“I know what customer service is.”
“I think I know what customer experience is.”
“What is brand experience?”
That is usually how a conversation about customers relating to a business goes. Companies are familiar with customer service and usually customer experience, although they sometimes conflate the two. Brand experience, on the other hand often draws a blank, or worse, it is lumped in with customer service. Do you see a pattern developing here? There has been a lot of conversation around these buzz words and often the conclusion is that they are all the same thing, just different buzz words—a horse of another color you could say.
But they are not.
I started a conversation on LinkedIn to see how professionals in these industries describe them and explain to their clients what the difference is. Even there, I was surprised to see that not only were the professionals using these terms to mean the same thing, but the variety in the different answers! Some even took the approach of “From the company’s perspective…From the customer’s perspective…” I understand the thought process behind that, but that is what gets companies into trouble. Whether you are viewing something from the customer, management, or investor’s perspective, some “thing” is what it is. A profit to management is not an expense to the customer.
So what is customer service?
What is customer experience?
What is brand experience?
Customer service is the process and interaction that a customer will receive when they reach out to a company for help with a product or service. It is customer-driven, company-provided.
Customer experience involves all aspects of how the customer will experience the product or service from the decision to buy, through use of the product or service, includes customer service, reuse of the product or service, disposal, and potential repurchasing or loyalty of the product, service, or company. It is company provided, customer dependent.
Brand experience involves how prospects, the community, your employees and customers, experience your brand. It is creating the expectation of what they will experience when they reach out to you and then delivering on the expectation. It includes visual elements of your branding, copy, how easy it is to find information that is relevant to them, the personality of your brand, and what it is like working for your company. I always tell my clients, “Your customers like doing business with you just as much as your employees like working for you.” It is company guided, employee delivered.
When these three terms are confused with each other, then aspects of the customer relationship are affected negatively. For example, when brand experience is confused with customer service, the brand itself can suffer since the emphasis is on the customer and their use of your product or service, not their overall perception of the brand itself. Worse it excuses employees that are not explicitly involved in customer service to from getting involved in the promotion and support of your brand; the old “that isn’t my job” syndrome.
For your company to truly thrive in today’s marketplace, each aspect: customer service, customer experience, and especially brand experience must be treated as the individual pieces of the marketing puzzle that they are. Doing anything else will lead to trouble for your brand.