald's created a profitable way of delivering fast food and then 'trained' us, the customer, in how to not only use it, but to walk out with a smile knowing that every time we darken their door the experience is not 'over the top good' but consistent from coast to coast.
If I can create the expected experience in the customer's mind with my marketing and advertising then that's what the customer should experience provided I deliver my defined level of profitable service. End result: Happy satisfied customer and a black bottom line.
(Vice President, Sales and Marketing, Focus.com)
(Senior Director, Avanade Europe Services)
Customer experience in my view is how a customer feels after they have interacted with you either through electronic means or physically.
I can relate this to 2 mobile phone operators I have dealt with lately. My experience of first operator was they were courteous, listened and were able to get me what I wanted for the price I wanted. The second operator kept transferring me from one operator to another because they couldn't figure out which department could deal adequately with my request. After the eighth transfer I just hung up.
Given the experiences above I will never go back to the second operator because my experience of them was unprofessional and incompetent. It is also a good sign that their post sales would be a nightmare.
Customer Service on the other hand deals with the range of access and interactions provided to customer to transact with you before, during and after a transaction.
For example, I was looking to buy a full high definition TV and I was persuade to buy a certain retail chain because during my research they had the widest range of advice and a comprehensive detail of what you get post sale at a very competitive price. Their services didn’t just end online, when I step into the shop, they were polite and eager to help me with no due pressure to sell to me.
So you can see that good service and experience are intertwined. It is important to be multi-faceted in your approach to service offerings to customers. That is, offer a comprehensive set of channels to your customers and be consistent in the way you deal with your customers regardless of the channel you serve them through. That should be the goal of any customer centric strategy.
I second Jim's notion that 'the Customer Experience is the sum total of all interactions between customer and supplier'. However, I believe it goes further that looking at the so-called 'customer life cycle'. This is taking a very inside out approach or company view of the relationship.
Where does the customer experience really start? Using 20th century thinking it starts when the customer 'walks through the door' of your business. However, what some of this centuries most successful companies (Apple, Google, Virgin) have come to realize is that the customer experience starts at the time the customer perceives a need to acquire a product or use a service. These companies take advantage of the entire customer value chain and in doing so, make their customer lives easier, simpler and more successful.
As for Tom's example, yes, the experience you get from McDonald's is consistent just about anywhere in the world. However, their focus on having the most franchises made them lose sight of the importance of the customer experience. What they hadn't realized is that their stores were a great place for parents to go but their menu was not appealing to those concerned about the health of their meals. So, earlier this decade, they researched the customer experience using a customer focused approach (Outside In) which resulted in the creation of healthier menu choices and the McCafe. See more at http://bit.ly/9hFUB4
Guy Stephens (@guy1067)
(Social Media / SCRM Consultant, Capgemini)
It's a really good question and there's some great answers which all give different and contributing perspectives.
From where I sit, which is firmly within the space of social customer care, what i am seeing is that customer service and customer experience are moving inextricably together. I think in the past, customer service has focussed on the business process behind the experience, and this has become the experience. The idea of a 'curated' experience has not been considered as such. The technology drives the experience.
The emergence of social has started to change that dynamic. The introduction of an emotional element has meant that the need to actually wrap an experience around the technology is now required. Companies are having to think about building in emotion into what has essentially been a transactional interaction. What I am beginning to see now is a subtle shift whereby the experience is almost more important than the resolution. Whether an issue is resolved or not is almost secondary to whether the experience of it is a positive or negative on in the eyes of the customer.
(Management Consultant, JL Watson Consulting)
Guy, you raise several interesting points, particularly this:
'...a subtle shift whereby the experience is almost more important than the resolution.'
That point really underscores the importance of humanizing an otherwise highly-technical, or skill-based engagement, in order to win over the customer.
Tom Peters speaks to this point (Little BIG Things, pg. 78): 'Process frequently 'beats' outcome in assement of an experience - even one as outcome-sensitive as a hosptial stay.' This was based on research in healthcare and hospital patient-stays.
The good news here is that 'humanizing' an experience can be a very low-cost initiative for companies, when compared to efficiency-oriented intiatives, like automation.