28 March 2014

Customer experience vs customer service

Customer experience vs customer service: a war of words?

The debate rages on between supporters of customer experience and fans of customer service. The former argue that customer experience is holistic, it covers the whole range of interactions between the company and its customers, pre-sale, during the sale itself and post-sale. In their vision, they reduce customer service to processes put in place when clients need problems fixed or when they wish to notify the company of their new address. 
Customer service advocates on the other hand argue that customer service is an all-encompassing concept which was always aimed at capturing the whole customer lifecycle. Experience terminology has just been created as a new buzzword to create consultancy opportunities and encourage companies to spend money on the search for the elusive best customer service. 
Who is right and who is wrong? Is there an unwritten rule that when it all goes well and the customer is happy one can speak about good experience whilst if there are issues it is bad service?

Use of words customer experience and customer service in modern literature

Use of words in literature since the beginning of the 20th Century sends us a couple of strong messages which might help solve this question. Looking at the graph above, one is struck by the fact that the concept of "customer service" is very new. Merely 80 years old, so what was happening before? was the service inexistent or were people simply helpful and friendly as opposed to providers of great service.

The other key message here is that since the apparition of the customer experience terminology the use of customer service has declined, suggesting a substitution process between the two. The conclusion is easy to reach, forget the terminology, just ensure a good happening for your customers.

Further reading:
To learn more about customer experience, we recommend this article from the Harvard Business Review, The Truth about Customer Experience which can be found at http://hbr.org/2013/09/the-truth-about-customer-experience/


  1. Nice article (though you need to change the spelling of literature!). We at Customer Service Guru are more inclined to use Customer Service though have been using Customer Experience more frequently. As you say the key thing is whether you are providing experience or service make sure it's good!

  2. Ooops, thank you, corrected! - it is a common approach by many who used to refer exclusively to customer serice but have now decided to "open up" towards customer experience. We are in that same categpry as well :)

    1. I get the impression that 'experience' is used more frequently in the US than the UK. Have never heard people in the UK talk of the customer experience...not yet anyway! Literature is also incorrectly spelt in the header above the graph too ;)

  3. Customer experience is the key thing. Customer service is standard. For example, the stool I'm sitting on at present is providing me with a service but the experience I'm getting from it (chronic back ache) is terrible. So I'm changing my service provider (new office chair from Amazon) hoping for a better experience. The two are clearly different.

  4. Thanks Gavin, It is an interesting take. One could also see the clear corelation, if the customer service is good then the experience is good. The stool provider could have realised that the stool was not appropriate or even better could have asked you if you suffered from back pain... In this case it seems like you did not receive the service which was right for you, it does not make the service bad as such.

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