Not to suggest "Customer Experience" and "Customer Service" would be pitted against each other; they aren't, necessarily, but we're going to take a look at a matter of scope and, above all, standards. Embracing the whole of the customer experience means not just service and support, but all facets of the customer journey.
For when a customer begins their relationship with you, there are many phases they move through, and the best companies are with them each step of the way.
Based on available knowledge and direct observations, a customer can be expected to go through the following phases with your company:
This is the customer journey.
Each phase is distinct, and brings with it certain, expected actions -- while also being part of the whole and feeding naturally into the next. This customer journey is true with any business.
Unfortunately, most customers never make it through every stage.
One of the most customer-obsessed companies on the planet happens to be one of the biggest. Amazon. As Amazon sellers we play in their sandbox, so we're connected to their customer values by default. Guilt by association. How we extend that, how we take their principles for the customer experience and run with them is up to us.
For some insight, here's what Jeff Bezos had to say in Amazon's last letter to their shareowners:
"People have a voracious appetite for a better way, and yesterday's 'wow' quickly becomes today's 'ordinary'. I see that cycle of improvement happening at a faster rate than ever before. It may be because customers have such easy access to more information than ever before - in only a few seconds and with a couple taps on their phones, customers can read reviews, compare prices from multiple retailers, see whether something's in stock, find out how fast it will ship or be available for pick-up, and more. These examples are from retail, but I sense that the same customer empowerment phenomenon is happening broadly across ... most other industries as well. You cannot rest on your laurels in this world. Customers won't have it.
"How do you stay ahead of ever-rising customer expectations? There's no single way to do it - it's a combination of many things. But high standards (widely deployed and at all levels of detail) are certainly a big part of it."
Seeing to the customer experience at every stage, and doing it at the highest standard possible, is what sets great companies apart from the ones that are just getting by.
What it really comes down to is a holistic approach, where you're treating all steps of the journey as a whole experience. Support is ongoing, and as long as customers are using your products they're going to need service. You definitely want your customer service to excel, but at the end of the day the amazingness of your customer service is just a component of the overall customer experience.
Let's look at the steps of the customer journey again, from the customer perspective:
Customer service needs for the product are most likely to come at the "I Have It, Now What?" step.
How great would it be if your product's initial training, manual, videos and so on was so spot-on, the customer actually understood it, used it and reached the next milestone, "Your First Success" without needing any help? If you've adequately prepped them at the "Taking The Leap" step, where they commit to your product, either with great training materials, intro indoctrination into what to expect, where to find help, etc., such that they're able to, fully self-sufficiently, use the thing they purchased ...
They're bound to be pretty darn satisfied, if not downright happy with your product.
Or, even it they do need help, how awesome from their point of view if your customer service is so over-the-top amazing, they get more help even than they expected and thereby become experts on your product. This, too, leads them to the "Your First Success" phase and, in turn, making it part of their core. Now they're a user who's committed to you and your product.
So you see, customer service is a big part of the journey, but it's a component of the whole. Each phase interlocks with and depends on the success of the other. If they have the tools and the help they need to achieve each step, and achieve it commandingly and with confidence, they move smoothly through the journey ...
Ending up a fan, an evangelist of your product and your company, and in their final evolution your customer becomes a driver of that greatest of all marketing miracles:
Positive word of mouth.
So, how do you deliver a great customer experience?