I am not the first, and will certainly not be the last professional person to work in and around the ‘customer experience’ field. There are thousands of customer experience professionals all around the world, and our number is growing at a very steady rate – something the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA – http://www.cxpa.org/default.asp) is delighted to see. Organisations of all shapes and sizes, and from every industry imaginable are finally affording their ‘customer experience’ the time and attention it very richly deserves. Much of the focus has been driven by the fact that many business leaders have finally recognised that delivering experiences to customers that consistently meet and exceed customer expectation is ‘good business’. Delivering great customer experiences is now seen as a differentiator, rather than something just spoken about by fluffy and potentially irritating people like me!

Last week, I was very fortunate to be a judge at the UK Customer Experience Awards. Now in its fourth year, the awards have grown to such a size, that I jokingly suggested to Neil Skehel, Managing Director of Awards International, that he consider hiring Wembley Arena next year. My joke may well become a reality! Over 700 guests at the awards ceremony acted as very tangible proof as to how customer experience has become so significant at a professional level.

So let me get to the point. If customer experience as a profession, and as an area of focus for organisations around the globe has become so significant, why do so many people still not understand what it is? Even at the awards last week, I was asked ‘so just what is customer experience? Recently I have conducted a number of radio interviews for the BBC and commercial radio stations. None of them have been comfortable introducing me as a ‘customer experience professional. Instead, they have opted for ‘customer service expert’, or words to that effect. This is a subject I have blogged about before – one of my first blog posts explored exactly what I do for a living https://ijgolding.com/2012/07/26/customer-experience-what/ – very little has changed since I wrote it!!

I am someone who recognises that even if something seems obvious to me, it may not be obvious to others. I therefore would like to have another attempt at clarifying, once and for all, the difference between Customer Service and Customer Experience. To do this, I want to provide you with an example we can all relate to. Last week, my family and I ate out at a well-known restaurant that is part of a nationwide chain. I will not name the restaurant as it is not relevant. We chose the restaurant because of its location – it was very ACCESSIBLE. On arriving at the restaurant, we noticed that it has been recently refurbished. The ambience, decor and overall ENVIRONMENT was very pleasant.

Once seated, we moved onto food and drink selection. Whilst not exceeding expectation, both the adult and children’s menus adequately hit the spot – there was plenty to CHOOSE from. The service – that is CUSTOMER SERVICE that is often confused with Customer Experience – was exceptionally good – in fact so good, that it far outweighed my expectation. I noticed a dish on the children’s menu that was not on the adult menu. When I asked if it could be adapted for an adult, I was met with ‘of course’ from one of the incredibly accommodating waiters. Throughout the meal, we were waited on efficiently, empathetically and professionally.  It was a real pleasure to experience and see.

The less said about the food the better. Quite frankly, it was awful. Although edible, it was clear that this particular restaurant had not invested in QUALITY of ingredients. Bland, tasteless, and devoid of any skill in presentation, it is safe to say that we were rather disappointed. This disappointment further deepened when we received our bill. This restaurant is not what I would describe as ‘budget’. The price did not reflect the quality, and the overall cost of the meal was not what I would consider to be COMPETITIVE.

On leaving the restaurant, we reflected on our overall experience – our abiding memory distilled down to three things:

  1. Amazing Customer Service – the manager and team deserve recognition for their efforts
  2. Terrible food
  3. Overpriced

Our conclusion – we will not be visiting that restaurant again. In fact, it is likely that we will not visit any of this brand of restaurants again. Our decision is based on two key elements within the end to end CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE – food quality and price. CUSTOMER SERVICE was outstanding – yet as an element of the customer experience in its own right was not enough to ensure that we remain a customer of this particular business. The Customer Experience in this example combined 6 elements – customer service was just one element:


A colleague of mine had the reverse of this experience recently. Amazing food and terrible customer service – not at the same restaurant I might add. The conclusion however is the same – she will not be visiting the restaurant again. It is the overall experience (of which customer service is just a part) that determines whether or not we have a one-off or a continuous relationship with a company.

So does this clear up the difference between customer experience and customer service? Just in case there are is any doubt, in my research I found the following blog post that looks at the same question – it is sometimes useful to get another perspective – http://blog.spoken.com/2013/04/customer-service-vs-customer-experience.html

As always, please feel free to comment on this or indeed any of my blog posts.