The Best Customer Service Speakers Don’t Focus On Customer Service

They actually talk more about customer experience — and here’s why that matters.


[Editor’s note:  This post was last updated on May 12, 2023.]

Customer service speakers are always in high demand, as companies look to outside experts to help educate and motivate their staff.  As a result, the business world is flooded with customer service gurus who market themselves as customer service speakers.

What’s fascinating, however, is that the best customer service speakers don’t really talk about customer service.  What they really focus on is customer experience.

“What’s the difference?” you might ask.  Quite a lot, actually.

You can watch this video clip — Why “Customer Experience” Is Bigger Than “Customer Service” — from one of my own speeches for a more complete (and amusing) explanation, but it really comes down to this:  If you’re trying to turn your customers into raving fans, good customer service alone won’t get you there.  Here’s why:

  • Customer service is but one component of the customer experience.  Customer service relates to one very narrow part of the entire customer lifecycle.  However, customers’ perceptions about your company will be shaped by interactions and details that don’t fall under the traditional definition of “customer service” (things like the purchase process, digital touchpoints and written communications).  So, while educating your staff about customer service is valuable, it doesn’t provide them with the larger context needed to create a truly distinctive impression on the people they serve.
  • Customer service is reactive, not proactive.  Customer service is reactive; it’s something that a company does only when a customer comes forward needing something.  What great companies (and great customer service speakers) recognize is that it’s equally important to consider how you engage your customer even when they haven’t requested your attention.  Indeed, this proactive engagement between company and customer can often make the difference between a good experience and a great one.
  • The best customer service is the kind you never need.  Offering great customer service doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re providing a great customer experience.  In many businesses, the best experiences are the ones that don’t require a lot of customer service (because stuff just works exactly how it’s supposed to).  Achieving that outcome, however, requires looking more broadly at the entire end-to-end customer experience – focusing, for example, on upstream (pre-service) improvements that actually minimize the need for customer service.
  • Service is less important than how people remember it.  If you want to create competitive advantage through customer service, what’s critical isn’t just the service you provide, it’s how people remember it.  The way our brains are wired, most of the service interactions you have with your customers are forgettable.  Great companies recognize this and they use cognitive science to engineer experiences – and memories – that turn customers into loyal brand advocates.  Those memory-shaping techniques, while not typically addressed by customer service speakers, are an instrumental part of the customer experience discipline.

Conventional wisdom says “give your customer what they want” — if an organization asks for a customer service speaker, then give them a customer service speaker.  But this is one of those areas where many organizations think they know what they want, but they don’t really know what they need.

So, if you’re tasked with selecting a customer service speaker for your next company event or executive meeting, pause for a moment and ask yourself:  Is your organization’s ultimate objective to deliver good customer service, or is it to create a great experience — one that customers will remember and rave about?

Let your answer to that question guide your search for a speaker.


Jon Picoult is founder of Watermark Consulting, a customer experience advisory firm that helps companies impress customers and inspire employees, creating raving fans that drive business growth.  Author of “FROM IMPRESSED TO OBSESSED: 12 Principles for Turning Customers and Employees into Lifelong Fans,” Picoult is an acclaimed public speaker, as well as an advisor to some of world’s foremost brands.  Follow Jon on Twitter or Instagram, or subscribe to his monthly eNewsletter.


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