Customer Experience vs. Customer Engagement: Here are the Vital Differences

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Customer experience (CX) and customer engagement may seem like different names for the same concept, but they aren’t. While companies sometimes use the terms interchangeably - and, even more generically, under the header of “customer service” - they are separate, nuanced notions. Both play crucial roles in leading to sales success and, to get the greatest return out of each, it’s important to make a distinction between the two.

What is customer engagement?

Customer engagement describes the interactions customers have with a brand through different channels—comments on the brand’s Facebook page, logging into an app, an exchange with a customer service associate—and many more interactions.

Engaged customers buy more, are more likely to make repeat purchases, and generate referral business. Strong customer engagement can improve brand experience, increase customer trust and loyalty, offer valuable insights, and increase sales volume. Brands need customer engagement in order to stand out from their competition and thrive; that’s never been more true than in today’s increasingly crowded and competitive marketplace.

What is customer experience?

Customer experience, as defined by CX expert Don Peppers, is the “totality of a customer’s individual interactions with a brand, over time.” It’s the sum of the interactions customers have with a brand, no matter how small. CX may even refer to a customer’s perception of a brand, which means a customer can have an experience with a brand before ever engaging with it.

CX encompasses multiple parts: various points of interaction that, together, influence customer engagement. You can’t have strong engagement without offering positive CX to get you there. Likewise, even the greatest CX means little if it’s not resulting in engagement.

How to master customer engagement + CX

The most successful brands are those that master both CX and engagement to keep bringing customers back for more. Retail giant Amazon, for instance, has mastered these techniques. Sure, Amazon stocks a huge array of products at prices that often beat its competitors. But beyond that, the company offers shoppers an effortless CX. Customers, in turn, are extremely loyal to the brand.

Nearly every interaction with the company - purchasing, arranging for shipping, returning or exchanging items, and offering feedback - can be easily done with the tap of a few buttons. Processes are intuitive, so even those who don’t consider themselves tech savvy feel comfortable completing transactions; and customer service representatives are quickly reachable, through a variety of channels, when help is needed. Amazon Prime makes the entire process even easier with fast, free shipping.

Because of all these customer experience efforts, Amazon customers are highly engaged. For many, Amazon is their first stop when they are looking to make purchases. Even if an item costs less elsewhere, many customers are drawn to Amazon because of the ease and familiarity of the process.

In addition to their loyalty, thousands of customers also frequently provide feedback in the form of product reviews - further creating a sense of community and engagement, among Amazon shoppers.

When done well, CX leads to stronger customer engagement which, in turn, leads to a better bottom line. With so many moving parts of the sales process, it may be tempting to lump customer experience and customer engagement together, but doing so is a disservice to brands.

Instead, hone in on the nuanced differences that influence CX and engagement. They are separate, equally important, parts of the process. Acknowledging and appreciating the difference between the two will help create positive, meaningful experiences that will lead to more engaged customers.

Learn more

Here are additional resources on customer trends, as well as how to optimize customer engagement and customer experiences.

Blast Off to the Future of Customer Engagement – Learn about the customer engagement trends that will guide the future of your contact centers, business operations, and the overall customer experience.

Customer Experience Trends for 2021 – Read this strategy guide for the CX trends that are reshaping the customer service landscape, strategies for humanizing the digital employee and customer experience, predictions on what will differentiate leading CX companies, key tips for better serving customers and more.

The Technology Behind Customer Engagement – When it comes to customer engagement, there is no technology panacea to ensure loyal customers and increased customer retention. Innovation is continuously impacting this landscape. Read this article for best practices on how to make smart technology decisions and investments to drive innovative customer engagement.

Customer Experience Journey Mapping – With customer experience as a key differentiator for brands, customer journey mapping has become a vital component. Learn how TTEC’s customer experience journey mapping solutions take a deep dive across all customer touchpoints, giving insights into customer emotions, behaviors and key moments of truth.