When I interacted with many support agents, I noticed that they casually throw around the terms customer experience and customer service interchangeably. Even a few business leaders have misunderstandings on the term customer experience. Both focus to delight the customer but they are not the same Know the difference to treat your customers well.
Customer experience refers to the complete journey of a customer from knowing your brand to post-purchase. Whereas, customer service is a key component of your overall experience. It refers to a single event where customers reach you for help.
What is customer service?
It is the support or advice that you offer to your customers when they approach you for any concerns or questions related to the product and services offered.
In simple, it is the customer support function of a business. It is an isolated event in the journey where the customer reaches the support desk when there is a concern.
With the rise of chatbots and exposure to self-service, businesses are able to deflect basic queries raised by customers and offer an immediate resolution. However, customers still prefer human interactions.
The business trains its support agents to go above and beyond to solve customer problems and provide the best solutions. This customer support could either make or break a relationship with the customer. So, consider this an integral part of customer experience.
What is customer experience?
Customer experience encompasses every single interaction of a user he/she has with a particular brand and how they perceive those interactions. There are many touchpoints between the customer and the brand before and after the consumer’s use of the product. A great CX(customer experience) provides a seamless and enjoyable journey from the start to throughout the engagement.
The key to CX is the way the journey is linked up without dropping the ball through the cracks.
Customer service and customer experience are both about delivering the best outcomes for the customer. And, that’s what matters.
74% of consumers are at least somewhat likely to buy based on experiences alone. Emplifio
I couldn’t resist talking about Apple. Have you wondered why Apple has such a huge customer base? Why are their customers are loyal than others? How this has helped in establishing their brand? The answer to this is “The Experience.”
Apple Experience doesn’t restrict itself to its products. Apple stores were designed to be the best possible Customer Experience anywhere across the world. The store associates master in human interaction with the approach below.
- A personalized approach for their customers
- Listen to understand the customer’s needs
- Present a solution that matches their need.
- Celebrate when you unwrap the gift(not product). That is the feel you get.
- Make them leave with a smile in their face.
The focus on product packages is another example of how much they value customers. The excitement when we unpack the product is priceless.
The feel when you leave the store makes you want to come back. Of course, the product is expensive. Who would mind the prices when the experience is premium. That is another reason, I have seen many save their bucks to lay their hand on the product.
Suppose you walk to the genius bar with a concern about the product, Apple genius is available at your service to help you sort the issue. They take an empathetic approach to ensure that concern is addressed even if it involves replacing the product. They are trained to ensure that the customers walk out satisfied.
When you have a careful look at it, Apple ensures that at every touchpoint customer gets the best experience and makes their overall journey a memory to live with.
From the Apple Store experience, I am sure you would have deduced the difference.
Customer experience focuses on the entire customer journey from brand awareness to getting in touch with business to purchase to post support. The number of touchpoints is high and multiple teams would be involved. Ensure the touchpoints are well linked. It is all about the relationship with the customer and can never be pinned down to particular interaction.
Customer services relate to a specific event where they reach only when there is a question or concern. However, this interaction should be a part of the overall experience. Adopt an
Customer experience is the way customers feel about your brand across the entire customer journey. Customer service is only one aspect of the entire customer experience. It might be tempting to think that your customer service team will take responsibility for creating great experiences, but it should be everybody’s job from product to support to sales and from marketing to senior leadership. .
Sanjeev is a Product Manager at Superops.ai. He started his career as a customer support at Capgemini, then laid hands on Sales during his stint at Make A Difference, then started evangelizing and marketing Freshservice when he was with Freshworks. Now, took the Product Manager seat at Superops.ai
To put exactly In his words, “I started selling when I was in support, started speaking at conferences when I was in sales and started building products when I was in marketing. The transition was natural“
We wanted to capture his story exclusively because it was something, we also observed, so naturally happened to him. In this convo, he shares how his career transitioned from Support to Product Management, his point of realization that he could be the one, things to have to be the one, the tools he uses everyday in his Product Management seat. So, here the conversation goes.
1) Sanjeev, we know you started your career as a product support specialist. How did it happen? Was it something you picked or it came in your hands?
I had no say in this. My first job was right out of college and they landed me in a support role. Thinking back, it’s one of the best things to have happened. Because, starting your career in support means you immediately understand what the business does. And Product Management is just the intersection of product, business and customers.
2) That’s correct. What’s the most wanted quality that a product support person should have?
Zooming out of the product and looking at the customers’ business problem. A support rep isn’t a product expert, their product knowledge is not worth much if they can’t solve the customers problem. So, a support rep shouldn’t limit themselves to just knowing their product.
3) Hmm.. It’s beyond that. Got it got it.. So, you were then into Product Consulting right? How’s it? What’s the difference?
Yes!! To me, the difference was the storytelling part. For example, as a product consultant my job was to get prospects excited about our solution. And I had to paint a lot of pictures in their heads about how their future would be if they went with our solution. In a nutshell, in support, you’re working with facts. In consulting, you’re working with a lot of what-ifs.
4) And finally, what caused the interest to take up product management role?
Ever since I learnt what product managers do, I’ve always wanted to be a product manager. I like the ambiguous nature of the role. Got to figure out everything from scratch and every day there are many micro decisions to be made. And product managers get to impact people at scale. Versus a customer facing role where the impact is 1:1. But, I do miss the instant gratification of talking to customers.
5) Yes, that would always be fun to look back. Were there any instances you thought you could become a product manager during your stint as Product Consultant?
Yes! Whenever I faced a customer problem, I would start imagining solutions in my head. I would keep thinking, “If I were to solve this, I would’ve done it like this”. I also enjoyed solutioning conversation with product managers and that’s when I realized, I’d like to be a PM
6) How they helped you realize the same?
My time as a product consultant helped me understand customer problems much better. Because we deal with prospects, we talk more about their problems than our product. This meant that I got immersed in customer environments. And I started thinking for them. And that’s when I started thinking that I could sculpt the hero, the product, to solve the problem.
7) So much energy. So, this is something we wanted to clarify. To become a product manager or to be in a product management side, do you think, you should have technical knowledge?
It’s not a pre requisite but any kind of knowledge helps. For example, I like dabbling in code but that doesn’t help me directly in my job. But, that helps me empathize better with engineers. Sometimes, it’s also a curse. It’s better for PMs to be one level away from execution, so that they can keep the focus on the vision.
8) Haha.. Empathy stays on top. How’s the role? What are the responsibilities you have now?
The role is amazing. Especially, at a startup, when you get to build the product from scratch. Currently, my job is to figure out what problems we need to solve for our target segment.
9) Give us a sneak peek of your day as a product manager?
Haha, it’s a bunch of different things. I usually start my day reading about updates from the industry and catching up on industry forums. Then, I identify areas where devs or designers might be blocked and my top priority is to unblock them. Then, I spend time in conversations where we have to iron out the solutions. Towards the end, I spend time watching/reading educational content about the domain or product management or SaaS in general.
10) What are the tools you use everyday?
Notion for organizing work and documenting requirements. Roam Research for personal note taking. Things 3 for task management. Loom for recording videos an sharing.
11) Finally, before we let you go, who was your inspiration to pick this career up?
I don’t have a single inspiration because I got into it very early. Now, I follow Shreyas Doshi and John Cutler on Twitter who share interesting perspectives on product management.
In business, customer-facing professionals can have a friendly relationship with their customers, but they can’t really be friends.
When you deal with a long term customer, you will become more comfortable in each other’s presence and will start to feel relaxed. It is probably a good thing. The good feelings that result will change the dynamics of the relationship. But, it shouldn’t change the nature of the relationship.
The moment you forget the nature of your relationship, problems arise that can destroy not only your business relationship but also the good personal relationship you might have developed.
For example,your customers, will start asking for favors. They might want to play with pricing as per their demand or expect you to support them any time they want. If you don’t give it, their feelings will be hurt and will take offense. And once that has happened, it is almost impossible to get the relationship back on track.
During a recent customer interaction, I let the guard down. I was too friendly helping the customer in setting up a feature and in the progress, unknowingly, a mistake was made which could have costed them. Though the situation was handled on time, I was still too casual which irked his frustration and anger. On realization, I had to switch back to my professional mode but the damage was already done. Further interactions, weren’t the same way it used to be.
So, never let your guard down. No matter how comfortable you become with each other, your relationship is still that of buyer and seller. You can be friendly with customers, but not a friend
In continuation of my previous blog on ways to enhance cx, my second ideology is to show why keeping your customers informed is important.
In 2014, Home Depot was hacked—and 56 million credit cards were compromised. It was one of the largest data breaches to befall a major corporation. Then-CEO Frank Blake wanted to preserve Home Depot’s relationship with its customers, so he came up with a plan: Unlike other companies in this situation, who hid the breaches from their customers for months or even years, he was radically transparent about the problem with his customers. Check this podcast
For businesses, communicating with your customers is key to a healthy relationship. Sales promotion, feature announcements are good; whereas updating outages or security breaches isn’t. However, it is important for both types of communication.
Here are the reasons why it is a good thing to keep your customers informed.
“Customer First” attitude
With the advent of social media, consumers are accustomed to receiving information about virtually everything the instant they want it. Do your customers feel that they have been taken care?” One step toward turning that answer into a “yes” is to communicate with them.
Customers love promotions and offers. They may feel left out when they are updated only on websites and social media as not everyone has the time to visit those pages daily. Instead, share it directly to customers via email or text message. This reminds them that they come first and customer service is your priority.
Don’t expect them to find the information on their own
If you have something that your customers need to know then you can’t hope that they will find that information on their own, you need to tell them about it. For example, if your business closes on a holiday then you need to let your customers know that you will be closed. The last thing you want is for them to be trying to contact you and not be able to get hold. Otherwise, they are going to take their business elsewhere.
It is a hard thing to admit, especially to paying customers, when something isn’t working. But, it is the right thing and that is what Home Depot did it to save their business. Though there was a choice to ignore customers and hope they don’t notice it. But, customers these days notice everything. If they find that business has been hiding it from them, then you don’t get any grace period. They would have switched their loyalty.
By keeping your customers informed about a problem you are proactively showing them that you are aware of it. And, you are doing something about it. For most customers, this is enough to let them give you the benefit of the doubt and they will give you the time you need to fix the issue.
They always want to know how your business fares
Customers are like facebook friends. They like to know what goes on within your business and how you are doing. So, set up social media pages and update them regularly. Post company news, share coupon codes, update on promotional offers and blog. This will show customers that your business is active and it will make sure your customers don’t feel left out.
“Our communications have been focused first and foremost on our customers and what they want to know and need to know,” said Home Depot corporate communications director Stephen Holmes.
Customers want to feel special. By keeping customers informed, you make them feel valued. It shows your commitment. When done right, loyalty increases and business gets the reward it deserves.
Keep Your Customers in the Loop. Don’t keep them in the dark.
There are zillion ways to enhance your customer experience. While the majority of such ways require a lot of effort to be put in, quite a few are easier to implement. One such easiest way to better your customer experience is to “Keep your Customers in the loop”.
As you keep reading through this article, based on my recent experience with 3 different customer service centers. You can draw parallels to the epic film of the 60s – The Good, The Bad and The Ugly directed by Sergio Leone.
I filled an online form on Vakil Search for an inquiry. Within a few minutes, I received an acknowledgment email along with the tracking number. To my surprise, I was told that a dedicated advisor has been assigned to handle my question and a 24-hour helpline is available for instant support.
Throughout the journey of my experience with Vakil Search, I was impressed with the way they kept me in the loop on all transactions by sharing regular updates. I would best summarize this as The Good experience among the three. In spite of the time taken to close the case, I would still rate them extremely positive on Customer Experience.
You all have been multi-tasking, so do I. Around the same time of my experience with Vakil Search, I had to deal with another organization (name not disclosed for reasons better known to me), for they had a number of issues with their product.
While the acknowledgment was a standard template, it took more than a couple of weeks for them to understand my pain points. There wasn’t any response from their support team after a few follow-ups, which made to reconsider my decision on using their product.
At this decisive hour, I receive an email from them acknowledging it as a bug. All long those days of unresponsiveness, the Support Team had been working with the Development Team to deliver a fix. Nevertheless, I settled down with them as they managed to address my concerns. However, the bad experience with the Support and their process, keeps me thinking to switch over, for you all know by now that I am a Customer Experience Enthusiast.
And, The Ugly
Finally, take a few seconds more to read my experience with an e-commerce portal, where I ordered a gift for my bestie. I am sure you all would have guessed it by now. For those, who didn’t, the obvious thing happened – the gift wasn’t delivered in time. I now had to raise a ticket with their customer service portal.
Though there was a standard acknowledgment for the issue raised, the Support Team, neither the management, bothered to call or apologize for the non-delivery of service. After over a month or so, I receive a call from them saying the product was misplaced during transit and that the same will be delivered the next day. I wasn’t quite sure if this was going to happen as their Service seemed unapologetic to me.
Well, the last words.
One common thing across these 3 scenarios was that there was a delay in the final outcome. However, it is obvious that the Good (my experience with Vakil Search) turned out to be the top scorer in terms of customer experience, for they managed to keep in the loop during all transactions. I was well informed on the happenings and I could imagine what their next step would be. The result turned out to be on similar lines of my expectations.
Your customers never see the hard work you put in unless you keep him informed. However hard you may try to resolve his issues, you score a point less if you haven’t gotten back to your customer on what has been happening. The anxious wait to know what has happened kills the customer’s precious time and energy.
Offering great customer service is easy. But, the onus is on the organization to keep the experience alive for all customers across all times. Businesses need to empathize with the customer first, before trying to solve his product/service issues. Keep your customers in the loop well informed about the steps taken to address his/her concerns. By doing so, you are taking the first step to creating brand ambassadors for your product/service through the customer.
Do you agree?
Customer support is no more a cost center. It is actually a profit center.
I recently chanced upon an article comparing Customer Success to Support. The one that caught my attention in this article was “Customer success generates revenue while customer support is tagged as a Cost Center”. Traditionally, businesses have looked at customer support as an expensive division of the organization. It is considered a necessary evil. However, with more emphasis on Customer Experience(CX) these days, the tides are changing.
In today’s digital world, customers are empowered with technology than ever before. With a post, not more than 30 words, they either promote or destroy the brand. More than anyone else in the organization, they are constantly engaged with customer support. Hence, there is a need for businesses to realign their strategy. A couple of points to be considered during decision-making.
Focus to increase the customer satisfaction level
When problems reported by customers are effectively handled to their satisfaction, they tend to scale up your business more than those who haven’t reported a problem.
Customer problems are indeed opportunities.
The business has to look at customer problems as opportunities. It helps to narrow down and fix the services or products or business processes. It is an opportunity to increase customer experience and add revenue to the organization.
Having imbibed this quality of looking at every problem as an opportunity, I was assigned a difficult task to retain an unhappy customer. I had one last chance here to overturn the situation. From my discussion, I identified that the customer and his team were unaware of the complete capability of the service. After listening to their concerns, I empathized with their current situation and offered a two-day product level training. This training brought in the necessary product awareness which helped them realize the potential of the service. During the course of this interaction, flaws in business service were identified and fixed. This resulted in improving the overall experience of the service. As an addendum to the existing service, further opportunities were identified resulting in an upsell.
In conclusion, businesses have to come out of this old school thought that customer support is a cost center. This division is a treasure house as it holds critical data about your customer and their experience which provides immense value for your product, marketing and sales team – DIKW.