Customer experience, as we all know, is a hot topic. In the rush to embrace and improve it, some business leaders mold its definition to suit their needs. In many cases this means equating customer experience with customer service. They are not the same, and it causes confusion within organizations, as well as in the marketplace, to use them interchangeably.
Customer experience encompasses multiple areas of the customer-company relationship; everything from the ease or difficulty of reading a billing statement or finding a product on a store shelf or completing a purchase online to packaging (think: Tiffany or Apple) to the relevancy of an email promotion, the professionalism of a sales interaction, and, yes, the quality of the customer service experience. In other words, customer service is just one part of the overall customer experience.
I recently read a blog post that questioned why companies that offer less-than-stellar customer service can still receive high enough marks to land atop customer experience rankings. Here's why: Customer service isn't as important to the customers of those businesses as other elements of the customer experience are.
For example, Costco's customers often have to wait in long checkout lines. But it's a situation they're happy to endure in exchange for the value they feel they get and the array of products they can purchase there. The experience these customers have discovering great prices and browsing through a unique assortment of products are their key customer satisfaction drivers (oh, and the food samples are extremely popular, too); customer service: not as important.
So remember, customer service is just that: service. Customer experience, on the other hand, encompasses the full breadth of customer-company touchpoints and interactions. Pass it on.