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Customer service vs. customer experience: the major differences

Customer service vs. customer experience. It's not just a semantic debate; it's a strategic crossroads that businesses must navigate if they want to successfully drive customer loyalty and build long-lasting relationships. 

While both customer service and customer experience are crucial, they have distinct approaches and goals. Whether or not you understand the ways in which they diverge can mean the difference between winning the hearts of customers or losing their business to the competition.

At its core, customer service is about assisting people with a specific need in a specific set of circumstances, and it’s essential for every business that wants to succeed over the long haul. After all, a staggering 95% of consumers agree that customer service influences their brand loyalty.1

In contrast, customer experience encompasses more than just solving problems or addressing specific queries – it’s the panoramic view of the entire customer journey with your business. Rather than being confined to singular interactions, it encapsulates the collective total of all a customer’s touchpoints.

Join us as we look into the nuances of customer service vs. customer experience. This article will help you understand not only their most important differences, but also how they're each critical to a thriving business built for longevity. 

What is customer service?

Customer service (CS) is the support and assistance that a company provides to its customers throughout the lifetime of their ownership of its products or use of its services. It’s primarily focused on addressing and resolving specific issues and inquiries raised by customers through various channels, including email, phone, live chat, social media, and in-person interactions.

The primary objective of customer service is to handle these concerns promptly and efficiently, with representatives doing everything in their power to ensure that the issue in question gets resolved and the customer leaves the interaction satisfied. Achieving this objective involves the following goals:

  • Resolving issues: From malfunctioning products to billing errors, customer service is the first line of defense against technical issues and the frustration that so often accompanies them. Reps have a responsibility to offer clear explanations, quick solutions, and efficient resolutions, minimizing inconvenience and restoring satisfaction with their products or services.

  • Addressing complaints: Whether it's a polite inquiry or a passionate rant, customer service reps should strive to listen attentively, address concerns professionally, and work to leave the customer feeling heard and understood.

  • Providing technical support: When there’s a technical hiccup, customer service is responsible for patiently troubleshooting issues and guiding customers through solutions.

  • Facilitating returns and exchanges: Whether it's a customer seeking for a replacement, customer service should facilitate a smooth process, minimizing friction and frustration.

  • Offering post-purchase support: Beyond helping customers overcome initial hurdles, customer service teams should act as ongoing guides, providing usage tips, answering questions, and fostering a sense of trust and loyalty through their compassionate support and dependability. 

With that said, it's critical to understand that – contrary to the common misconception – customer service isn't confined solely to the domain of the customer support team. It's an organization-wide effort to effectively meet consumer expectations and cultivate enduring relationships.

If you want to enhance your brand’s customer service, read this article: 10 key elements of customer service.

Importance of customer service

Customer service is a key touchpoint in the customer journey and directly impacts the overall customer experience. According to a study by CGS, 80% of consumers feel more emotionally connected to a brand when customer service solves their problem.2

In other words, delivering top-notch customer service is a must for every business interested in connecting with consumers and maintaining their business over time. And there are several compelling factors that help explain why customer service confers such significant advantages on those companies that deploy it successfully. 

  • Immediate problem resolution: Customer service is the frontline for addressing immediate issues and inquiries, ensuring prompt problem resolution.

  • Increased loyalty: Exceptional customer service directly contributes to customer satisfaction, fostering loyalty and repeat business.

  • Better customer retention: By providing excellent service, businesses can reduce bounce-offs and retain valuable customers.

  • Valuable customer insights: Customer service interactions provide a wealth of data about customer needs, preferences, and pain points. This information can be used to improve products, services, and the overall customer experience.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience (CX) is the sum of every interaction a customer has with a company. From discovering a brand to using its product or service, CX encapsulates the totality of a customer’s relationship with a business. 

Customer experience isn’t not just about providing customers with what they paid for, either. Rather, it’s predicated on exceeding their expectations and making them feel valued and understood throughout their journey. This level of CX performance can be achieved through both direct and indirect interactions, including, customers’ experience browsing your website, interacting with customer service reps, and using the actual product or service.

Finding the right balance between people and processes is one of the keys to a great CX. Whether it’s with a sales agent, support representative, or other staff member, customers want friendly interactions that leave them feeling good about the company and the business they’re giving them. At the same time, they crave seamless experiences throughout their journey – effective and easy solutions for everything from connecting with a service rep to using self-service portals.

Regardless of the company or industry, the consistent, overarching goal of customer experience is to create positive emotions and enduring memories throughout the customer journey, fostering brand loyalty and advocacy. 

Importance of customer experience

As surprising as it may be to hear, today’s consumer places their overall “experience” with a business on the same level as the actual offerings of that business. That is, they care about more than just the product or service being provided; they want a fulfilling journey with your brand, from initial awareness to ongoing engagement

So, why is customer experience so critical for businesses? In short, because CX is about creating a sense of loyalty among customers, resulting in lasting relationships that produce  tangible benefits. Here’s a few of the most important ones: 

  • Revenue growth: Satisfied customers are repeat customers – it’s really that simple. According to a recent report from Qualtrics, customers who received a positive experience are 2.6 times more likely to purchase from the same business again.4 A satisfying, even impressive, journey across all touchpoints keeps customers returning for more products or services, a pattern with an indisputably positive effect on your bottom line. 

  • Brand advocacy: Happy customers become brand advocates, spreading positive word-of-mouth to friends, family, and acquaintances. In fact, the same report from Qualtrics shows that customers who reported having excellent experiences are 3.6 times more likely to recommend a business to others.5 This organic promotion is a powerful marketing tool, attracting new customers in a highly convincing, authentic way without incurring significant advertising costs. (Word-of-mouth, in fact, is usually completely free!)

  • Long-term relationship building: CX is instrumental in building long-term relationships with your customers. Satisfied individuals who have strongly positive associations with your business are more likely to overlook occasional hiccups, leading to an increase in the overall CSAT rate.

  • Reduced churn rate: Investing in CX pays off by keeping your existing customers happy and regularly returning to your business’s offerings. These satisfied customers are far less likely to switch to competitors, reducing churn rates and securing a more stable customer base.

  • Brand reputation: Positive experiences enhance brand reliability and customer focus, attracting more consumers and contributing to a favorable brand reputation that consumers recognize and respect.

  • Continuous improvement through feedback: CX analyzes feedback from various customer touchpoints to understand customer preferences and pain points. This can be invaluable for refining products, services, and overall business strategies.

  • Deeper customer engagement: A good CX encourages customers to become more involved with your brand by interacting with its various channels. Cultivating a relationship across multiple mediums in this way leads to stronger connections and wider reach.

  • Increased customer lifetime value: By creating positive memories and exceeding expectations, you encourage customers to engage with your brand more often and over a longer period of time. Expanding customers’ level of engagement leads to deeper relationships and, ultimately, increased lifetime value.

  • Crisis management and damage control: In times of crisis, a well-crafted customer experience strategy can act as a crucial tool for damage control, turning periods of potential churn and abandonment into positive interactions that earn the respect of your customers.

Businesses must equip their frontline teams with the essential tools. Find out how help desk automation can help you deliver unmatched customer experiences

What is the difference between customer service and customer experience?

While sometimes used interchangeably, customer service and customer experience are distinct concepts with different roles in shaping a customer's journey. 

Before we delve deeper into the specifics and nuances  of customer service vs. customer experience, here’s a quick table highlighting a few of the key distinctions:

Customer service (CS)


Reactive: Deals with specific issues, problems, and inquiries after they arise.


Transactional: Focused on resolving individual interactions and fulfilling requests.


Channel-specific: Often associated with dedicated channels like phone calls, emails, or live chats.


Prompt resolution within each interaction, leading to customer satisfaction.


Agent-driven: Relies heavily on the efforts and skills of customer service representatives.

Customer experience (CX)


Proactive: Aims to prevent issues, understand overall needs, and anticipate wants.


Holistic: Encompasses the entire customer journey, from awareness to post-purchase engagement.


Omnichannel: Integrates seamlessly across all touchpoints, online and offline, direct and indirect.


Building lasting connections and fostering loyalty.


Systemic: Driven by processes, infrastructure, and technology designed to create a positive experience.

Now, let's break down these key distinctions between customer service vs. customer experience

Focus and scope

Customer service usually focuses on individual interactions, triggered when a customer encounters a specific issue or inquiry. It’s essentially reactive, responding promptly to address the immediate needs of the customer at hand. 

The scope of customer service, in turn, is narrowly tailored to direct interactions, dealing with the resolution of problems and inquiries on a case-by-case basis. It serves as a kind of skilled troubleshooter, stepping in when called upon.

In contrast, customer experience is proactive and holistic, aiming to shape the overall experience customers have with a brand and their consequent perception of it. This means anticipating needs, understanding overall sentiments, and fostering positive emotions from the very outset of the customer journey. CX is about crafting a satisfying journey that moves seamlessly from the initial touchpoint through every subsequent phase of the customer lifecycle. 


Customer service is generally associated with dedicated channels like phone calls, emails, and live chats. These serve as distinct points of contact when customers encounter problems or have inquiries, functioning as accessible solutions to immediate needs.

Customer experience, on the other hand, is integrated across and embedded within all touchpoints, whether consumers are online or offline. It extends beyond dedicated support channels to encompass all interactions a customer has with the brand, with the goal of creating a cohesive journey that never suffers from major interruptions or jarring shifts in tone, style, or format. 

Driving force

Customer service relies heavily on the expertise and skills of individual representatives. The ability of these frontline teams (and the availability of necessary tools) to resolve issues efficiently and empathetically is key to the success of customer service.

CX, however, is more systemic. Processes, infrastructure, and technology play a crucial role in creating a smooth and successful journey. In order to achieve truly effective CX, the entire system must work together to anticipate and fulfill customer needs.


Customer service fixes problems and answers questions. It ensures basic needs are met and issues are resolved, preventing immediate interruptions in usage and longer-term dissatisfaction.

The impact of CX is broader and more ambitious: it seeks to shape the overall narrative. By creating positive emotions, exceeding expectations, and making customers feel valued, CX aspires to build trust, loyalty, and the customer advocacy that grows out of them. Its focus is always intently fixed on forging the kinds of long-term relationships that build a trustworthy – even admired – brand within its respective marketplace. 

The relationship between customer service and customer experience

Customer service vs. customer experience: Despite the differences we’ve just outlined, there’s still a great deal of important overlap between the two. And when brought together effectively, they can create a positive and lasting relationship between your customers and your business.

While resolving individual issues may seem like its only purpose, customer service plays a crucial role in shaping the broader customer experience. Every interaction – from answering questions to fixing problems – leaves an impression on customers, influencing their overall perception of your business. If they’re satisfied with the prompt, efficient, and empathetic support you’re consistently providing, they’re more likely to remain loyal to your business and recommend it to others.

Additionally, customer service interactions serve as a valuable feedback loop for the brand. Understanding customer concerns, preferences, and pain points across various channels provides insights that can be used to enhance the overall customer experience.

In essence, by combining the reactive problem-solving of customer service with the proactive, all-encompassing approach of customer experience, businesses can develop a customer-centric strategy that fosters a loyal and lasting customer base.

Learn how Rebag unified its online and in-store shopping experiences with Intercom to optimize every stage of the customer journey.

Intercom can help you deliver exceptional customer experience

According to our Customer Service Trends Report 2024, 87% of support teams noticed an increase in customer expectations when compared with the previous year, up from 2022’s figure of 75%.6 Customers are increasingly looking for prompt responses, personalized experiences, and seamless assistance across various touchpoints. 

Is your business well-equipped to cater to these heightened demands?

If you’re not entirely confident in your answer to that question, don’t worry: Intercom has your back. With Intercomthe fully integrated, omnichannel, AI-powered customer service platform — you can deliver faster and more personalized customer experiences.

Intercom is an all-in-one customer service solution that packs powerful features, including:

  • A combination of Help Desk, AI Chatbot, and Proactive Support solutions

  • Built-in integrations for efficient service delivery

  • In-depth analytics and reporting

  • Low-code and custom integrations with 450+ apps

  • Automated workflows

  • AI-powered Help Center

  • Omnichannel support

  • Shared inbox for enhanced team collaboration and issue management

Join over 25,000 prominent businesses in delivering experiences that keep your customers engaged and coming back for more. Start your free trial or book a demo.


  1. NICE, 2022 Digital First Customer Experience Report. Based on a survey of 1,320 respondents.

  2. CGS, 2022 BPO and Customer Care Dynamics. Based on a survey of 200 business leaders and decision makers across 25 industries .

  3. Qualtrics, ROI of Customer Experience, 2022.

  4. Qualtrics, ROI of Customer Experience, 2022.

Intercom, The Intercom Customer Service Trends Report 2024. We asked 2,000+ customer service professionals across the globe how they’re meeting the challenges and opportunities of 2024.