In this week’s Guest Post we are delighted to welcome Steve West. Steve is a customer services professional who has designed and implemented customer services strategies, to deliver operational performance, improved customer service measures, customer loyalty and people engagement. Steve poses the question:
Customer Service vs Customer Experience – A Complement or A Conflict?
In order to answer this, a short summary of the current status will serve to enlighten.
The ‘new’ customer experience movement has all but gained the high ground in the modern customer centric organisation. And about time too!
Those in customer service know and acknowledge, that a customer service function acts as an agent for much of the ‘delivery’ of what customers have been promised in their purchase transaction.
The customer service function has become even more squeezed in recent years. This has been in part due to the natural economic pressures of recession, or, no growth. But equally impacting has been the ‘sandwiched’ position between other organisational functions, whose measures seem to have a higher status in the company. For instance:
- Operations; who are naturally focussed on a KPI led service VS cost delivery
- Sales; who may use customer service to provide a differentiator in their sales pitch and help them to secure the all-important ‘new business win!’
- Finance; who are trying to accelerate ‘free cash flow’.
An unenviable position, where the day-to-day focus of many Customer Service Teams is transactional and measured on the delivery of service based on each physical interaction with a customer – typically metrics include number and type of transactions, time to respond and time to ‘close etc. The Customer Service Team tries valiantly to soak up these pressures and deliver on various objectives, but in doing so the ‘noise’ of transactional values, or SLA’s, drown out and silence ‘the voice of the customer’.
This business structure also limits the opportunities for the Customer Service Director to petition and drive the changes necessary, to remove any identified waste and root cause provided by the insights, or analytics, from this exposure to customers at critical ‘moments of truth’.
In my experience, customer service is now a largely enabling role for the customer transaction, measured against KPI’s and the void has really opened up for a real ‘champion for the customer’.
A Customer Experience Director with a board position and powerful mandate to persuade, cajole and achieve change with a true customer centric focus, backed by an outside- inside approach can only deliver excellent results to all stakeholders. This role will rightly challenge structure, standards, process, and behaviour and is totally focussed on this purpose. Not distracted with day to day operational performance, challenges, capacities etc.
This new breed of role brings with it, a new language, with ‘customer touch points’ and better clarity across the customer journey; the position should challenge design and delivery across the business, which in effect will deliver a better overall experience: The customer experience can not alone be measured by transactional value, where customer service to some degree can.
The customer experience is thought, seen, experienced, believed and your customer, (prospect, new, existing, or, lapsed) will form this opinion, or, ‘feel’ this through every interaction with your brand, whether it is conscious or subconscious; via marketing (advertising, text, or, sales messages), finance (billing, invoicing, or credit control), website design (language, content, usability), friendliness of your employees (retail staff, servers, engineers, receptionists, cleaners). With Customer Service, teams will more likely be a centralised function delivering service in an instance – the Customer Experience is the whole journey, every interaction, chosen or felt.
This role can only work across the whole business. It is not restricted to the bricks and mortar model and encompasses web, social and all modern, evolving ways of customer interaction. Customers think, act and work holistically and the transaction is not the experience; feelings and the kinaesthetic aspects are now how customers judge, whether there are promoters (NPS) and these drive scores in the customer effort measures.
So in my world customer experience is different, wide ranging and potentially powerful if executed properly. Customer service is still extremely vital and does its part when needed but largely a customer service mandate is marginalised as a functional team, with the now standard cost and service pressures facing the new, social 24/7 world of business.
In my opinion, complementary and ‘best friend’ status should be accorded to the customer experience role. Customer service can only benefit with a Customer Experience function that is effective and in doing so, a Customer Service function within a Customer Experience focussed business will only complement one another. However, it may also mean that a transactional customer service function within this structure will cease to exist in its current format. My personal take on this is that a ‘smaller’, more value adding role will evolve, where customers receive better advice, support and ‘service’. Perhaps not a nice scenario but one where customers are ‘delighted’ and the business is stronger.
A complement for sure; a short-term conflict in the transition to the ‘new world’ perhaps, but an inevitability where customers will not pay for ‘unnecessary’ waste and competitors embrace the ‘experience’ option as a genuine business differentiator. Internally the customer service function will need to plan, and prepare for a ‘smaller’ role but one which will add much greater value.
What are your thoughts on Customer Service and Customer Experience, do you see a conflict or a complement? Please do let Steve and ourselves know your thoughts, or, experiences by commenting here.