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If you lead a business—and especially if you lead a retail business—you very likely already know that to call customer service important is to make something of an understatement. And, whether it’s a toll-free number or a Twitter account, you also probably have a system in place to offer some level of outreach or interaction with your clients and customers.
“Great customer service is critical for attracting repeat customers and building positive word of mouth and a respected brand,” as Forbes’ Bruce Upbin explains. “Great customer service builds employee morale. Everyone wants to be proud of where they work and people are more engaged and productive if they work for a company that is committed to doing whatever it takes to consistently deliver an awesome experience for customers.”
But, while almost everyone understands the importance of customer service, not as much is understood about the other side of the equation, namely customer experience. And wait—don’t those two terms mean pretty much the same thing?
While they both do refer to the same process of customer interaction, there is a fundamental difference between customer service and customer experience. The first term represents the efforts you make to interact and engage with your customers, clients and prospects. The second term represents the experience these important individuals actually have when they engage with you.
In other words, customer experience and customer service are two sides of the same coin, possessing a symbiotic relationship with one another. Entrepreneur’s Patrick Bet-David encourages thinking of customer experience as the proactive side of the coin, and customer service the reactive side.
“For example, customer service could be helping an upset client with an issue they are having with your product or service,” Bet-David writes. “Customer experience is providing things such as a loyalty rewards program or special promotions for customers’ birthdays.”
“Customer experience is providing things such as a loyalty rewards program or special promotions for customers’ birthdays.”
By this logic, delivering exceptional customer service means offering a superior customer experience. But in an era when communications have fragmented and proliferated in so many ways—and now include everything from the traditional telephone to emails, text messaging, social media interaction, and dozens of other channels—that can be easier said than done.
“The next generation of great companies will be led by CEOs who are serious about great customer service,” Upbin predicts. “The quality of a company’s customer service matters as much as the quality of its code. Algorithms can fail, patents can expire, but a reputation for great service endures.”
“The next generation of great companies will be led by CEOs who are serious about great customer service,”
To ensure the quality of your customer service, though, you must first fully understand exactly how your customers experience your business. And this is why customer experience has been a tough concept for some to pin down: There’s no universal definition. It’s a different thing to each different business, and it’s constantly changing.
“People have been grappling with a definition of customer experience for several years,” as the Harvard Business Review’s Adam Richardson points out. The term sometimes refers to a focus on “retail or customer service, or the speed at which problems are solved in a call center,” he explains, but sometimes it’s “defined as digital experiences and interactions, such as on a website or a smartphone.”
Neither of these definitions is wrong, of course. But a truer definition of customer experience lies in considering all of the ways in which a business interacts and engages with customers, which can include the use of tools as diverse as a high-volume call center, digital sales reps, automated emails, and the many other communications channels used by the modern contact center.
The type of business you lead will dictate which of these experiences is more frequently used among your customers. But make no mistake: For true, long-term success in a multi-channel customer landscape, businesses looking to provide a premium customer experience should be ready to embrace best practices across all applicable modern channels. Failing to do so means risking being supplanted by a savvier competitor.
Yet ensuring a superior customer experience isn’t a one-size-fits-all prospect. Thanks to the human factor, any given day will bring with it new challenges and opportunities. Truly effective customer service requires constantly solving an equation in which the values remain continuously in flux.
Ensuring that each customer has a superior experience with your brand across every channel has become a complex and sophisticated task. It should come as no surprise to learn, then, that most business leaders today choose to entrust the entire process to a dedicated contact center partner.
There may be no single, magical solution to customer service. But there are many techniques developed over the past decades that can be combined to make success as close to a certainty as possible. These methods are readily available to contact center specialists, who also have the technological footprint necessary to ensure comprehensive, multi-channel customer access, with the latest version of all necessary hardware or software at their fingertips.
From minimizing on-hold times to managing call flow as efficiently as possible, from offering premium technology and personable, American-based agents to speedily fielding inquiries on all channels, expert contact center solutions providers such as Working Solutions understand how to ensure a superior customer experience—and they know how to deliver stellar customer service as a result.