Is Customer Service the same as Customer Experience?

Mark Hurst wrote an interesting post today about an experience he had with an office supply company today.

In his post, he made some assertions about the nature of Customer Customer Service that I didn't quite agree with - although I normally agree with Mark wholeheartedly. He also posed a good questions: Is customer service the same as customer experience?

First things first:

Mark Wrote: “Customer service is the job of front-line workers, servicing customer requests for help - via an 800 number, e-mail, or a retail desk.”

I was surprised that he would make this assertion. This is only true if you're looking at it through a narrow lens.

Many of us understand that Customer Service involves a heckuva lot more than customer-facing. It is not merely the job of front-line workers. Customer Service begins with the policies that govern the management of customer need. These policies are responsible for shaping customer interfacing and service delivery, and work bi-directionally across the supply chain – impacting the suppliers who create and ship goods, as well as the service reps we encounter in any channel.

We talk alot on this weblog about the five components of experience: customers, environments, brand(s), platform (process, policy, people, technology), and interfacing.

While Mark's problem wasn’t a Customer Service environment or interfacing problem (accessing service within the phone channel, or talking to the rep), it was very much a Customer Service brand issue (faulty merchandise) compounded by a Customer Service platform issue (poor return and refund policies).

While Mark is right that a larger cast of characters is responsible for hosing up his customer experience, it doesn't change the nature of his problem. Today's executives are paid to **own** Customer Service. Whether they act like it or not, this makes them stewards of our experience. The way they coordinate service - across the five CEM disciplines - will dictate success.

Nordstrom knows this. Customer Service at Nordstrom is not merely about the people they hire and train – it’s about the holistic customer service experience they offer, from the quality products they offer, the purchasing environments and the policies that govern service delivery and customer satisfaction. Good Customer Service has created the Nordstrom brand.

Customer Service is perhaps the most important component in shaping Customer Experience. But are they the same? Technically, no. However, it's significant to remember that Customer Experience and Customer Service are so strongly, perceptually bound in the minds of customers they can often be equated as the same thing.

...and perception really matters.


Sivaraman Swaminathan said...

I can't agree with you more on your view of customer service. I have a client who insists in having the designation of Customer care associate across all departments! He has designated himself, CEO and Customer Care Associate. If you are serious about customer experience, then we need to look at customer service holistically.

LivePath said...

That's the kind of customer experience advocate required in companies today. Your client needs a good pat on the back!

Arturo Munoz said...

I read Mark Hurst's post and, having read yours too, I'm confused by some of the premises employed in this discussion.

How can customer experience be anything but subjective? In as much as we try to treat our customers with attentiveness and respect, building an environment of service and appreciation for their patronage, a customer perceives and will experience what the customer alone can experience.

Our power lies in influence, in how we approach a customer or respond to his inquiries. But how the customer experiences our treatment or response is something that can move in any number of directions outside our control. We must acknowledge the limitations of what serving a customer can accomplish.



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I’m Leigh Durst, a 20 year veteran in business, operations, customer strategy, ecommerce, digital & social media and marketing. Simply put, I’m a strategist that helps companies (start-up to blue chip) achieve business shift, create more compelling online and offline experiences. I also write, speak and teach about experience design and next-generation business. I’m a futurist, visionary, strategist, doer and connector with a passion for people and helping others. When I’m not on the road, you’ll find me in the San Francisco bay area, working, beaching it and hanging out with my family and dog.


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