Knowing the difference between reactive and proactive service can make or break a business, with or without digitalization.

“Customer service” and “customer experience” are often used interchangeably. But there is a big difference when it comes to customer experience vs. customer service.

Customer service is the assistance or advice you give a customer when they interact with your product or service.

Customer experience is all the interactions a customer has with your company. It begins when a customer first learns about you. It continues when he researches your offerings. It goes on when he buys or receives your product or service. And it keeps going for as long as his relationship with you continues.

“Together, these all add up to the critical moments—the touchpoints—that create an organization’s overall customer experience,” wrote Bruce Jones of the Disney Institute.

Need more clarification? Customer service is reactive. It is when you respond to customer requests and inquiries. On the other hand, customer experience is proactive. It anticipates the actions that will satisfy the customer at every interaction with you. And it can make or break a business.

Here are four different elements that can add up to a good customer experience:

  1. Make It easy to find you
    Making a website easy to use translates into an outstanding customer experience. Take heavy equipment maker Caterpillar, for example. Its national and regional websites are localized with cultural expectations in mind.

    Your information should also be coordinated and consistent. The company website, social media accounts, and other contact points must support each other. If they do, customers will have good feelings about your company before they have even dealt with a person there.
  2. Deliver more than they expect
    Supply chains have become a critical element in the customer experience. Companies like Johnson & Johnson and Nokia have made supply chains a competitive advantage. Something as simple as delivering packages ahead of schedule can lock in a customer for good.

    Noted a recent supply chain report: “With so many blind handoffs and variables in the last mile, it’s imperative to communicate with customers and be transparent about what is happening with their delivery. Without this information, customers often call in wondering where their packages are, leading to an avoidable loss of customer care time and dollars.”
  3. Get personal with customers
    Customers are irritated when they receive spam they do not care about. Amazon and Netflix are two examples of companies that have perfected their messaging. Their algorithms surprise and delight people—rather than irritate them.

    In fact, Amazon says a whopping 35% of its sales come from these recommendations. Research shows customers often return to websites that suggest products they like. The point of customized shopping is to develop a deep understanding of customers and make their lives easier. That is something companies in every industry should embrace.
  4. Wow them after the sale
    On average, people spend 15 hours purchasing a vehicle. However, they spend 50 hours having it serviced throughout their ownership. Scheduling appointments and waiting for technicians to finish their work frustrates customers. They might even buy a different car the next time around.

    What is an excellent customer experience? The connected car identifies a maintenance issue and automatically alerts the dealer. The dealer offers ‘pickup and delivery’. Or the dealer could even provide a short message to customers while they wait, according to McKinsey. Businesses need to think about how they can solve frustration points at every step of the customer journey—including after the purchase.

Customer experience is wide ranging, and it requires constant attention to detail. Companies who dedicate themselves to creating a great experience for customers will earn their loyalty and ongoing business. In the end, that’s why customer experience matters.