Customer Experience – More Than Service

Customer Experience, as a concept, hasn’t been around for very long. It has only really been in the last five years that it has started to become recognised by the business community. In fact, there are still a lot of people who don’t really understand what it is. Going back a matter of just a few weeks, I met with another management consultant at a networking meeting. On being informed that I worked in Customer Experience Management, he pulled a somewhat confused face and asked me “what’s that all about?”.

Perhaps it can be forgiven that someone from a different (although related) business practice hadn’t heard of customer experience; however it is still often quite surprising to hear quite marked differences of option about the nature of customer experience from within the CEM community. But should I be so surprised

People have come into CEM from a number of closely related disciplines. Some come from Customer Services, some from Marketing, some from IT, some from HR and some from Insight/ Marketing Research. So how come there are so many disciplines that relate so closely to CEM? This is because CEM calls on skills from all of them. Unlike many other business disciplines, CEM doesn’t, or certainly shouldn’t belong to one particular department. It is truly cross-functional.

More than Service?

This is completely logical when you consider the way in which a customer experiences a company, which is, of course, also cross-functional. A customer might first of all interact with Marketing by seeing an advertisement or reading a piece of publicity. Then they might deal with a sales person, then a customer services rep, then indirectly interact with the billing team by receiving a bill.

However when many businesses decide that they are going to introduce CEM, they make the decision to make it the responsibility of the Customer Services team. It might, at first view, make sense. Both disciplines have the word “Customer” in them, after all. Some Customer Service Directors suddenly find out that their titles are about to change to Customer Experience Director overnight.

However the biggest danger with this is to assume that Customer Service and Customer Experience are the same thing. Although a director’s title might change, the danger is that, even with their newly acquired responsibilities, carry on in the same way that they did before. Not to say that some Customer Services Directors don’t get it, however you have to question how effective they are likely to be if they have responsibility for influencing cross-functional change across a business, from within a functional role.

So, how are these two disciplines so different to each other?

There are a number of ways of looking at this. You could say that Customer Services is tactical and Customer Experience is strategic, but what does this really mean? Customer Services is predominantly about dealing with a customer’s concern, query, question or complaint at a particular moment in time. All of these events are not necessarily linked to each other (although some may be) and have to be managed on a case-by-case basis. In contrast, Customer Experience doesn’t just look at a specific instance, but considers all interactions the customer has with the business throughout the full extent of their relationship with the business.

The other marked difference is that Customer Experience doesn’t just focus on the interactions that occur between the customer and the Customer Services team. Customer Experience focuses on the level of service experienced from the customer’s interactions with all parts of the business. However Customer Experience goes even further than that.

Customer Experience, as the name implies, focuses upon anything that has an impact on the experience of the customer. And the customer’s experience is not just influenced by the service they get. In Marketing terms, this is referred to as the 7Ps. The 7Ps define the sphere of influence that marketing professionals have or are supposed to have. In broad terms, the 7Ps cover the proposition (product & price); channels (sales, distribution & promotion/ brand) and service (process, people [employees] & physical evidence [any impact on the 5 senses]). For example, our experience of Apple products is heavily influenced by the product we hold in our hands, so to assume that experience is just about service is clearly not taking a broad enough perspective.

So, are Customer Experience & Customer Service the same? Not in my book….