It’d be a little melodramatic (not beyond me, mind you) to call it the bane of my existence, but yes it’s a bit of a task that complicates my days:  Explaining, when I say I’m “in CX” or that I “do CX” that, no, I’m not a ‘contact center guy.’  I don’t do Customer Support or Service.  I’m not in “Customer Care” or whatnot.  There’s always a bit of a word-shuffle differentiating that, well, yes, all those things are part of a Customer’s Experience, and yes, they do play a huge—and important—part within CX.  Often in fact, when I work with my clients on their CX, we spend time discussing their contact centers, their Customer Support and Service and Success teams and systems.  To that end, I often say that these teams have the best insight into what your Customers are experiencing (by way of the contacts they receive from your Customers), which is the first step in addressing your Brand Alignment gaps.  But these functions are not CX, per se, if we’re talking about a CX function or department.

This kind of came up when I wrote an article a while back that seemed to ruffle some feathers.  The point, generally, of that article was that needing more support resources (by way of, for example, adding headcount to your contact center) may be a sign that something’s wrong with your systems and processes (i.e., a failure of CX).

Wow, did that strike some people!  I got some positive feedback, but many contact center folks took exception to my premise:  That adding headcount to your Customer Care teams is a sign that things are going wrong.  To be sure (and I made this point in the article, lost to some), some scaling will likely be necessary as you gain new Customers.  But the point is that it needn’t be a linear relationship, and that if your processes are tight and effective, you may not even need any new folks, even with more Customers, because you’re giving them fewer reasons to have to call by way of making your systems more Customer-friendly.

I won’t impugn my detractors by suggesting that they’re simply trying to protect their turf.  I find that, most Customer Support, Service, Care and Success leaders and teams aren’t hoping for things to go wrong for their Customers just so they can keep their jobs.  And yes, in the end, there’ll never be zero need for these front-line operations.  Not only can you never completely eliminate the need for your Customers to reach out, but you wouldn’t want to.  After all, each contact with your brand is an opportunity to advance the Brand Promise.  Sometimes that diving catch or recovery experience makes a Customer even happier, ironically, than he or she may have otherwise been if there’d been no issue in the first place.  We’ve all experienced the interaction with an agent that made us even more likely to stick with a brand, even if its genesis was a problem with the product or service.  That’s why they call it “recovery” anyway.

With all those caveats established, though, this does help differentiate between “CS” (into which I place Customer Support, Service, Success, and Care…the Contact Center; all of that) and “CX” as functions.  Again, they’ll never go away, but Customer Experience’s role as an operation is, in essence (and in part) to eliminate the need for your Customers to need any of these other functions.*  As you define these “CS” functions as places where your Customers go if they have problems, questions, need clarification, have a complaint, or otherwise can’t navigate your world on their own, every contact with this organization is an opportunity to gain insight as to how you can ultimately update, upgrade, improve, or redesign how you do business and operate.  Unless your Customers are contacting CS to say hi, offer compliments, chat about the weather, or just because they like the sound of your voice, there’s probably something that you should check into improving each time one of them calls you.  (Or emails, or DMs, or hits you up on Twitter, etc.)

Sure, there are exceptions (check out the footnote below).  And, no, this isn’t simply about automating everything your current Contact Center does.  But speaking of automation, here’s a good example:  Everybody would probably recognize (although I can think of one car rental company who, inexplicably refuses to enter the 21st Century when it comes to this) that, if your Customer has to actually call your Contact Center in order to update a password to log in, you’re missing the boat on automation big-time, right?  Password reset is something that’s been self-help for a long time.

But think about any other sorts of issues one may have:  Do you have FAQs that are actually helpful to guide your Customers?  (Hint:  You may think you do, but you probably don’t.)  For that matter—and here’s my real point—consider all the reasons a Customer may need FAQs (and by extension, a CS function to help them).  Why not just address those concerns… I don’t mean help your Customers through those issues:  I mean eliminate those issues fundamentally from your system in the first place.

See, the CS functions, as described above, are there to help your Customers through your systems.  CX, on the other hand, is there to create systems that don’t need help navigating.  That’s the difference.


*Depending on how it’s defined, Customer Service, on the other hand, may be the exception.  If yours is a no-kidding service organization, and your offering is literally a service, well, Customer Service is basically your Operations Department.  You’ll need scheduling, a fleet of technicians, hands-on experts who deliver the service you sell, and so on.  Naturally these folks aren’t who I’m talking about.  That said, even if you’re a service organization, if you also have a Customer Success team whose job is to shepherd your Clients and Customers through your byzantine labyrinth of processes and systems for doing things like onboarding and scheduling and needs-assessments and follow-up, well, that’s an issue.