User Experience (UX) vs. Customer Experience (CX)


Customer Experience and User Experience: what’s the difference?

It’s a question I get a lot.  UX is quite a prominent topic in the web and mobile design and development world these days, but increasingly, so is CX.

The two seem, at a minimum, very much related, if not interchangeable.  So what is the difference?  When I talk about the experience your customers have with your company online,  is it a customer experience or a user experience?

The short answer is:  Both.

Unfortunately, when CEOs try to pay attention to both, sometimes they ending up doing a disservice to the user.  Making the mistake of combining a user experience and a customer experience has ramifications that may result in poor experiences on both sides.

User Experience (UX)

The user experience is service- or product-specific. The user gains this experience when he or she interacts with the service or product.  User Experience takes into account navigation, information architecture and completing functional tasks. Business owners measure the outcome of the user experience to estimate the level of their profitability.  To measure usability and UX, CEOs typically look at abandon rate, number to clicks to complete a task,  length of time spent on a page, error rate, and conversion rate.

Customer Experience (CX)

Customer experience, on the other hand, entails the entire lifecycle of a customer interacting with a company.  It encompasses all channels:  messaging, online (website or mobile) interactions, social media, interacting with the physical products themselves, and with customer service communications. It also embodies user experiences (since a customer is a user type), using this particular website or mobile application of the brand or a company.  Customer satisfaction and CX is typically measured while analyzing satisfaction reports, surveys (how likely they are to remain a customer or recommend the company to someone else), and recommendations made to friends and family.

An example is when a customer searches for a product.  The search engine returns a link a company that has that product.  The customer clicks a button that takes him to a page so he can purchase that product.  The entire process takes 1 minute.  This is an example of great UX.  The product is easily found and the customer’s goal is accomplished.    But what if that same customer did not receive his product within the promised 3 days?  What if he calls the company to inquire and is put on hold for 5 minutes after navigating through a frustrating menu tree?   And what if, once he finally reaches a customer service rep, learns that the product is actually back-ordered and will not be shipped for another two weeks?   This is an example of a negative CX.

In essence, we can say that UX user experience is a subset of CX (customer experience).  It is vital for business owners to remain alert to both these experiences when they design services and products.

The Bottom Line

Developing and designing a first-rate user experience is starting from the bottom line. Business owners want to earn money from a user or a customer.  What many CEOs may notice is the profit model that does not necessarily mesh with usability – after all, a customer’s goal is not to earn money for the company, rather to accomplish his/her own goals.   However, a positive customer experience — translating into increased customer loyalty, therefore increased profits –works if you KNOW YOUR USER (for they are not you) and pay attention to the user experience.  Any element relevant to customer experience can break, repair, or even MAKE the relationship between your customers and your business.


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