Customer service or experience? How they’re different—and what consumers expect

Written by Erin Green

In any consumer-focused industry, customer happiness is a big deal. After all, happy customers contribute to so many essential metrics: retention, referrals, reduced churn, and more.

As much as a customer's happiness depends on their interactions with their product or service, it also depends on their interactions with your company through two factors: Customer service, and customer experience.

Though they're often used interchangeably, service and experience are two very different things—and how you approach them within your company's support organization can have a major impact on how happy customers are.

 

So what's the difference between them?

First, let's talk about customer service.

At its core, customer service is all about support-focused human interactions—the sort that require problem solving and, usually, extensive product knowledge so the agent can answer all of a customer's questions and help them get the most out of their product or service.

In other words, the traditional trade of any support organization.

Though it's familiar, maybe even mundane, customer service is an essential touchpoint and its importance can't be overstated. Support agents are often the face of the overall brand in the eyes of consumers, and can determine whether a customer churns or transforms into an advocate.

The thing is, though, customers have extremely high expectations for these interactions. A 2018 study done by Microsoft showed 95% of respondents believe customer service is important when choosing (and staying with) a brand; it also showed that 61% would switch companies because of customer service experiences.

While the numbers aren’t specific to ISPs and smart home brands, they're definitely applicable—and they lay the foundation for the idea of a customer experience.

 

Now, let's talk about customer experience.

If customer service is a touchpoint, then customer experience is the entire journey. It comprises all the elements of a customer's interaction with a brand right from the first day they see an ad online—including marketing, sales, implementation, support, and even the technology itself.

Typically, support and customer service will be a major component of the experience. As we mentioned earlier, support agents usually become the face of the company to customers because aside from the technology itself, they're the ones customers will encounter the most.

This is where it becomes essential to expand beyond traditional customer service, though: Studies have shown that customers will pay more for services that offer a better customer experience, and companies stand a much better chance of upselling existing customers who've had a positive experience even when they're on support calls.

 

How can you use customer service to build customer experiences?

Expanding customer service into a transformative part of the customer experience is all about being able to meet and exceed the heightening expectations that consumers have for the businesses they interact with.

For example, these days, they don't want to get on the phone and talk to an agent. Modern consumers, especially millennials, prefer text-based options over phone calls and expect answers to their messages within minutes. They want to be able to use apps on their phones and get the same answer they would from a support call. They expect companies to provide ways for them to solve connectivity problems all on their own.

Ultimately, they expect serious transformation from the customer service of eld to a modern experience they'll want to tell their friends about. And meeting these expectations comes with major payoffs for your company: Reduced churn, better upsell opportunities, and even brand advocates to help bring in referrals.

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Want to learn more about what you can do to build positive customer experiences—from complete network visibility and easy-to-access historical information for agents to self-help support options for customers and more?

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