What is the difference between customer experience and customer service?

difference between customer experience and customer service?

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The right customer strategy can ensure you remove the guess work from winning loyal customers, and grow your business in a long-term, sustainable way, to achieve results. With so many businesses still seeing customer service and customer experience as interchangeable terms, we thought we’d help clear up the difference once and for all!

The main difference between customer experience vs customer service is that customer service is an important element of any CX strategy, but it’s just one element. Customer experience is made up of lots of different elements spanning the entire customer journey and involving every employee.

It’s crucial everyone in your organisation recognises the difference between great customer service and a strong CX strategy.

Think of it like a cake. To make the perfect cake, you need all the finest ingredients and the right method to combine all those ingredients. Customer service is like the eggs in a cake. Without it, your customer experience (the cake) won’t rise. Your CX strategy is the method that brings all the ingredients together to form your perfect customer experience.

What are the main elements of customer experience

A great customer experience strategy will consider everything you provide your customer, and everything they experience from their perspective. It will seek to ensure that customer satisfaction is achieved across each stage of the customer journey, and will often have some CX design principles in place as a guide for success.

Design principles usually embody the organisational objectives and values, and make it easy for the customer experience team to work in an agile way whilst continuing to work towards wider goals. They could be anything from ‘Marking it easy’ all the way through to ‘Enabling self service’ or ‘Inspiring confidence in the brand.’

Design principles act as a check for any change – if the proposed change meets the design principle it can happen, if it doesn’t then it’s a good time to pause, take stock and really assess if the change is needed and will help you reach your wider objectives.

Customer experience is a strategic approach to all the interactions your customer has with your business. It combines reactive elements such as great customer service with knowledge of what your customers need, expect and what it takes to win their loyalty. It’s about learning from any complaints, dissatisfaction or clunky processes to aim for consistency across the customer journey, and to remove any customer pain points in a way that positively impacts your customer retention.

Common tools utilised in CX strategy work are voice of the customer programmes, or feedback strategies, customer journey mapping, customer listening sessions and customer steering groups in place to help ensure momentum is maintained but the goals and objectives of the customer team and the wider organisation remain the focus.

If you want to learn more about customer experience and what it is, check this blog!

What is customer service?

Customer service is a key component of every customer strategy. It’s the human element that simply cannot be replaced or replicated by technology alone.

Every direct interaction that your customer has with your business will involve customer service, and whether that service is perceived as good or bad impacts the overall customer experience. Those direct interactions can be provided by multiple departments or one dedicated customer service team, in physical stores, online, face to face or over the phone.

Customer service is important across multiple touch points in the customer experience, such as initial sales enquiries, onboarding, and post purchase support. A negative interaction at any of these stages could have a big impact on customer satisfaction, and loyalty.

Understanding what your customers expect, where those expectations are formed and delivering the level of service quality that will keep your customers coming back is critical to business success. With customer service, what your customers perceive is reality. If they feel that your service has been slow, then that’s what they will take away from their interaction with you.

Don’t forget that they can’t see how busy you are, howe hard you are working to help them or how many people called in sick today – they just see the end result. Delivering customer service with that in mind can be helpful. It can enable employees to understand that empathy, clear communication and a helpful attitude are all tools in their communication toolkit to drive great customer service.

Main elements of customer service

Customer service is made up of multiple elements such as empathy, strong listening skills, clear communication, and showing respect for your customer’s time.

The most important factor when it comes to delivering great customer service is who you have deploying it. You can train skills and knowledge, but finding the right customer service agent to help a customer in their moment of need also requires empathy, great listening and an ability to communicate that are harder to teach.

There’s a saying – “You’re only as strong as your weakest link” and as horrible as it is to think about, this is never more true than in a customer service function. Trust is essential in all customer service interactions. All the great customer interactions in the world can be undone by one thoughtless interaction, or one broken promise.

Customer experience vs customer service

The key difference between customer service and customer experience are that one is a proactive strategy that can come in all shapes and sizes, and the other is a reactive approach to customer needs. Customer service doesn’t span the entire customer experience, but it is crucial to get just right at the touch points that your customer or future customers interact directly with your business.

Good customer service is often made up of the same key characteristics regardless of which industry you deploy them in, such as making your customer feel valued, showing you care, listening to their needs, taking ownership for any issues and communicating clearly and with empathy.

Customer experience requires all of those things, but also covers the non human element of your customer’s journey. Your website, your marketing, your IVR, and your product all form part of the customer experience too.


Measuring the impact of your customer service can be done simply with surveys focusing on customer satisfaction score or customer effort score. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is also a popular tool, though not strictly designed for measuring individual interactions but more the overall sentiment the customer feels for your brand.

Other strong metrics to use for ensuring your customer service is on point can be calls times, call wait times, average time per email response and customer sentiment utilising speech analytics.

When it comes to customer experience, all of these can also play a part in ensuring your customer experience strategy is moving in the right direction. We’d recommend having key results as metrics such as achieving the desired revenue increase, increasing spend per customer, driving more customer loyalty, and even increased employee retention.

By aiming for wider strategic objectives that also support the business goals and not just the customer experience team’s, you’ll usually find it easier to get organisational wide buy in to any process improvements or strategic changes you need to make. It’s easier to demonstrate the ROI of your customer experience strategy and your entire customer journey can help to add to the successful businesses you want to create.

Customer journey (where in customer journey)

Your customer journey should cover your entire customer experience. When mapping your customer journey, you should clearly demonstrate that you’ve started at the beginning from awareness, and that you’ve covered the full scope of your customer’s exposure to your brand all the way through to when they finish this customer cycle.

Journey mapping can help you highlight where systems and processes interact with customer service agent and more human elements to ensure continuity, consistency and a smooth handover.

Journey mapping is a really valuable approach for pulling out detail in your customer experience and analysing where you need to improve, what the priority areas are and which of your employees needs to be involved to achieve success.

It’s important to build customer feedback, NPS results, previous or common issues, and any customer insight gathered from listening sessions into your journey map to inform the emotional sentiment, and help highlight the pain points that have the biggest impact on your customer and their loyalty.

What is more important: customer service or customer experience?

So which is more important? Customer service, or customer experience? The real answer is neither (and both!).

You can’t have a great CX without great customer service. Customer service is an essential building block of your wider customer strategy that if handled the right way, will help build positive emotions in your customers, help reduce friction around common touch points, and drive positive customer sentiment.

It’s vital that every customer service agent in your customer service teams understands where they fit in the wider customer journey, what the impact is that they can have, and how to create happy customers.

Customer service is the interaction that your customer has with a real human in your business. It’s often a reactive service in place to help customers who reach out with a question or a problem and, with the shift towards omni-channel customer experiences, it can take place face to face, over the phone, on social media channels or via live chat.

It’s a great idea to make sure that all of your channels are managed consistently, with clear values and behaviours driving them and ideally an integrated CRM to help make your customer service team’s live’s just that little bit easier.

A superior experience is often the result of a customer service team who understand their importance, and the importance of customer experience management in creating a brand’s reputation.

They understand that your client’s opinion of you is only as good as their last experience, and that a truly customer-centric approach across every customer touchpoint will give the business a competitive advantage.

So, you can see how removing either customer experience as a strategy, or customer service as a department, could increase customer churn and ultimately reduce the chance of your business succeeding. They are both of paramount importance.

In Summary

So there you have it, the customer service vs customer experience! One is the cake and the other is simply an unmissable ingredient to help make the cake what it is!

If you want help with customer service training, or your wider customer experience strategy then check out our other articles or get in touch for a chat today!

Picture of Rebecca Brown
Rebecca Brown
Rebecca’s intense passion for customer excellence began over a decade ago when she oversaw the opening of several high-end retail art galleries, balancing the need for an exceptional experience with a drive for sales.

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