Customer Experience vs Customer Service: How They’re Different (& Connected)

A customer approaches a customer service representative

Customer experience and customer service are different, but connecting the two allows brands to delight customers and achieve CX goals, including higher customer satisfaction and retention.

Every brand aims to delight customers throughout the customer journey, but things don’t always go as planned. It’s why leading brands look at customer experience (CX).

When a customer is confused or frustrated, what (and who) do they seek? Customer service. Agents on the front lines are tasked with listening to and serving customers, which fortifies customer loyalty and retention if done successfully. Some organizations overlook the contact center as an expensive, outdated function with minimal upside; however, most consumers actually want to interact with a human when communicating with a brand.

87% of consumers say demonstrating empathy during a customer service interaction is important. No, this doesn’t mean artificial intelligence (AI)-powered chatbots and self-service guides are useless options. It just means that automated, do-it-yourself resources should be the only options available to customers.

Customer service is — and always will be — a significant contributor to CX’s trajectory because it’s an up-close-and-personal interaction and a touchpoint to analyze. The more customer signals, the better a brand can move to meet the wants, needs, and expectations of customers.

What’s the Difference Between Customer Experience & Customer Service?

Customer experience and customer service are two terms often used interchangeably, but they’re neither the same nor completely disconnected.

CX refers to the overall perception a customer has of a brand or organization based on every interaction, from product quality to ease of use to support. Customer service, on the other hand, refers to the interactions between a brand’s team of agents offering support through channels such as phone, email, and chat.

So, what’s the difference between customer experience and customer service? In short, customer service is part of customer experience. Customer service — as a real-time experience between a brand and its customers — helps build the overall perception the customer has alongside other types of interactions such as a purchase, website visit, or use of a product.

Why Every Business Needs Customer Experience & Customer Service Together

Delighting customers 100% of the time isn’t realistic. Having the intention to do so is. With CX at the forefront of decision-making, a brand creates opportunities to delight customers and erases challenges typically causing customers to take their money elsewhere. So it’s make-or-break when an unhappy customer gets in touch with the customer service team.

Here’s why it’s important to connect customer experience and customer service.

Great customer service leads to positive experiences

Customers enter a service interaction with emotions such as anger or uncertainty, but it’s on the customer service team to finish the exchange with a resolution that brings a smile to their faces. Service interactions are, after all, what’s often most memorable about a brand. And they’re likely to be shared with others through word of mouth, reviews, and social media.

Businesses can have a well-designed website, a social media identity bursting with energy, and a robust marketing engine. But if they don’t have the right processes in place to help customers, it all means nothing and CX is bound to fail.

Investing in a customer service team that’s knowledgeable and empathetic pays for itself. Customers walk away from every service interaction with a positive experience, and they’re more likely to return to a brand for repeat purchases due to this higher level of customer satisfaction.

Customer service provides valuable feedback to improve CX

When customers reach out to a brand for support, they’re providing customer feedback during and after the service interaction that can be used to improve customer experience. By listening to customers’ concerns and suggestions, businesses identify areas for improvement to adjust products, services, and processes accordingly.

Here’s an example: If customers frequently contact customer service to ask questions about a particular feature post-purchase, this may indicate the feature is not intuitive or working as intended. With customer feedback insights from service interactions, the organization knows it needs to either improve the product itself or introduce a better way to explain functionality.

Better customer experience reduces stress on customer service teams

Providing seamless, low-friction experiences outside the contact center reduces the need for customers to get in touch with the customer service team in the first place. It’s why brands need channels such as a website and mobile application with clear information and instructions, where features are described concisely and policies are readily available.

Retailers, for example, should offer full product listings and comparisons, a straightforward shopping cart, and succinct shipping and return policies in areas that customers can easily access. It’s general information customers can seek in an online knowledge base and not the type a customer service team should feel bogged down by.

Customer service teams should address when things go wrong unexpectedly or if a customer is unhappy, not because they couldn’t find basic information. Running a contact center in which the customer service team isn’t stressed around the clock also means it’s avoided the costly mistake of being overstaffed or understaffed.

Customer service makes or breaks customer loyalty

Customer service plays a critical role in customer loyalty. When a customer has a positive experience with an agent, they’re more likely to continue doing business with a brand and recommend it to others. Conversely, poor customer service causes customers to switch to a competitor and consider leaving negative reviews online, damaging the business’s reputation and bottom line.

By prioritizing customer service and investing in training and support for customer service agents, businesses build long-lasting relationships with customers and earn their loyalty for years to come.

Customer Service Takes Customer Experience Ahead of the Competition

Now it’s clearer than ever why CX professionals and their brands pour resources into the contact center and customer service. Agents know better than anyone else in an organization what customers are dealing with and where a brand’s products or services would benefit from improvement.

With direct feedback coming out of the front lines, organizations making CX a top priority know they’re able to tap into data-rich signals and make decisions that drive the business forward.