Friday, June 24, 2011

Customer Service vs. Customer Engagement

I am always surprised by how many businesses confuse the concept of Customer Service and Customer Engagement.  When I inquire about Customer Engagement strategies, their minds subconsciously make a word swap and they begin telling me about their latest and greatest customer service initiative.  I am not sure why this happens, but when it does, I give them the following analogy to open their minds.

The difference between customer service and customer engagement is similar to the difference between being polite and being interested.   When you first meet someone, begin polite means that you say hello, shake their hand, and smile.  It is a show of respect, to treat others as you want to be treated yourself.   Being interested in the person you just met involves engaging them in conversation, listening to what they have to say, considering that information, and responding in a relevant way. 

Here is an example from a retail setting, a casual clothing store.  A family with two young children enter the store.

Salesperson:       Good afternoon.  Welcome to Casual Concepts.
Mother:               Thanks.
Salesperson:       Is there anything I can help  you find today.
Mother:               No thanks.  We're just going to browse a little.
Salesperson:       Wonderful.  If you need any assistance what-so-ever,please let me know.

In this scenario, the salesperson has been very polite, offered their assistance, and provided a pleasant experience for the customer.  Great service, but not very engaging. 

Salesperson:       Good Afternoon.  Welcome to Casual Concepts.
Mother:             Thanks.
Salesperson:       It looks like you have the whole family out today.
Mother:             Yeah.  We were out at the park all morning, and came to the mall to get out of the sun for a little while.
Salesperson:       Smart choice.  A child with a sunburn is definitely not a happy camper. 
Mother:             You're tellin' me.
Salesperson:       Have you seen this new line of clothes that blocks 99% of UV rays?  We just received new styles that offer SPF 80.  The dry-wick fabric helps keep you cool too.
Mother:             Wow, these are really nice.  Do you have these in kids sizes. 
Salesperson:       Absolutely.  They are in the children's section next door.  We have a full selection of men's wear too.

Clearly the salesperson in the second example has created a better sales opportunity than in example number one.  Both salespeople were polite, but the second person did something far more effective than providing great service.  He engaged the customer in conversation.

There it is, the magic word that differentiates Customer Engagement from Customer Service; Conversation.  To improve the effectiveness of your sales, you must focus on conversations.  It is a very simple concept, but one that so-called "customer service experts" seldom address.   Many people think that being good at conversation is a talent that you are either born with or not.  In reality, conversation is a skill that can be learned quite easily.  It takes some practice, of course, but luckily we all have plenty of opportunity for that.  Each of us has dozens of conversations every day. 

Here four great things that you can begin practicing today to improve your conversation skills.

Observe:            Get to know your customer.  When you first meet them, you know nothing, so you must pay attention to every bit of information that is offered to you.  Observe how they act, who they are with, and how they dress.  In the immortal words of Yogi Berra "You'd be surprised how much you can observe by watching."  
Interest:            Be interested, not interesting.  Your job is not to get the customer to like you, it is to get you to like the customer.  This is much easier than it sounds.  Just like them.  Be interested in what they are saying.  Be curious.
Question:          Ask questions, preferably the type that cannot be answered with simply a "yes" or "no."  Ask about the person, not the transaction.
Listen:              Pay attention to the answers that your customer gives you.  This is one of the easiest things to practice.  Start really listening to what other people say, rather than thinking so hard about what you are going to say next.   The words they offer are your road map to keep the conversation going.

For more information about how improving conversations skills can help your business increase sales, improve communication, and foster customer loyalty, please contact Dialogue Business Strategy, Inc. to schedule a free 1 hour consultation. 


  1. Nice post!
    It's good information which gives the clear idea between Customer Service vs. Customer Engagement. I like your way to present the information in sequence and in informative way. I really appreciate your work, keep it up......Customer Service Experts

  2. A very good and informative article indeed. It helps me a lot to enhance my knowledge, I really like the way the writer presented his views.
    Client engagement

  3. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this, I feel strongly that love and read more on this topic. If possible, such as gain knowledge, would you mind updating your blog with additional information? It is very useful for me. Feedback Analytics