Are retailers confusing customer service with the customer experience?
Presented here for discussion is a summary of a current article published with permission from Knowledge@Wharton, the online research and business analysis journal of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
According to the authors of a new book, “Woo, Wow, and Win: Service Design, Strategy and the Art of Customer Delight,” companies carefully craft the products they sell to customers, but rarely do they give the same thoughtfulness to designing what could be the most critical part of the sales process: customer experience.
The authors — Patricia Stewart, a former editor of the Harvard Business Review, and Patricia O’Connell, president of Aerten Consulting — argue that companies commonly confuse customer service with customer experience.
“Customer service is something you do,” said Ms. O’Connell in an interview with Knowledge@Wharton. “Usually it’s designed around when something has gone wrong. Customer experience is the totality of my interaction with you, from the moment I first come across your name … to when I’m done, whenever our business is finished.”
Indeed, one of the common principles the authors list in designing effective service experiences is understanding that while “the customer is always right,” it’s essential to “make sure the customer is right for you.”
Said Ms. O’Connell, “If I want a luxury shopping experience, I should not go to TJ Maxx, just as if I’m looking for a bargain, I shouldn’t go to Barneys. So, in those circumstances, I am not the right customer.”
Other core principles are “Don’t Surprise And Delight, Just Delight,” and “Great Service Must Not Require Heroic Efforts” on the part of the business or the customer. Said Ms. O’Connell, “I need to know what I’m doing, and I should be able to do it reliably, repeatably, scalably and profitably.”
The authors said that while the “ahhh” moments when the experience is working are often celebrated, more attention needs to be placed on the negative “ow” experiences that may indicate the business is attracting the wrong customers or that services aren’t being designed efficiently. Said Mr. Stewart, “Are you easy to do business with? I mean, it’s a simple question and most companies don’t actually systematically ask it.”
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you agree that retailers confuse customer service with customer experience? Do axioms such as “the customer is always right” and “surprise and delight” often work against delivering dependable customer experiences?