Customer Experience vs. Customer Service

Customer experience is one of the trendiest topics in business right now. Brands are putting a lot of effort and even more resources into switching from traditional customer service and it seems like a large amount of customers, that value experience more than price or quality,  are supporting them. Let’s find out what’s the real difference between Customer Experience and Customer Support and if the transition is worth the effort.


Let’s roll…


What I’d like you to do is to list a couple of businesses that you keep coming back to for many many times and think what exactly keeps you doing it again and again. Start by listing five businesses and say: “I visit my barber on a monthly basis? Why do I keep doing that? What’s so special about him?” or “Every morning I have coffee and a bagel at . . . Why?” or “I go to . . . for my foodstuffs. What is the secret of their client retention?”. As a rule, it is going to be one of these factors below that can help you get an overview of your own business.


✔ Speed

You’re either going back there because it’s quick. Why? Fast food – means I never have time to sit down, All I need is my meal and leave, that’s everything I need. All I care about right now is quick service. So that is the reason I go back there.


✔ Quality

One could be quality. But what exactly is quality? It’s better components, better design. It’s better anything really. Of course, it comes along with the higher prices, but you don’t really care too much, you come back because of quality.


✔ Low Prices

Another reason could be your love of bargains. You might say, “Hey, I go to Aldi because what? Of course, it has the lowest prices, and that’s exactly what I want. Nothing to be ashamed of ????.


✔ Class

I enjoy classy stuff. I’ve been a Jaguar drive for most of my life because it’s a luxurious car. I like to stay at this resort because it’s classy… You get it…


✔ Customer-Friendliness

This one could be a customer -friendliness. “I use Uber because it’s so easy – no more rides to catch, to more operators to talk to. iPhones are so easy to use that they don’t even bother putting in user manuals.


✔ Client Service

The last one is client service. Most of the brands around us brag about how cheap or fast they. How much is their fabric softer and more premium than their competitors? They brag about how easy is their service to use and how classy are their products. You almost never hear someone ‘frontin’ how awesome their customer service is.

Oftentimes customer service can sound really dull. And as entrepreneur, we don’t necessarily put too much thinking into a customer service strategy because it’s kind of like


“Come on, leave me alone with your boring customer service crap!”


But this is a very, very important topic so please stay with me while I’m done explaining this to you.



What is Customer Service?


Now, for a minute think about client service, what are the companies that come to mind first?

Have you ever thought why people love Mercedes? – You guessed it! Because of their service. If something is wrong with you MB you simply drop it off at the dealer, grab a replacement, and get back to your business. Now Jaguar may be really classy, but they will make you stay at the service and wait until they diagnose it, then if an issue can’t be solved at the particular time, you have to get a cab and figure out ways to transport yourself around town until they fix it. That’s not that classy, you might think. So what is the play? There are other things you can think about like Nissan being cheap, Toyota being easy to use etc. However, if its client service you’re after then you go to Nordstrom, I don’t care what it is.



There’s a story that’s been traveling the web for some time as well as it’s been described in some business literature. It goes something like this. One time an old lady goes back to Nordstrom and says:

“I got this tire from you”
The girl at the register replies: “We don’t sell tires at Nordstrom.”
The lady still insists – “I definitely got it from here, it didn’t fit and I want to return it.”
The girl asks for a receipt
“I don’t have any” replies the lady


Guess what Nordstrom did? After the lady named the price how much did she pay for it  Nordstrom said:


“Okay, we’ll accept it back.”


Of course, the tire is going straight to the bin, but this example shows just how much customer experience is important for them.

Naturally, there are places with a no-return policy that don’t care about having terrible reviews.


“You bought it, got it delivered, it’s gone, we’re not taking it back”.  


A very bright example is mattress shops:


“Sorry, we can’t accept it back, you’ve already laid on it.”





Now, there are a couple of videos available on the web from the Zappos headquarters. You can hear those guys literally talk to customers on the phone and propose to ask if they’d like to get some pizza delivered.



Jetblue, make jokes with their passengers.


“Hey, if sh???? happens, please make sure you put an oxygen mask on yourself first and then if you have a couple of kids, pick the one you love more”.


These things are “Ha-ha-ha, very funny” – but that’s a great case of customer service and a very cool way to build a relationship with your customers. Instinctively, the question that should pop in your mind should be:


“So is customer experience the same thing as customer service?” – Nope!



Customer Service = Reactive

Customer Experience = Proactive



For instance, this a great illustration of a customer service – “Thanks for reaching out to Vodafone. Is there anything I can help you with?” Exactly! Great! Any other issues that bother you? Okay, how would You rate the service you received today blah-blah-blah…”


Customer service is there to react to an upset customer. You react by solving the issue – all good. Another case of customer service is when you hear:


“Thanks for reaching out, I’ma have to put you on hold while I try to fix you… I’m sorry to hear that… Thank You.”


Customer service can not only be reactive to a problem, but also to a certain customer action.  i.e. Situation at the register:


“Here’s your receipt, Sir. Thank you so much for visiting our place. Would you also like to upgrade your service?” – that’s customer service. And by the way, a very important part of any business.


Customer Experience is trickier and only a few are truly great at it, and those that are have gradually switched from customer service to customer experience.



The Transition

Business transformation
Business transformation


Let’s switch to your business now. If it is large enough, as a rule, you will have “VIP” customers, and it absolutely doesn’t mean that you treat the rest of your customers bad, it means that under certain circumstances you do more for some clients than some might consider necessary. Big brands do it by creating various “premium” plans like, for instance, American Airlines with their Executive platinum package that allows their VIPs to make priority seating or Sephora, with their Beauty Insider group that receive samples of products before the general public does.


So what about the Client Experience? Its proactive and this is the way you treat your customers, those tiny little things because customer experience is all about little details. So if I call Master Card or Visa’s Black Card, they always know my name and have those little data snippets around them that freak me out every time we talk. For example:


“Hi, Andrey! Have you made any specific plans for your anniversary? Any wishes? According to our data the last time you went to the Hilton Hotel on the Bermudas. Would you like to repeat the same thing? If you wish can help you look for some other location? Give me a couple of hours, I’ll look for something and call you right back.”


Next thing I receive an email where they clarify the right moment to schedule a call me.


“You can call me now!”
“So let me share what I found… If you want to do something very extravagant, we found this one place and we can do this experience and it’s so unique blah-blah, Your wife’s really going to love it”


Experience. Amazon could go out there and find exactly what things you buy and see your buying and search trends and give you a better experience. It doesn’t matter what it is, it all goes to the experience part. Everytime you enter an Apple Store and talk to one of the guys and they respond to you, not in a geeky way, instead they treat you like a normal human being, you don’t feel like they are scripted too much, although they definitely have a script they must follow.


Zappos – does exactly the same thing – they simply talk to you and they listen.


“Tell me about how was your day?


You don’t often hear too many customer service or even sales associates trouble to get interested in your life these days.


In fact, there’s really nothing Zappos does differently from their competitors, except for the fact that they have an unbelievably good customer service strategy. They don’t manufacture shoes, they don’t have any romantic story behind them – all they do is provide an excellent service. They ship it out, if you don’t like – no prob, just send it back, they’ll pay for it. Tony Hsieh is playing the service game with you, and he’s winning it.

Think about that small little side question, for instance, you call Wells Fargo’s customer service.


“Hi, Andrew! Thanks for calling, I’m trying to handle this – let me place you on hold and we will try to figure out how can we help” or “Have you already got a case number for inquiry?”.


How can this be played with CX in mind:


“Hello Andrew, thank you so much for your call. By the way, Andrew, how was your day today?”
Of course, I’m going to respond to them: “It’s great!”
And then I’m going to subconsciously ask them:
“How was your day?”
“Oh, my day’s fantastic, thank you for asking. By the way, I can see you’ve been with us for 15 years, we truly appreciate your loyalty with us.”
“It’s my pleasure, I’ve been a WF cardholder for as long as I remember myself”  


This is the moment when customer service gradually transitions to the customer experience.


The more customers you can take from one side to another – the better off you’re going to be with your business and the greater customer loyalty you will achieve.



Types of customer engagement

Different philosophies


Let me help you think about it in a way that will make sense to you a little bit more. Think about dating. There are some guys that just want to go out and be wild, switch as many partners as it is possible. It’s all good, it’s your philosophy, if you want to do that – that’s good.


When you apply this approach in business and treat your customers like that – your reputation will disperse. There are 3 dating experience philosophies:


One-night stands

Regular dating



Now, if you apply this dating approach to your business, your best customers are people that you want to take from dating to marriage. At first, you let them test your service, they enjoy it:


“Unbelievable! That was the best service of my life! I want to share this place with my friends”


Eventually, VIP members become your future advocates and sales agents, and the best part is they won’t cost you anything and will work better than a million dollar ad. The more customers you treat like that, the more people around them will get introduced to your business.


You can’t apply the “One-night stand” ideology, don’t care about your customer needs and hope your business to grow exponentially.


It’s time to return to an exercise at the beginning of our discussion. Compile a list of businesses (products or services) that you return to repeatedly and ask yourself what makes you come back.



Practice time


Answer those question regarding your business:


What world best practices can I adopt to grow to a whole new level?

How can I create customer experience and transition those customers to VIPs?

How do I know that this customer is a VIP for me?

What was that customers journey before he/she received the VIP status?”



That’s my message for today.