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customer experience

Startups make our lives better through new products, services and business models. But for customer experience professionals startups have added to the confusion surrounding our profession.

Let’s start by giving an example of the issue. My title is Managing Director of Customer Experience. With this title I get several vendors and recruiters reaching out to speak with me about how they can help me. The help they are pitching involves new call center technologies or a new call center executive role. Most of these people assume that I do customer service.

No. I do customer experience. What’s so confusing? Customer experience (CX) is not the same as customer service.

The confusion is that some companies call their customer service teams their “customer experience” team. While older, more mature companies sometimes conflate these distinct business functions this seems to happen much more frequently with younger, less mature companies and startups.

I get why they do this. Customer service is synonymous with call centers and call centers have always gotten a bad wrap, often deservedly so. Call centers are places where you go to get put on hold for 45 minutes. Or to get lost in an endless IVR loop. Or to speak to someone who can’t help solve your issue. This rebranding can help soften people up to having to interact with a call center or a customer service team.

But customer experience and customer service serve tangential but different purposes.

Customer experience is about how all of a customer’s interactions with a brand inform that customers perception of that brand. Good customer experience ultimately informs how customers behavior. Like whether they will buy, whether they will buy more or whether they will tell others. Therefore, customer experience is a blend of the storytelling, customer research, design thinking, journey mapping, satisfaction & NPS surveys, data analytics and culture change.

The role of the customer service team is to address customer feedback. By solving issues or to at least funnel that feedback to people who can address it. Customer service relies on a blend of people and technology to ensure that customer service agents are available, knowledgeable and empowered. The customer service team is often the only interaction a customer may ever have with your brand. They are vital in making sure customers have great experiences.

A stellar customer service team is essential to great customer experiences but customer service is a single journey within the vast landscape of the customer ecosystem with your brand. Companies orchestrate great customer experiences from before the point of acquisition to after a sale has been made. It is the sum of all parts and the customer experience leader is the conductor in this grand orchestra.

Should startups just change the names of their teams from customer experience to customer service? There are a few reasons this can make sense and can benefit startups in the long-run. As long as they understand customer experience is broader than customer service.

Startups should start by having the customer experience team adopt behaviors that will make it easier to build a real customer experience function. These teams should incorporate the following as they ramp up:

  • Capture customer feedback, during the interaction
  • Capture post-interaction feedback and begin to measure customer satisfaction (or net promoter score)
  • Create an internal customer feedback loop to product and marketing teams. And harness the knowledge of the folks who talk to your customers everyday
  • Close the loop back with your customers and tell that what their feedback has done

Establishing these processes will make a customer experience program more successful.

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