Service with a smile used to be literal. A server smiling while delivering your restaurant entree. A cashier smiling while tabulating your retail bill.

Today’s service smile might be conveyed as an emoji in a survey. An online chat. Or a private Twitter message.

The smile now represents your customers’ perceptions of their service and support interactions with your company. Delivered in person, on the phone and online. From their point of view. Based on their pre-existing expectations.

We’ve come to expect personalized service with a smile as consumers. Which now includes knowledge of who we are, what we’ve purchased, our preferences and our transaction history.

The challenge is how do we deliver that same level of personalized service as business leaders? Customer Experience professionals. Service executives. And how do we sell technology solutions to today’s service and experience leaders?

According to Gartner, 89% of companies expect to compete on the basis of customer experience in 2016.

Companies, therefore, define customer experience as a top priority. And as a competitive differentiator.

Whether you’re responsible for delivering a personalized customer experience or selling to someone who does, here are four key trade-off decisions service and experience leaders now face:

  • Company success metrics vs. Customer success metrics. Companies often measure support experiences based on first call resolution. Number of escalations. Cost per call. Cost per customer. Meanwhile, your customers define success in terms of time and effort invested. These success metrics are often at odds. Because being available to your customers anytime, anywhere may negatively impact cost. But improve perception, loyalty, and future purchase behaviors.
  • Traditional vs. Social Engagement. Phone calls, live agent chats, online communities, and email interactions are now the norm for many companies. What about your customers’ desire to engage via Facebook, Twitter, and other social platforms? For businesses, this requires different skills and talent. A different cost model. A substantial learning curve. New metrics. And new concerns about privacy and security. In addition to the technology challenges of integrating social engagement platforms with more traditional customer relationship management technology platforms (also known as Omni Channel capabilities).
  • Build vs. Buy. Considerations include time to deployment. Costs and skills required for ongoing maintenance and support. The ability to integrate with existing solutions and platforms. How to build future capabilities.
  • Standardization vs. Customization. Purchasing and implementing an “off the shelf” solution enables you to take advantage of feature updates and new capabilities as they launch. Customization enables integration with existing solutions and platforms. As well as the ability to brand the experience end to end. And deliver a more consistent user experience end-to-end.

As you choose, deliver, enable, or sell service and support solutions, take these four key success factors into account. There’s no right answer. Only what’s right for your customers. And for your business goals.

This post was originally published on

About the Author

Karen Mangia (@karenmangia) believes that exceeding customer expectations starts with understanding why your customers are doing business with you. She leads a global team focused on effective customer, partner, and sales engagements, analysis and implementation of new ideas. She also has a passion for building and connecting people, teams and communities around the world.