Customer Experience VS. Customer Service

Over the years I have been asked to make presentations on "something new and different about customer service."  Now that's a challenge!

“Customer service” hasn't changed in a very long time. It's simple to do; be nice to people, solve their problems, be respectful, give them more than they anticipated and have a positive, cheerful, knowledgeable attitude.  But everyone in your customer service department already so what's the big deal?

The “big deal” is that something HAS changed- the customer.  

In many industries the customer has taken the mantle of power in our relationships.  They feel they have more rights, higher (if not unreasonable) expectations, and they are willing to accept little or no risk in the relationship. And, we as sales and marketing people- fearful that we won't make the sale and therefore miss our numbers, bend over backwards to give away the farm to meet their demands.  

There was an old saying when I started in business "the customer is always right."  Let me tell you, that cannot be further from the truth.  Sometimes the customers are just idiots, rude and clueless.  My new mantra is "the customer is always the customer, but they are not always right."  I'll still give them the respect and politeness, but not always do they know what they are talking about. In those cases, it is essential to stay firm to your policies and procedures. Otherwise, we inadvertently train our customers to treat us badly and take advantage of us.

Designing and implementing a customer experience begins with the understanding that this is no longer a customer service issue.  It’s a marketing issue. Get marketing, sales and operations teams together and look at data that you have collected from voice of the customer surveys, formal and informal feedback, surveys, etc.  Data will drive the experience you want provide to your customers. Second, know your product inside and out. By "out" I mean "outside" of your four walls.  How is it perceived? What does it do well?  What do people like about it? Why are they buying it? What is being returned?  Why? What complaints are being handled the most?  How can that be prevented? How can you teach your CS team to anticipate issues while on the phone?  

Use social media data to understand the conversation around your product. Get involved in the conversation and take the opportunity to educate, clarify and do good. Use data to become intimate with your customer and create an experience for them that is better than expected, easier than they ever imagined and more informed and efficient than ever dreamt.  Anticipate and create, don’t wait and react.

The customer is always the customer. But the customer is not always right.
— Michael Karlsrud

Executive Coach Mike Karlsrud


Michael Karlsrud is an entrepreneur, keynote speaker, author, professor. With over 30 years of sales, leadership and coaching experience, Michael brings unique perspectives to the personal and professional lives of those he coaches, inspires and mentors.