Customer Experience

Customer Service vs Customer Experience: Here's How They're Different

April 17, 2023
7:00 am

Customer service vs customer experience — is there really a difference? Despite the terms often being used interchangeably, there most certainly is. 

In a nutshell, customer service is just one part of the overall customer experience. Once you understand the differences between the two, it’s much easier to understand how they can work together to benefit your customers. 

Let’s dive in, shall we?

What’s the difference between customer service vs customer experience?

Customer service is reactive. The interactions are almost always initiated by the customer and center around providing communication, guidance, and assistance. 

Customer experience is proactive and is all about anticipating the customer’s next move.  It involves every single interaction someone has with your company from the very first touchpoint, all the way to post purchase.

Customer service explained

Customer service plays a major role in customer experience. Think about when someone reaches out to a call center or live chat agent to ask about an order issue — a negative interaction with a rep could change a customer’s entire perception of your brand for the worst. 

Successful businesses know that the key to great customer service is meeting customers wherever they are and on whatever channels they want. Whether they choose to reach out via email, text messaging, social media, chat, or in-store, people are looking for the same seamless experience. When it comes to creating these kinds of connected experiences, CX technology like video chat, cobrowsing, live chat, and AI-enabled chatbots can help your team bridge the gap between in-store and in-person service.  

Customer service also brings a human element to the customer experience. While self-service options and chatbots can be helpful, nothing can quite replace a friendly, empathetic support agent.

Customer experience explained

Customer experience refers to the impression created by the entire customer journey. It encompasses all interactions, like browsing products on your website, interacting with staff in-store, reading blog posts, attending webinars, making a purchase, and using your product or service. That means that great customer service and how your product or service functions are equally important, and that simplifying processes can impact customer perception as much as how you present your brand on social media. Brands that use a cohesive and consistent customer experience strategy retain customers better and build loyal customer bases more easily.

Customer service vs customer experience: Understanding key differences

  1. Limited interaction vs. an entire journey. Again, customer service is one piece of the customer experience and often only involves a couple of touchpoints before the customer’s issue is resolved. Meanwhile, numerous touchpoints and multiple departments are involved in creating a great experience whether or not the customer contacts support. 
  2. Reactive vs. Proactive. Customer service depends on a customer reaching out for assistance. With customer experience, however,data from interactions and touchpoints can be analyzed to create improvements  before people encounter problems. 
  3. Success Metrics. Net promoter score (NPS) and customer satisfaction score (CSAT) are great ways to measure customer satisfaction and service quality. Customer churn rate, retention rate, customer effort score (CES), and customer lifetime value (CLV), all capture data on how people experience your brand as a whole.
  4. Interaction and ownership. Whether the interaction is online or in-store, customer facing service teams are responsible for helping customers directly with whatever issues they’re having. Customer Experience, on the other hand, is often shared across the entire organization from marketing and sales to people and product teams. These teams typically don’t interact directly with customers but their work impacts customer perception and loyalty nonetheless.

Customer service and customer experience don’t work in silos. They’re both an integral part of your business’ success. People consider the big picture when they choose whether they’ll continue to frequent your business — and you should do the same if you want to build long-lasting customer loyalty.