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Lisbiz strategies: Customer service vs. customer experience

By Lisbeth Calandrino

Oct. 21/28 2013; Volume 27/number 13

Screen Shot 2013-08-29 at 10.46.06 AMImproving the customer experience is high on everyone’s marketing agenda, according to a study conducted by IBM called “State of Marketing.” The study tells us that acquiring new customers (42%), retaining existing customers and improving loyalty and satisfaction (36%), and  creating consistent, relevant and positive customer experience across channels (34%) are the top challenges. All of these fall within the customer experience as well as customer service.

Customer service used to drive the customer experience. If the service made the customer happy, it was considered a good experience; the opposite was also true. Of course, all of this occurred when customers interacted with people, in person, or they spoke over the phone. Ninety percent of the customer experience was tied to great customer service.

Because of technology, companies are interacting with customers in very different ways. In fact, the customer has her choice of how she wants to interact with the store. Technology allows us to go far beyond the customer service of the past.

If you think getting to the customer’s house on time, doing a fabulous installation and giving great warrantees is customer service, think again. These things are expected, which takes them out of the realm of great customer service.  If you can’t perform, you will be out of business. Now you must create activities that deliver more than the usual; the usual is the norm, and you must think beyond the norm.

Gamification, which is the process of applying game-design thinking to non-game applications to make them more fun and engaging, allows for interactions that get customers to engage in some of the most fascinating ways. For instance, Coca-Cola has an app that allows you to buy someone a Coke on the other side of the planet. There is a video camera attached to the machine so the person giving the gift can see the other person’s expression when they find the drink is free!

All of this takes customer experience from the customer service department to the marketing department. So, what does that mean to you and me?

Customer service is only part of the customer experience. Instead of fixing problems, customer service can connect with the customer in ways that can take the relationship to a new level. It changes how we connect. It also changes what we are connecting about.

One way to engage the customer is by providing her with valuable information. This is different from pushing out advertisements for her to read. Articles about color, style and design will engage the customer and keep her in touch. Anything that will make her excited and want to come back is considered an experience.

Having an immaculate and interesting showroom is one way to motivate your customer. Consider the café in NYC called Serendipity. It boasts itself as the home of the $1,000 gold sundae; people go to the restaurant just to find out about the luxurious menu item. Everyone asks the same questions, “What does it look like?” and “How does it taste?” It’s fun and it gets plenty of attention. With Halloween around the corner, this is a perfect time for you to get dressed up, decorate your windows and have some fun.

Equate an experience with engagement and you’re on the right track. Having an online rewards platform for your customers, such as virtual badges like Foursquare, treasure hunts and contests will help you get feedback from your customers. You are now expected to up the customer’s experience to tie into your business goals. You can create any experience you like as long as you engage your customers.