Customer Service Versus Customer Experience: The term “Customer Experience” or CX is often mentioned in business – more so over the last couple of years. But what exactly does it mean? Is it just another way to describe customer service or is it something else altogether? In this article, we look at what Customer Experience is all about, what sets it apart from customer service and what significance it holds for business. We explain why your organisation should adopt a CX approach, and also provide practical solutions, like social media techniques, to help kick start this transition. Intrigued? Let’s get started.
CUSTOMER SERVICE VERSUS CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
Customer service, customer experience – Aren’t they the same thing? Not quite. Both concepts deal with the interaction between brands and consumers, but the way in which this takes place differs from one approach to the other. Customer service generally refers to actual tasks and actions related to serving and servicing customers. Customer experience, on the other hand, focuses on public perception of the brand in its entirety. It is important to note that customer service remains a key component of customer experience. The difference is that with a CX approach, customer support activities form part of an integrated client-focused business strategy as opposed to being an independent department or set of tasks. Each term can be defined as follows:
> Customer service refers to support provided by a company to its clients. It generally includes services such as responding to queries (e.g. product price and stockists), sales support (e.g. sales consultants in-store) after-sales assistance (e.g. technical support) and complaint resolution.
> Customer Experience (CX) encompasses the entire journey or sum total of experiences that a client has with a brand. It includes everything from the first point of contact (such as seeing an advert on social media or a product in-store) to post-sales customer relationship. It not only includes physical factors such as the quality of a product, but also emotion-based elements such as customer perception and brand sentiment.
Customer Services versus Customer Experience – As a quick reference, here’s a comparison between customer service and customer experience, highlighting key characteristics of each approach:
WHY CHANGE TO A CX-BASED BUSINESS APPROACH?
The answer to that lies in understanding why the CX approach emerged in the first place. The customer experience approach was developed as a response to changing consumer demands. Recent changes saw purchasing behaviour being influenced by client-centric elements at an increasing rate. This shift in consumer behaviour led to companies changing their business models to suit these demands. The result was a highly customer-centric approach that not only catered to these client needs, but also the changing business landscape in terms of digitisation and alternate media. This was termed the Customer Experience approach. In the current market, convenience, user-value, personalised communication and brand image are slowly overtaking price as decision-making factors by buyers. In fact, according to statistics, 86% of buyers will pay more for a better brand experience (www.qualtrics.com).
So back to the question: Why change to CX? Well, it simply comes down to supply and demand. Customers demand a CX approach – and the better a brand supplies this demand, the higher their success potential. Studies show that this shift is not just a passing fad – they indicate that by 2020, customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator (www.econsultancy.com). This is further backed up by Deloitte who state that a consumer’s decision to buy a product or service is impacted by their overall enjoyment of their experience. (www.econsultancy.com). In a consumer-driven business environment, failing to meet customer demands will not just lead to unrealised sales potential, but inevitably, losing market-share to competitors that satisfy said demands.
HOW SOCIAL MEDIA CAN HELP YOU TRANSITION TO A CX-BASED APPROACH
By design, social media platforms are ideally suited to a CX-based approach. Below is a list of business characteristics for a strong customer centric approach and details on how social media supports each element:
> Convenience: Consumer research shows that the preferred brand platform for communication is social media. This communication includes sales & marketing content, as well as customer-service-based interactions such as queries, complaints and technical support. Most web-traffic being mobile-based, and as social media is highly mobile-optimised, this increases convenience for customers.
> User Value: Customers support brands that provide some sort of value for them. Social media supports value-rich content such as articles, blogs and surveys. The ability to upload different media types (e.g. images, videos and slideshows) also boosts entertainment and enjoyment levels for consumers.
> Responsiveness, adaptability & interactivity: Clients expect quick turn-around times, responsive service and personalised two-way communication. Social media promotes all this and more. Brands can interact on a one-on-one basis with clients, as well as provide personalised marketing messaging to different client segments. By nature, social media response times are much faster than most traditional customer service methods. Brands can even change their native content in minutes should there be a serious negative response by consumers.
> Positive Brand Image & Affinity: Social media allows brands to position themselves in a desirably manner to boost sentiment. This can be done by increasing user-value through content (as mentioned above), as well as by highlighting positive elements such as a business’s community work or social responsibility projects.
> Customer Journey & Relationships: Social media supports the entire customer journey – from the first point of contact to every other interaction thereafter. This includes brand awareness, sales, marketing, technical support and after-sales communication. It also allows for consistency of experience throughout this journey.
> Quality Service: The combination of the above factors, along with other related functions, means that social media helps improve the overall quality of service that a business offers. This ties in to the overall experience that a customer has with a brand, which is what CX is all about.
To summarise, the core goal of the customer experience approach is to promote positive brand perception that leads to long-term customer relationships. This in turn helps achieve brand objectives such as sales generation, customer retention and business growth. CX is rapidly becoming the primary factor influencing purchasing decisions and customer loyalty. For business success, it is imperative for companies to implement a CX-based approach as part of overall business strategy. Social media is excellently suited to support customer experience and business goals. It is also a cost-effective and non-disruptive way to transition businesses from a purely customer service approach to a customer experience approach. And in a relatively short period of time.
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