Case Study: Customer Service vs. Customer Experience

Nov 08, 2021
Case Study: Customer Service vs. Customer Experience

This week I’ve had the absolute pleasure of enjoying the most amazing customer service and customer experience available (I may be a little biased). 


Customer service and customer experience are not the same thing.  Customer service is a subset of the customer experience.  


Customer service is reactive.  It often includes a company’s employees responding to a disconnect between the brand promise and the company’s actual delivery against that promise.  Customer service is the human face (or voice) your customers connect with your company.  Customers expect service to be professional, courteous, timely and personalized. 


Customer experience encompasses the entire customer journey.  It’s proactive.  It’s not a department – most every area of your company impacts the customer experience.  The customer experience is about preventing issues.  It involves every stage of customer interactions with your company, every touchpoint.  It’s understanding how your customers are feeling at every touchpoint from the time they become aware of your product or service.   


Having great customer service allows you to survive.  Have a great customer experience will make your company thrive!


My family just spent some time with Disney Cruise Line vacationing aboard the Disney Dream.  Although we are regular cruisers, we never take for granted how being on a Disney cruise makes us feel.  We found ourselves repeatedly saying “they could have just (insert boring service here), but instead they (insert next level service here)”. 


By sharing some details of my vacation, I will use a case study approach to illustrate the difference between customer (Guest) service and the customer (Guest) journey. 


My family was supposed to leave on a 7-night Disney cruise aboard the Disney Fantasy on March 14, 2020.  Then … COVID.  We had 36 hours of notice that our Spring Break vacation had been cancelled.  We were disappointed, but not totally surprised.  Ever since March 2020 we’ve been thinking of our next cruise.  Once Disney started sailing again, I was not completely comfortable cruising.  I was hesitant to cruise in a post-COVID world.  I had every bit of faith (trust and pixie dust) that a Disney cruise would be completely safe.  What I wasn’t excited about was the thought of there being with a veil of COVID protocol lingering over my vacation.  After some contemplation we decided to take the plunge.  While things were a little different this cruise … Spoiler alert … it’s been as magical as always – maybe even more magical! 


A few illustrations of customer service vs. customer experience:


  • Online Check-in: after booking a cruise you are required to complete an on-line check-in starting at 30 days before you sail.  This process was different than pre-COVID.  You now have to submit a selfie and an image of your passport.  Simple, quick, efficient.  Streamlined the process once you arrive at the terminal.  This was a great step in the customer experience.


  • Vaccination verification: this was a new process.  Starting 15 days before you sail you are required to submit proof of vaccination on the Safe Passage website.  Again – simple, quick, efficient.  Another positive in the customer experience. 


  • Welcome aboard: as you board the ship there is a crew member asking for your family name. You then hear, throughout the atrium “the Disney Dream would like to welcome aboard the Havey Family”. The crew claps and waves at you.  Of course, you wave back.  How fun - what a way to start your vacation!  A memorable moment in the overall customer experience. 


  • Future Cruise Credit: since we had a cruise previously canceled due to COVID, we had a future cruise credit.  We had some confusion about how the credit worked, what we could use it on, etc.  I called the 800 number to ask a question and the agent couldn’t immediately answer my question, so he connected me with a lead.  Both the agent and lead were pleasant and professional.  The lead was also able to answer my question at that time.  He committed to calling me back within 24 hours.  It was actually less than 2 hours.  Under promise, over deliver.  He resolved my concern; it was going to be a work around and he offered to personally track my concern. This customer service interaction was handled exceptionally well.    


  • Laundry Services: every time we cruise, we get a few items pressed on embarkation day.  No sense pressing them before you leave home and then have your clothes get wrinkled when packed.  As per usual we filled out a laundry services form getting a few things dry cleaned and a few things pressed.  They contacted us to say they did not have a way to press our items, but they could dry clean everything.  Due to inconvenience (I did not feel inconvenienced) they did not charge us for the items we wanted pressed.  This was above and beyond customer service. 


  • Breakfast art work: One morning for breakfast my mother ordered a plate of fruit. A simple plate of fruit.  It was delivered she said “I was just expecting a bowl of fruit”.  Instead, it was a beautifully plated work of fruit art.  Totally unexpected, totally unnecessary – but totally recognized and appreciated.  A really cool part of the customer experience. 


  • Gift from Guest Services: every vacation has a hiccup here or there. Nothing that necessarily negatively impacts the experience.  As a huge Disney cruise line fan, I bring these things to their attention so that a future Guest isn’t inconvenienced.  We had a few of these during our visit.  We mentioned these things as an FYI to our stateroom host.  None of this items impacted our vacation.  Nevertheless, we came back to our room after dinner to a note of apology from Guest Services along with a gift back that included a bag of popcorn and two Mickey rice crispy treats.  This was a very generous customer service 


Nobody provides customer service at the level that Disney does.  Nobody offers the customer experience that Disney offers.  My time leading a customer service organization at Disney taught me so much.  It was an honor to interact with Guests (not transact).  It was rewarding to work with thousands of Guests each year “one Guest at a time”.  It was my pleasure to recover Guests and turn around a disappointing situation.  Something along their customer experience went wrong, and my team was responsible for providing professional, courteous, prompt Guest service that restored their faith in the Disney brand. 


If great customer service is missing from your customer experience, I’d love to bring my expertise to support your organization.  If you are looking for someone with deep experience fixing, building and growing a customer service organization – let’s jump on a complimentary call to see if there is an opportunity for us to work together.  If you need help guiding your team on how to provide world class recovery to you customers – let’s get together and see how we can make that happen! 


About Me:  I'm Heather Havey and being an integrator is in my DNA.  My consulting business helps visionary leaders bring their big ideas to implemented reality.   I’m passionate about efficiency and business transformation, and I will empower you to accelerate the achievement of your big goals.   I offer customized, no-nonsense, real-world solutions designed to position you as the hero in the reinvention of your business.     

Check out options for how we may be able to work together at .   

And if you think you could benefit from having an expert partner with real-world, action-oriented change solutions that will absolutely work, let’s chat.  In your free strategy session, we’ll get those ideas out of the clouds and onto the road to results.  Schedule a complimentary strategy session to talk about bringing your vision to life. 


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