Customer service or customer experience? These descriptions are often used to mean the same thing but any seasoned practitioner will tell you there are very clear differences. In his ITProPortal article on this very subject, Neil Hammerton, makes a strong case as to why businesses need to understand the difference between the two terms. Yet there is one crucial factor that the article overlooks and it’s all to do with the definition of customer experience.


Defining the difference

Before exploring the missing link, it’s important to understand the difference between customer service and customer experience. The article highlights the obvious ones. Most notably that customer service is just one piece of a much more complex customer experience puzzle.


Customer service is about reacting to customer needs. It focuses on one-off interactions and that is often how it is designed and measured. Training focuses on agents understanding and empathising with customer needs. The agents need to have good product knowledge and be able to offer some kind of solution to the problem or query the customer has.


Customer experience (or CX) encompasses the customer’s entire brand journey. This is measured by how that customer feels about the business, their sense of loyalty and whether they would act as an advocate.

Here, the article clearly defines key elements required for creating a good customer experience:

  • Bringing every staff member into the process
  • Ensuring all customer touchpoints are aligned
  • Working on each step at a time
  • Getting the basics right, like providing great customer service
  • Training agents in the right way
  • Investing in the tools and technologies to support agents
  • Collating data from customer interactions and presenting them to agents
  • Giving customers a clear demonstration that everything is seamless

Yet, there is something missing from this list that will determine the success or failure of your approach to customer experience.

Touchpoints aren’t the only thing that should be aligned

If best practice dictates that all customer touchpoints are aligned, how do you actually achieve this? Especially when many of those touchpoints are ‘owned’ by different departments within your organisation. Often these departments have individual goals and measurements. The only way to align all touchpoints is to have alignment across the C-Suite.

This is not as straightforward as it sounds.

Functional silos are a major obstacle. Performance metrics – or even managerial expectations – that reward silo performance over organisation-wide results perpetuate divisions. This prevents alignment and undermines customer-centricity.

Executives in charge of these departments must be connected to a common goal. That single-minded objective then must be cascaded and amplified down the organisational hierarchy.

The reason Jeff Bezos was able to step away from running Amazon having created one of the world’s most valuable companies is down to one thing. Amazon is what it is now because of Bezos’ relentless focus on the customer. It was at the very core of Amazon’s strategy.

If you have different C-Suite interpretations of your customer strategy, you will be left with inconsistent or conflicting approaches. Ultimately, this will undermine how customers experience your brand.

How can you achieve C-Suite alignment?

It starts with the CEO or the head of the organisation. He or she owns the strategy and sets the customer-focused tone for how the C-Suite should deliver that strategy. The C-Suite should also ensure that customer experience is tied to the company mission. In particular, what does the customer-focused organisation look like? What words, actions or behaviours should the company – and the people in it – display?

If customer experience is not already embedded within the organisational culture then it is the role of the C-Suite to find the gaps and address them. Training programmes right across the organisation should be focused on delivering a stand-out customer experience. The same goes for introducing technology or data analytics. The C-Suite must be in agreement that these are employed to continuously improve customer experience.

While it is clear that customer service is the front line for most brands, customer experience should run right through the organisation. This can only be achieved with complete alignment among the C-Suite. No matter what part of the organisation you’re from, the simplest place to start is always to ask, “How does what we’re doing benefit the customer?”