What’s the Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Experience?

Ken Larson

Ken Larson

Our world is tired of service. We now crave experiences.
In the obstacle-laden world of customer service, everyone’s expectations are constantly changing. 

This “service expectation” is usually set by a genius executive that drives their team in the right direction, and most other businesses struggle to keep up. 

For the majority of companies, the gap between expected and delivered customer service is widening at an alarming rate. This gap creates stress not only within the organization but also between the customer service rep and the customers themselves.


If the consumers aren’t happy, no one is.

As a business leader, now is the perfect time for you to buck up and become that next genius.


Okay, So What Do People Expect:

Regardless of industry or service provided, every company’s current customers expect:

  • Speed
  • Efficiency
  • Some Sort of Human Connection


Some Examples of Companies That Capitalize on those Expectations:

  • Zappos (Shoe Retailer) – Call center employees must go through 4 weeks of training to ensure they know how to please customers the right way. Their purpose is to create an enjoyable culture of passionate workers. Because of this, there are no scripts. Just genuine conversation.
  • Nordstrom (Clothing Entity) – Nordstrom has an “Innovation Lab” in select stores that combines the best parts of the online and in-person shopping experience. Fitting rooms with interactive touch screens that can display reviews of the products they’re trying on.
  • Swimco (Canadian Swimwear Company) –  If you walk into a Swimco, their slogan is written on the wall: “Feel Good Half Naked.” Their Ikigai is “confidence,” and they achieve it by selling swimwear. Pretty damn cool, isn’t it?

    A perfect example of a customer living the Swimco experience: “We were going on vacation, and when we went into Swimco, we came out with 5 swimsuits instead of one.”  They provided her with the motivation and confidence she needed, and it resulted in five times the amount of profit.


All three of these companies have a great NPS (Net Promoter Score).  A Net Promoter Score is a number between 0 and 10 that indicates the willingness of your clientele to refer your company (or its services) to another person. 

More importantly, these companies mentioned above respond and react to their consumers’ needs and requests, which in turn, gives them more profit from new and return customers.

If your company doesn’t follow up to criticisms made through NPS systems regarding the service provided, it will decrease your trust factor and could potentially tarnish your reputation. Now your customers resent you! 


What’s the Difference Between Customer Service and Customer Experience?

The “experience” is obtained when you go above and beyond the mass consumer’s expectations. It’s the human connection. It’s what makes them a friend first and a customer second. It’s what makes you a trend setter instead of a trend follower.


Costco will take back a product even if you didn’t buy it there.

Stickermule will send you extra stickers and a free coaster with nearly every purchase.

(Psst. Your company belongs on this line.)


Be Careful.
Leaders of the Organization Can Go Overboard.

How do you, as a leader, deliver the experience that’s necessary to lead an industry? 

You must put the right people in the right position to succeed at creating it. You can’t simply demand that your employees deliver an “experience” without adjusting their benefits. That’s when morale drops and strikes happen (Cough Cough Amazon. Cough Cough Google.)

They’ll need training, higher pay, culture upgrades, and much more.

That’s the hard part. The larger your organization is, the more difficult it will be to make the change. That’s why huge corporations (like cable companies) have such a difficult time bringing these changes to light.

Organizations that are attached to a strong purpose and put the right people in position to create it, will be able to get out in front of it.


How to Graduate from “Service” to “Experience”

If leaders really want to offer true, human experiences to their customer base, they must determine what their company’s baseline experience is. This can be obtained through a “secret shopper” mentality. 

Be the customer.
If you own a grocery store, shop there.
If you own a telecommunications entity, take a few calls.

Then change the fundamentals of the customer service aspect of your business until you’re wowed by your own team’s product or service.

What is your team doing to understand exactly what your customers want?
How are you exceeding this expectation?
What are you doing to put your team in the position to deliver the experience consistently?

As a business coach for business in Calgary and the rest of North America, I can help convert your company’s customer relations from “service” to “experience.” If you need help, let’s talk. If you’re not ready to talk just yet, consider reading this in-depth guide to business coaching and executive coaching guide to get answers to all those burning questions.


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