Today, we live in a world where customers have endless options and can easily leave a specific brand or product for another based on price, quality, or service. The customer is king and customer loyalty is becoming a thing of the past. As more options become available to consumers, some companies have begun to compete for their business by offering a customer experience far better than others in their industry.
Because of this strategy, companies like Amazon, Zappos, and Uber have emerged. These companies share a similar strategy of making the customer experience as easy as possible. This shift has led companies to scrap the term “customer service” and look to the power, value, and ROI of “customer experience”. But what exactly is the difference between customer service and customer experience? What is the importance of customer experience? And what are some innovative ideas to improve customer experience? In today’s blog we’ll discuss just that.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE VS CUSTOMER SERVICE
CUSTOMER SERVICE DEFINITION:
Customer service is the assistance a company gives to its customers. Customer service can be provided over the phone, email, chat, or digital channels. The goal of customer service is to increase customer satisfaction by answering customers questions or resolving an issue. An example of this would be calling into a retail customer support line and asking for information about their return policy.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE DEFINITION:
Customer experience is the entire journey of a customer and the sum of his or her entire interaction history, from the first interaction to the last interaction. Customer experience takes into consideration how the customer feels about the entire journey and brand after all interactions have taken place. Below are a few examples showcasing an entire customer experience journey for a retail purchase and for a credit card inquiry.
CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE EXAMPLES:
RETAIL CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE JOURNEY
Susan purchased a shirt at her favorite online store, Brighter Retail. She utilized the webchat to talk with an agent and discuss a recommended size. The agent was friendly and helped Susan feel more confident in her purchase. Later that week, she received the shirt and decided the sizing wouldn’t work out after all. She called the customer support phone line to ask about their return policy. The agent acted irritated and had to put Susan on hold several times. Although Susan ended up getting the information she needed, it took longer than expected and was not a great experience. Susan had a great customer service interaction with the webchat agent, but she had a poor customer service interaction on the phone leading to a poor overall customer experience.
CREDIT CARD STATEMENT CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
John had recently purchased a credit card from Brighter Banking, and was pleased with the ease of ordering. Later that month, after making a large purchase, he received a text message alert from the bank confirming that it was him making the purchase. John was impressed with the security service of the card and continued to have a great overall customer experience with Brighter Banking based on the sum of all customer service interactions.
The difference is that customer service is just one piece of the customer experience. Although customer service is important, customer experience looks at the big picture and how all interactions affect the way consumers view a company’s brand.
IMPORTANCE OF CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
“The overall customer experience has become a battleground upon which to win customer favor.” —Contact Babel 2019-2020
The call center used to be thought of as a cost center. Executives were constantly trying to cut corners and put the smallest amount of money towards improving customer service. But in the modern world where the customer is king and companies are forced to compete on the customer experience they provide, executives are realizing the direct tie between CX and ROI. In fact, over 40% of businesses surveyed in the latest Contact Babel US Decision Makers Guide say they choose to compete based on customer experience rather than price or quality of their product.
“For over 40% of businesses to say that customer experience, rather than price or quality, was the main factor upon which they wish to compete in the market can be seen as being very significant and indicative of the mindset of senior business leaders in the US: many organizations are now seeing customer experience as being the key to profitability, especially in the B2C world.” —Contact Babel 2019-2020
WHAT MAKES A GREAT CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE?
TIP #1: CREATE A CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE VISION
It is important to sit down with your executive team and discuss your customer experience vision and your plan to achieve it. Look into smart customer experience practices for your industry but also think outside the box and create innovative ideas to improve customer experience that may be specific to your company and brand. Customer service is still a key piece of the customer experience so it is necessary to discuss how to enhance customer service.
TIP #2: PROVIDE CUSTOMERS WITH THE CHANNELS THEY PREFER
Again, the customer is king. That means if your customers want to talk with you over text, you should have SMS as a channel in your contact center. If your customers want to Facebook Message your company about how to set up their new TV, you should look into providing social media messengers as a channel with the option to send images and PDFs of TV set-up guides. Customer experience is all about making it as effortless as possible for your customer, so being where they are on the channels they use is critical.
TIP #3: EMPOWER YOUR AGENTS
Provide your agents with the tools and technology they need to provide an exceptional customer experience. Nothing kills customer experience faster than having an agent put you on hold because they couldn’t find your information. Omnichannel contact center software puts all critical customer information at the agents fingertips. Instead of endless scrolling, they are able to immediately help the customer and personalize the interaction. Some companies are even investing in AI to assist agents in their interactions. The AI can make suggestions to the agent based on the customers question. This AI agent assist technology can reduce average handle time and improve agent productivity.
TIP #4: IMPROVE SELF-SERVICE CHANNELS
Help your customers help themselves with efficient self-service options. Millennials are redefining customer experience because they love self-service. This generation grew up with technology and would much rather Google a question or look at the FAQs of a website than call into a customer support center. Companies are now spending significant amounts of money improving self-service channels and helping self-service searchers get in contact with a representative easily if self-service fails. You see this with the growth of webchat. 56% of the Contact Babel respondents surveyed expect their webchat interactions to increase in the next 12 months. It is the fastest growing channel because customers often start on the website, but need a way to connect with live agents if the self-service route is taking too long or is not providing them with their answer.