Customer Service v. Customer Experience

In the past few years, we have seen the terms “customer service” and “customer experience” used almost interchangeably. Recently, I have been asked about the difference between these terms and how each of them affects the public and private sectors. My answer to the second part of the question is this: these two terms do not affect the public sectors any differently than they do the private. Whether it’s a company, organization or government entity providing goods or services, the “customers”—whether they are internal or external—expect outstanding customer service and a positive customer experience; but let’s look at the difference between the two terms.

Stephanie Ami defines these two terms in her blog post “Customer Service v. Customer Experience:

Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during, and after a purchase.

Customer experience is the sum of all experiences a customer has with a supplier of goods or services, over the duration of their relationship with that supplier including awareness, discovery, attraction, interaction, purchase, use, cultivation and advocacy.

As you can tell by the definitions, customer service is just one piece of the overall customer experience. As it is just a piece, changes within an organization’s customer service strategy are more finite and easier to implement than the broad-stroked coordination it takes to improve a customer’s overall experience with an organization.

Take the far-reaching organization of the Philadelphia City government for instance. It would be relatively easy for one department to make a few changes to improve their customer service; however, if every department does not make similar changes that yield similar outcomes, the customer experience for the entire city government will be inconsistent and arguably unaffected by the one department’s effort.

In my role as Chief Customer Service Officer, I have tried to incorporate improvements in both customer service and customer experience in the same strategic plan. This plan needs to include finite changes to customer service while, at the same time, incorporating these changes across the organization in a coordinated effort.

One example of how we have accomplished this is through the Customer Service Officer’s Program, which provides each department with a customer service officer who works with the program to develop customer service strategies for his or her department. As every department develops their strategies within the CSO program, the final product should see fairly consistent improvements to customer service, thus improving our overall customer experience.

 What is everyone else trying to improve both customer service and customer experience?

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