What is Customer Service?

What is Customer Experience?

What’s the real difference between the two?

Give me 11 minutes and a beer fridge to find out…

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Customer Service vs Customer Experience

(Just in case you’re a reader, not a watcher)

It’s fun to throw around a hot new term like “Customer Experience,” but it’s tough to pinpoint exactly what it means.

To really understand the distinction, we have to look at the customer’s journey.


the customer journey


Customer Service is limited to one piece of the customer’s journey: when the customer has some sort of issue with your product or service. Good Customer Service is focused on making sure your business assists or helps your customer in this time of need.

Customer Experience, on the other hand, is much broader. It’s understanding how your customer is feeling and what they’re thinking every single time they interact with your business, from the moment they’re aware you exist up until…well…forever.

Customer Service vs Customer Experience

Back in 2013, Harvard Business Journal performed a study on Customer Experience.  What they found after a few months of researching a popular cable business will knock your socks off. Let me explain before I give you cold feet.

So, this cable business was in the habit of sending out customer surveys after a specific interaction with one of their customers. For example, after a cable technician would install their product inside a home, the company would email the customer a survey asking how the installation process went.

This survey strategy always yielded fantastic results. They would consistently get 4.5 out of 5 stars for their Customer Service.

Then, in an effort to improve retention, the C-Suite decided to send out surveys completely at random to their customers asking how their overall experience was with the company. Notice that this is a completely different survey strategy than what they were doing before (which was to only survey about a specific interaction).

This survey strategy yielded horrible results. They saw an average of 2.5 out of 5 stars for their Customer Experience.

This is what floored HBJ researchers. How does a customer, who felt like they received amazing Customer Service, turn around and say they’ve had a terrible overall experience with the company?

Because the company was simply placing a bandaid on customer issues.

Here’s what I mean: Customer Service is reactive, whereas Customer Experience is proactive. When a business is reactive to its customers, it’s not stopping the problem from happening, it’s smoothing things over once they happen. When a business is proactive with its customers, it’s taking the time to understand what issues might happen and stopping them from happening before they do. Yes, in a way, this almost seems like it’s eliminating the need for Customer Service, but that’s because the focus is on providing customers with a better overall experience.

And a better overall experience leads to happier customers (with less issues) which leads to better retention.

And the cable business lived happily ever after. The End.

Just kidding – give the video a watch for a deeper dive!

Thanks for reading/watching,


P.S. Here’s the Harvard Business Journal story: The Truth About Customer Experience

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