Customer service vs. customer experience: Here’s the difference (2024)

You’re at your desk when you overhear two fellow support agents debating the difference between customer service and customer experience. They ask you for your take, and your palms turn sweaty—you have no idea how they’re different.

Many support agents use customer experience and customer service interchangeably, but the two terms do not mean the same thing. Understanding the difference between them is critical. Why? Because customer service is a key component of your overall customer experience.

If you can see how the two concepts are distinct yet intertwined, you’ll be better able to offer the level of service that strengthens customer perceptions of your brand.

What is customer service?

Customer service is the act of assisting and advocating for your customers before, during, and after the purchase of a product or service.

A brand can provide customer service through human agents. It can also provide self-service options, like a knowledge base or chatbots.

Great customer service is more than sending hastily written one-off responses. The goal is to go above and beyond to solve customer problems and provide buyers with the best solutions available.

Successful businesses understand that customer care can make or break their relationships with customers, so they make sure to offer the type of service their customers expect:

  • They provide fast responses. According to the Zendesk Customer Experience Trends Report, 60 percent of customers say speed is the most important aspect of good customer service.
  • They keep interactions empathetic and kind. Nearly half of customers want to talk to an empathetic, friendly customer service agent.
  • They offer support on customers’ preferred channels. Fifty percent of customers say they prefer contacting support agents over channels they use with their loved ones, such as Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp.

One company that offers standout customer service is Feed, a food-tech startup. Feed improved its slow email ticketing system with live chat, so it could provide quick answers to customer queries about meals on convenient channels. The brand also ensures that customers are never left in the dark about their orders. Support agents proactively contact customers to inform them about any shipping changes before the customer is inconvenienced.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience (CX) is all the ways a customer interacts with your company and how they perceive those interactions.

“Customer experience is how a customer feels about the sum of their interactions with a business,” says Dave Dyson, a community marketing specialist at Zendesk. “It involves every way a customer interacts with a company, at all stages of the customer journey—including the marketing materials they see before they become a customer, the sales experience, the quality of the product or service itself, and the customer service they receive post-purchase.”

Customer experience is spread across many touchpoints and is always ongoing. A visit to your company’s website, a conversation with a customer service agent or a sales rep, and an ad for your product popping up on Instagram are all parts of the customer experience.

A customer’s experience is shaped by the three Ps: people, process, and product.

  • People: Customers want to speak to helpful and kind employees, whether they’re on a call with a sales agent or live chatting with a support agent.
  • Process: Customers prefer seamless and memorable experiences as they move through the buyer journey. This could be anything from a simplified payment process to an easier way to contact customer support.
  • Product: Customers want intuitive products that solve their problems.

For an example of great CX, look no further than the food delivery service Grubhub. In the height of the pandemic, the company reduced call wait times by answering at least 80 percent of customer calls within 20 seconds.

The brand also automated common processes—such as customers making changes to their orders and obtaining refunds via self-service—to decrease the contacts per order. Grubhub tailored its service to customers’ expectations by offering contactless delivery, too, which aligned with concerns about safety.

Customer service vs. customer experience: Here’s the difference (1)

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What are the differences between customer service and customer experience?

Customer service is just one part of the entire customer journey, while customer experience encompasses all the interactions between your brand and a customer. Within this high-level distinction, there are even more ways to distinguish CX from customer service.

  1. Level of control

    Your company has complete control over the service it provides to customers. Though you can also shape the CX, your control is more limited because there are so many factors that impact how your customers perceive your brand.

  2. Metrics

    Customer satisfaction score (CSAT), customer effort score (CES), and Net Promoter Score (NPS) help support teams gauge the quality of their customer service. These metrics can also reflect CX, but there are even more metrics teams can use—including customer lifetime value (CLV), customer churn rate, and customer retention rate—to evaluate the customer experience.

  3. Ownership

    Customer service is primarily the responsibility of customer support managers and agents. Other team members may speak with customers, but the support team is accountable for delivering the help customers need (and doing it well).

    CX is a shared responsibility across the organization. Everyone in the business—from the marketing team to the sales team to the product team—is in charge of giving customers the best experience across all touchpoints.

With these differences in mind, you can align your customer service with your CX efforts to build and nurture long-lasting relationships with your customers.

Customer service vs. customer experience: Which matters more?

Now that you know customer service and customer experience are two distinct concepts, you may be wondering which one you should focus on. The short answer is both.

Memorable customer experiences and great customer service are intertwined—you can’t have one without the other. Customer service can make or break your customers’ perceptions of your brand. You might have ticked all the other boxes on the CX checklist, but if customers can’t get the support they need when and how they need it, they may leave for good.

If you’re still skeptical about the importance of investing in both customer experience and customer service, take a look at the numbers from our Customer Experience Trends Report:

  • Seventy-five percent of customers are willing to overlook the prices to buy from companies that offer a good customer experience.
  • Seventy-seven percent of customers are more loyal to a company that gives them a good customer experience when issues arise.
  • Eighty percent of customers will stop doing business with a brand and move to a competitor after more than one bad customer service experience.
  • Companies that rank customer service as a top priority are six times more likely to surpass their customer retention goals.

Successful businesses aren’t dwelling on the customer service versus customer experience debate—they’re leveraging both to improve customer satisfaction and boost their bottom line.

Deliver great customer service and memorable customer experiences

Although customer service and customer experience are different concepts, they work hand in hand when it comes to building brand loyalty. Delivering great customer service along with seamless customer experiences might seem like a Herculean task, but don’t stress—there are tools, such as our customer experience software, to help you oversee both your service and CX. Zendesk helps you provide customer support quickly across various channels and personalize every step of the customer journey.

Customer service vs. customer experience: Here’s the difference (2024)


What is the difference of customer service and customer experience? ›

Customer experience refers to the complete journey a customer takes with your brand, from initial awareness to post-purchase care. Customer service refers to a single event when a customer reaches out for help and support during this journey. Both are equally important contributors to the success of your business.

What is the meaning of customer experience? ›

Gartner defines customer experience as the customer's perceptions and related feelings caused by the one-off and cumulative effect of interactions with a supplier's employees, systems, channels or products.

What are some of the differences between a service and an experience? ›

The main difference between customer experience and service is that experience is delighting customers at every touchpoint with your brand, and customer service is one single touchpoint. Customer experience doesn't require interaction with a representative, but customer service usually does.

What is an example of customer experience? ›

You can create a personalized customer experience example by sending unique gifts and products to your clients. It cultivates customer loyalty and wins over customer trust. Usually, it's pretty hard to know the interests of a first-time customer.

What is customer experience in one word? ›

Customer experience, also known as CX, is your customers' holistic perception of their experience with your business or brand. CX is the result of every interaction a customer has with your business, from navigating the website to talking to customer service and receiving the product/service they bought from you.

What are the 3 main components of customer experience? ›

The three main components for creating a customer experience strategy are discovery, engagement and delivery.

What are the 3 levels of customer experience? ›

The phrase 'customer experience' is crucial in the definition of a pain point. Elsewhere we've defined customer experience as encompassing three levels: the interaction level, the journey level, and the relationship level.

Is customer service an experience? ›

Customer service experience is the overall experience of a customer based on interaction with a company's sales, support and service teams during and after a purchase.

What would be considered as customer service experience? ›

What Is Customer Service Experience? The customer service experience is the sum of all the interactions a customer has with a company, both in direct communication and through other customer experiences (for example, your checkout process on your website).

What are the 4 components of service experience? ›

- To truly understand customer experience we have to understand the four components required to build one. There are archetypes, activities, interactions, and principles. An easy way to remember these is to think about the different parts of a relationship.

What are the types of customer experience? ›

There are two types of customer experience—direct and indirect contact:
  • Direct customer experience refers to any interaction initiated by the customer. ...
  • Indirect customer experience refers to the passive encounters with your company.
18 Mar 2022

What are examples of customer service? ›

12 examples of good customer service
  • Add a personal touch.
  • Be transparent and educate customers.
  • Respond quickly to all customer feedback.
  • Use creative and unexpected return policies.
  • Find a workaround when items are out of stock.
  • Build a connection with local shoppers.
  • Remember and reward repeat customers.
4 Jun 2021

What word best describes customer service? ›

5 Words that Describe the Best Customer Service
  1. Empathy/Understanding. Empathy was mentioned by the greatest percentage of respondents. ...
  2. Satisfaction. Satisfaction was the second most popular choice to describe great customer service. ...
  3. Listen. ...
  4. Patience. ...
  5. Caring.
17 Dec 2021

What is another phrase for customer experience? ›

What is another word for customer experience?
customer servicecustomer care
client serviceproduct service
sales experiencecustomer focus

What is customer service easy words? ›

Customer service is the support you offer your customers — both before and after they buy and use your products or services — that helps them have an easy and enjoyable experience with you. Offering amazing customer service is important if you want to retain customers and grow your business.

What are the 3 A's in customer service? ›

The three A's are for when you mess up—and that's why they're so hard for most businesses to swallow, because business people tend to like to avoid the hard part: apologizing. But here's where you get the magic formula, and it goes like this: acknowledge, apologize, act.

What are the 3cs of customer service? ›

The three Cs of customer satisfaction: Consistency, consistency, consistency. It may not seem sexy, but consistency is the secret ingredient to making customers happy. However, it's difficult to get right and requires top-leadership attention.

What is the 3 key of customer service? ›

Essentially, the 3 important qualities of customer service center around three “p”s: professionalism, patience, and a “people-first” attitude. Although customer service varies from customer to customer, as long as you're following these guidelines, you're on the right track.

What are 2 important parts to the customer experience? ›

It results in their view of your brand and impacts factors related to your bottom line including revenue. The two primary touch points that create the customer experience are people and products.

What are the 4 phases of customer service? ›

Customer Lifecycle Stage: Acquisition, Conversion, Retention, Loyalty.

Why is customer experience bigger than customer service? ›

Customer service is just one part of the entire customer journey, while customer experience encompasses all the interactions between your brand and a customer. Within this high-level distinction, there are even more ways to distinguish CX from customer service.

Why is customer service and customer experience important? ›

A remarkable customer experience is critical to the sustained growth of any business. A positive customer experience promotes loyalty, helps you retain customers, and encourages brand advocacy. Today, customers have the power, not the sellers.

What are the 3 dimensions of customer experience? ›

Effectiveness: Customers get value from you because they're able to complete the task they came to do. Ease: Customers want an easy experience – not too complicated, confusing or loaded with too many steps. Emotion: Customers come away with the positive feeling they expect.

What makes a great customer experience? ›

In short, good customer experience can be achieved if you: Make listening to customers a top priority across the business. Use customer feedback to develop an in-depth understanding of your customers. Implement a system to help you collect feedback, analyze it, and act on it regularly.

How does customer service impact the customer experience? ›

Customer service can significantly impact the customer's perspective of overall experience. Reducing the level of effort required by the customer can increase the chances that a customer will be loyal — and failing to provide a low effort experience can just as easily fuel disloyalty.

How do you describe customer service experience? ›

Customer service experience is the overall experience of a customer based on interaction with a company's sales, support and service teams before, during and after a purchase.

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