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Customer Service or Customer Experience - why does it matter?

I was chatting with an executive at a major sport who had just been appointed as 'Head of Customer Experiences' (NOT 'Customer Service'), and they were looking to explain what the difference was between customer service and customer experiences to their team.


Which was a good question I think, well worth answering.


'Customer Service'


Every Friday without fail you’ll find me at our local fish and chip shop. I’ve been going there for about 15 years. Pretty much the same time, same order. There’s been the same guy working there for most of that time, and every week, and without fail, he fails to recognise me.


“What's your order?”
“What’s your name?”

Every week.


The fact that he doesn’t recognise me (and doesn’t care) started to annoy and then amuse me, the impersonal, grumpy demeanour, and along with a huge variation in the state of our fish and chips, it’s fair to say he would score about zero on any customer service rating!


The thing is, despite this, I keep going back.


Customer Service in Sport


That’s somewhat interesting (you may say), but how does it apply to sport?


Well, I also play indoor soccer each week, a group of us have been doing so for about five years.


I’m not sure you can even rate their customer service because there isn’t really any. It is fair to say they do provide the essential service of organising our games, turning the lights on and making sure the referee (normally) shows up. But they have never sent us any comms, apart from the invoice, no 'thanks', 'well done' or 'please come back', there is no social media, and apart from me receiving the occasional text messages as the captain, the rest of our team have had no contact with the organisation.


But we keep turning up week after week season after season.


Isn't it all about the customer service??

So you may be thinking doesn’t this conflict with all my propaganda about customer experiences being so important and valuable to get people to sign up and keep showing up for something??


A little bit ironic perhaps?


Well, I did think that myself… and then I got to thinking about what it is that we do value, and it is not 'the service'.


It is the whole experience that wins us over.


What I didn’t mention is that when I get my fish and chips I pop into the local pub for a quick beer while I’m waiting, I take the food home and enjoy a Friday recap with my family. It's the ritual of looking forward to a Friday treat, getting it and bringing it home it’s all part of the experience that I enjoy and value.


It’s the same with the indoor soccer, it’s the playing of the game, the bonds were teammates, the banter between matches, and the stories that emerge, the on-field challenges and off-field social activities are all part of the broader experiences that we all value.


It’s so much more than the ‘customer service’.



There are products, services and experiences.


One thing I like to ask the people I’m working with is to consider what businesses we are really in.


I’m a big believer that in sport we are in the business of providing experiences, and while we can try and get a bit clever with some of the questions we ask each other, I think it’s an important distinction to recognise.


Products are things we give to people to buy, services of things we do for them, but experiences are the things we provide, and, are created by the people consuming them.




This is something I had the pleasure of speaking about with the team at a recent

Super Rugby Pacific conference.



What business are we really in?

A quirk of human nature works so well for us in promoting sport.


It is the fact that people value things more when they invest themselves into something.


And this is what we do in sport.

We are not simply giving them a product to consume, or serving them, we’re doing that and more.

We are asking and allowing them to create an experience.

If we can recognise that, and harness it, we are in a much bigger and better business than a ‘customer service’. And by promoting and providing ‘experiences’ we will get our share of their time, money and energy.

Why is this important for you?

It might be worth thinking about the whole experience you provide, to fully understand what your people value.


If you can see what is important, you can invest your time and money into the things that really matter.

You may have that covered, but if you need some help auditing your experiences to discover where the real value is, and then designing or redesigning what they can become, please do let us know.


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