Imagine that you as a dear customer, have visited a shoe shop to buy a new pair of shoes that you have been saving up for. Although you have a rough idea of the shoe you want to buy, there are other varieties of shoes in design and color in the store that have attracted your attention. You walk down the shoe aisles  and for some time you are lost in thought admiring the different designs. After a while you notice that you have been in the shop for quite some time without anyone coming to attend to you.

A few minutes later a young man walks slowly to where you are standing, with a toothpick in his mouth, and asks you what you want. He then lazily walks away to fetch your order with a totally disinterested attitude.

In the scenario above was service delivered? Yes. The shoe shop attendant provided the shoe you requested. Some level of customer service was delivered in that the customer request was made and the shop was responsive to the need. However, what needs to be critically examined is the customer experience. Was this delightful service? Was the experience worth writing home about? No. Not by a long shot! The opportunity presents itself to point out the numerous opportunities the shop attendant had to offer better service.

The bedrock of customer experience excellence is the provision of great customer service. The two are inseparable. Great service yields warm experience. In respect to the shoe shop, would you highly recommend it to your friends and colleagues? Would you excitedly visit that same shop again, unless they are a monopoly? The answer would be – never. Customer experience embeds itself in intangible things: there was no interaction between the customer and the client; no eagerness to meet the customer’s need; and no attempt by the attendant to create some sort of relationship with the customer. Yes, there was customer experience – negative customer experience.

Customer service is determined internally by the organization. This involves the service levels to provide and the service standards to maintain. However, customer experience is determined by the customer. It is how the customer feels after interacting with your organization. Creating excellent customer experiences requires a proactive strategy to ensure that the customer journey is well mapped out and service excellence is predetermined. The customer needs to leave your organization feeling great about how they have been handled and served.

Customer experience is generated at all customer touchpoints including online conversations, advertisements, promotions, packaging and presentation, physical interaction and post product purchase or service delivery engagement . So even before the customer interacts with the organization directly, they already experience your brand and form certain opinions about it.

Many times people visit organizations and institutions after hearing about them from their networks and therein lies the start of the customer experience.  In the case of the shoe shop, you as a customer , may have gone to the specific shop having heard about the shop’s fantastic offers, or may have seen an advert showing the shop’s lovely ambience, wide variety of shoes and friendly staff. Your experience commenced before you set foot in the door.

Companies that focus more on customer service, without considering the customer’s experience and without investing in making the end to end experience from start to finish more customer friendly, are not set for a sustainable future. Companies that value their customers’ experience, will go out of their way to ensure that all the customer touch points are delightful and that the customer experience is such that customers convert into loyal fans.

It is customer experience excellence that keeps clients coming back. Customer service has to become a component of the overall customer experience. How you treat your customers and the experience you create for them will determine the success of your business.