If you attend any business seminar or read any business book, you’re going to hear the words “customer experience” at some point. They’re the buzzwords of the day, with companies pouring tons of resources into creating an unforgettable experience for their customers.
But what’s the difference between customer experience and customer service? Aren’t they more or less the same thing?
In this blog post, we’ll define customer service and customer experience and how taking advantage of both can spell success for your small business.
What is Customer Service?
Customer service is the act of managers and employees taking care of their customer’s needs. You achieve this by meeting the needs and desires of any customer. Some characteristics of good customer service include:
Promptness: Promises for delivery of products must be on time. You should avoid delays and cancellations of products.
Politeness: Saying ‘hello,’ ‘good afternoon,’ ‘sir,’ and ‘thank you very much’ are a part of good customer service. For any business, using good manners is appropriate whether the customer makes a purchase or not.
Professionalism: You should treat all customers professionally, which means the use of competence or skill expected of the professional.
Personalization: Using the customer’s name is very effective in producing loyalty. Customers like the idea that whom they do business with knows them on a personal level.
Before the rise of automated services, business owners often associated customer service with person-to-person contact. Of course, nothing can truly replace human connection, you must broaden the meaning of customer service to meet the times.
You can still deliver superb service to your clients through automated means. Look at how businesses like Instacart and Postmates thrived during the pandemic. The truth is there are a lot of ways to care for and interact with customers.
What is Customer Experience?
Customer experience is the total journey of a customer’s interactions with a brand. This experience will result in their view of your brand (whether positive or negative) and impacts factors related to your bottom-line including revenue.
From a customer first discovering your company and researching a product to shopping and purchasing to actually using the product and following up with the brand afterwards, customer experience is not a one-off interaction.
More importantly, whether you like it or not, your customer will have an emotional and psychological experience with your business. By taking the time to fine tune their experience, you can ensure it’s a good experience that will turn them into loyal customers.
Putting it to Practice
Now that we’ve defined these two important aspects of customer service, you need to now learn ways to put them into practice.
Customer service by nature is reactive. It’s really only used when a customer is dissatisfied or has a question about a service or product. Knowing how to answer these questions correctly and promptly and how to turn dissatisfied customers into happy customers is vital. Here are some tips:
Dedicated customer service reps – This might be harder to do if you have a small business where roles are less defined, but if possible, hire a few customer service reps whose sole purpose it is to handle customer service complaints and questions.
Automated help desk – Having an automated help desk that can help customers both during office hours and after office hours is a great way to cultivate excellent customer service.
Respond to negative reviews – Last but not least, be sure to check and address negative reviews frequently. It’s not uncommon for a customer to change a negative review into a positive one if the issue is resolved.
On the flipside, customer experience is proactive by nature and aims to reach every customer. The goal of customer experience in many cases is to avoid customers having to contact customer service in the first place. Here are some ways to achieve this:
A.Q. & How Tos – Answer a question before it’s even asked and stop a problem before it becomes a problem with F.A.Q. and How Tos. Make sure these lists are easy to find on your website and update them frequently.
User-friendly website/easy-to-navigate store – Have you ever been to a website that’s so cluttered and confusing that you leave before learning anything else about them? Or have you ever been inside a store that’s so poorly set up or organized that you walk right out and avoid going there again? Having a user-friendly website and easy-to-navigate store will help solve this problem.
Aesthetics – This point ties into the second bullet point. Having an aesthetically appealing website or store that’s tailored to your target audience, goes a long way in creating memorable customer experiences. Think of stores like IKEA and Anthropologie who create immersive experiences through staging and design. Think of these same stores’ websites.
Customer service and customer experience are different sides of the same coin. They are inexplicably tied together and you should tailor them in tandem. So, don’t take these things for granted. Together they will cultivate loyal customers that will help you achieve the business success you’ve always dreamed of.