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Target shows the difference between customer experience and customer service.

Jim Tincher Jim Tincher 02/06/2014

A recurring theme among my customer experience friends and clients is the frequent confusion between customer experience and customer service.  We explored this theme in several of my recent interviews, with two particularly good examples:

  • “Customer service is about 5-6 percent of the customer experience. The only time service really matters regarding the long-term loyalty of a customer is when it goes wrong.” Ingrid Lindberg, Chief Customer Experience Officer  at Prime Therapeutics
  • “Customer service is a person-to-person interaction. Customer experience extends to every interaction with your brand,” Mara Bain, Chief Experience Officer, Western National Insurance.

 A Great Example

However, it’s rare that somebody without a customer experience title has an articulate response ready.  When I introduce myself as being in customer experience, I’m often asked if I work in a call center.  My clients have similar problems, with internal customers often confused about the difference between the two terms.

But in a meeting a few weeks ago, a client told me an excellent story of the differences, framed with her experience with Target.

“I was really frustrated when I heard about the incident, and I wanted to know what to do to protect myself. I heard nothing from Target for days – the only things I heard were from the press.  So I decided to call them.  I waited on hold for over an hour, before I finally reached a person.

“He was really friendly and helpful, and walked through everything I could do to protect myself. But I was left wondering – why do I have to take the initiative here?  Why didn’t they contact me first?

That’s when I realized what we’ve been talking about!  Target gave me excellent customer service.  The person on the phone was very helpful, and I’d definitely give him a high score.  But the customer experience was awful.  Target didn’t take the time to tell me what to do, leaving me to figure it out for myself. That’s the difference between customer service and customer experience!”

What’s your favorite example of the differences between the two?

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