In the 'Age of The Customer', where businesses have to compete even harder to meet the bottom line, it’s not enough to attract new customers, but more importantly they return. Service is an organization-wide effort. The traditional model that viewed it as a function of the organization is changing. This does not suggest the death of the customer support department. There will always be a need. However, companies should change their vantage point and look at customer experience more closely.
Customer service is the provision of service to customers before, during and after a purchase. This is a great definition, but it's an outlook based on the company's perspective. It is bound by limitations and policy. To paraphrase ICMI's Justin Robbins, service is provided at the "moment of truth". If service is excellent, it can be a one-time event. Furthermore, if service is lousy, it can be a one-time event but with negative results.
Customer experience is something entirely different. It is the product of an interaction between an organization and a customer over the duration of their relationship and strictly from the customer’s outlook of things. I've heard it described as the perception, feelings or emotions one has when interacting with an organization. The experience occurs prior to, and after the "moment of truth".
I was recently visiting a sporting goods store to purchase Carolina Panthers gear for a Super Bowl party. I'd called in advance to identify the different items sold, but my experience actually started on their website. Phone calls would ring a couple of times and go to an electronically recorded voice message. Because of my desperation, which benefited them, I continued to call. I finally found an alternate number at the bottom of the web page.
While I was frustrated, my need for those items superseded my impatience. After making contact, the representative proceeded to list all the items he had available. I decided to make the 40 minute drive to his store (information I shared with him). After arriving to the shopping center, I circled the lot a few time looking for the store. The GPS directions stopped at the front of the shopping center which consisted of at least 60 different stores. I made another phone call to have them guide me in.
Finally at the store I began gathering my items while trying to ignore the increasing urge to use the restroom. The cashier, who was also the person I’d spoken to on the phone, totaled my order at $423.77. I swiped my card and waited to finish the transaction. My urge continued to increase and I could no longer hold it! “Excuse me, do you have a restroom I can use?” His response was “no”. “You can go across the street to one of those restaurants”. Wow! Really?! At this moment, my experience was completely ruined.
This incident shows the difference between customer service (CS) and customer experience (CX). Service was the smile that greeted me at the door, the assistance to find the different memorabilia. It continued with the convenient POS system.
The experience began well before the purchase. It consisted of a website lacking basic UX principles, a lukewarm phone conversation, and his unwillingness to allow me the courtesy of his restroom. Yes, I received the items I needed. However, a return visit is unlikely.
With CX as the focal point, an organization will look at each touch point and business function to assess its impact on customer experience. Had this business done so, perhaps this would be an article singing their praises.
Research suggests today’s consumers are driven by experiences. They are loyal to brands who connect with them and evoke positive emotions. Organizations must commit to improving CX . While this requires time and effort, the ROI surpasses the effort.
So, shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you'll land among stars!
Yvette Jones Hawkins has over 30 years of experience in the Restaurant & Hospitality industry. She's worked at the executive level in the private and corporate sectors, and contributed to many blogs and articles on multiple subjects. Yvette is a California native but currently resides in North Carolina with her family and friends.
Sean Hawkins is a Contact Center manager with over 15 years of experience. He has a terrific pulse on incorporating innovation into the contact center. He's implemented social, outsourcing partners, new technology, and new products, while maintaining an award-winning contact center.