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


The term “customer experience” is treading the thin line between insightful concept and marketing buzzword. Customer service, customer experience customer care — aren't these interchangeable terms? Not quite. The key difference between customer service and customer experience lies in the customer journey. In customer service, consumers approach businesses with product questions or issues. In customer experience, businesses design exceptional, memorable experiences at every touchpoint.

ZyraTalk CEO Ahmad Saleem joins us on the blog today to explain the difference between the two and provide insight on how SMBs can differentiate in a fiercely competitive market. He also discusses how ZyraTalk is consistently readjusting our approach to customer experience by implementing client feedback and striving to deliver a “10-star” experience.

Top 10 takeaways

  1. Customer service is reactive and transactional and has start and end dates.
  2. Customer experience is everlasting and encompasses every interaction between brands and consumers.
  3. Product- or service-based differentiation alone is dead.
  4. “Treat others the way you want to be treated” is the single most important element of a good customer experience strategy for businesses of all sizes within all industries.
  5. Focus on creating a 10-star experience in every interaction, and the rest will fall into place.
  6. Build a feedback loop that continues to deliver exceptional experiences to customers.
  7. Customer experience and retention is the new customer acquisition.
  8. When it comes to customer feedback, dig deep and understand why customers are coming to you with that feedback.
  9. Flexibility in communication is key to driving the convenience customers are looking for in their day-to-day lives.
  10. Allowing customers to contact your business in more ways than one equals more opportunities for them to buy your product/service.

Over to you, Ahmad!

What is the difference between customer service and customer experience?

Great question! “Customer service” as we have known it is traditionally reactive and transactional. For a lot of businesses, unfortunately, it usually starts when the customer initiates and poses a question during the process of purchasing/servicing or after the fact. It ends with the business answering that question to complete the transction., i.e “Support ticket complete” check. 

The modern era of commerce challenges us to think about the customer journey at every touch point from a proactive customer-centric approach. This includes long before they have scheduled a service, or are on your site browsing your products. 

The question in the business owners head changes from the traditional “Does the customer like my product/service?” to multiple, more complex questions: 

  • When they first come across my brand online/offline, how do they feel?
  • What’s going through their head?
  • Can they trust my brand?
  • Will they leave me a 5 star review?
  • Did I go above and beyond in making this a memorable experience for them?
  • How can I get them to remember my brand so they refer to their friends/community?
  • What about months later after the job is complete, how are you re-engaging with customers to turn them into repeat business?

You better believe the customer is thinking these same things. Customers are smart and love sharing their opinions. :) Consumers have more choice than ever before, and it continues to increase. How will you make sure they choose you?

The focus dramatically shifts from being solely on the product/service the business offers to the complete experience they provide. It’s too competitive out there now — a business owner cannot just differentiate on the product/service they provide. The customer expectation bar is higher than ever, thanks to companies like Amazon. The ball game has changed and the businesses who will thrive will be the brands that understand the value of an incredible experience.

Traditionally, customer service has a “start to finish date”. An experience is everlasting.

What is the single most important element of a good customer experience strategy?

It definitely varies by industry. However, on a broader scope, it’s pretty simple. As the old adage goes, “Treat others the way you want to be treated”. It starts there, and then you start mapping every touchpoint the customer has with your brand, and creating 10-star experiences at each of those. If you focus on creating a 10-star experience, the rest takes care of itself. 

the difference between customer service and customer experience

How has ZyraTalk implemented client feedback to design a better overall customer experience?

We’ve built an incredible feedback loop that continues to deliver exceptional experiences for customers. It’s something we tirelessly work on, and to our team's credit, we are not satisfied until we deliver a 10-star experience. It’s always a work-in-progress, and it’s something that we are constantly iterating and tweaking based on client feedback. It’s important to really dig deep and understand why clients are coming to you with that feedback. 

We love when clients inform us of what we could have done “x” better, or that we missed “y”. It’s what challenges us to keep delivering a memorable experience. One of the great examples of this is, in our early days, we quickly learned from some of our clients' specific needs for automation + live chat capabilities. Our team went to work right away and crafted a customer experience that delivers the best solution for their business. 

The 2020 Digital Marketing Trends Report found that customer experience is one of the most exciting opportunities for businesses in 2020 and beyond. How has ZyraTalk harnessed that opportunity to build the business and improve the buyer's journey?

Well, we are in the business of delivering exceptional customer experiences for our clients so that they can provide it to their end clients. So we have double the challenge, and we love it! :) 

Customer experience and retention is the new customer acquisition. At the core of everything we do is the customer. For a lot of our clients, before ZyraTalk, their customers were stuck communicating by picking up the phone and calling, or waiting 5 minutes for a live chat agent to connect. We’ve all been there, and it’s not fun, to say the least. 

You’ve spent thousands of dollars driving that customer to your website/brand, and you want to force them into picking up the phone, dialing your number, and calling you? What if I have to run to a meeting or have kids running around at home? It’s easier to click the back button on Google and go to the next competitor and talk to them the way I want to, i.e., through chat, text, etc. 

The opportunity is beyond exciting. Introducing new channels of communication such as chat, text, email, and social provides a complete omnichannel experience. We are just scraping the surface when it comes to creating enriching experiences for businesses and consumers. This flexibility in communication is the key to driving the convenience the customer is looking for in their day-to-day lives. 

Businesses that have implemented multiple channels of communication, and allow their customers to communicate the way they prefer to are automatically way ahead of the competition. Simply put, allowing customers to talk to you in more ways than one equals more opportunities for them to buy your product/service.

Literary giant Maya Angelou once said, “People will forget what you did, people will forget what you said, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” Tell us a little bit about how businesses can adopt this philosophy to nurture customer loyalty and create value.

The reality is product- or service-based differentiation alone is dead. Yup, I said it. It’s too competitive out there. 

Think about it. How many other doctors, dentists, plumbers, etc. are providing the service you are providing just in your local area alone? Quite a lot. How many ecommerce brands are there for a specific product? A lot. 

Products and services are always evolving; your brand is the differentiator. How you make that one customer feel when they think about your brand is everlasting. It doesn’t matter what you sell or service you offer tomorrow. They will be loyal to you no matter what, because they trust you will make them feel a special way. And that is the power of a truly memorable customer experience.