The difference between UX and CX

By: Alysia Hill
Date: November, 2013
File under: Articles

What is the difference between the User Experience (UX) and Customer Experience (CX)? Although both have evolved to become two recognised disciplines, they share the same goal: creating a better user/customer experience.

For this reason, UX and CX share a lot of similarities. It is not uncommon for a UX professional to carry out the work of a CX professional, as these titles are a lot younger than the professionals carrying out the work.

Customer Experience is a term to describe the experience a customer has across all touch-points of your brand (internet, phone, store etc), whether that be online or offline. The goal of CX is to find any problem areas or gaps that have not been addressed or overlooked by the business that could potentially create a less than satisfactory customer experience.

The following is a personal anecdote of a customer experience of mine. Using this example, I will illustrate how, although similar, UX and CX differ slightly.

An inconsistent customer experience

I was a Three customer when it was acquired by Vodafone and therefore I became a Vodafone customer. When I received a phone call from Vodafone I was offered a deal on an iPad which would cost me $15 per month. I accepted the offer. When I started receiving bills at $25 per month I wanted to understand why, so I walked into a bricks-and-mortar store at Vodafone to find out. At the store, the staff could call up my details on their system (as it could recognise Three customer information), but they did not have any record of the offer that I had been given over the phone by Three. Even though it was ‘Vodafone’ that called me, I was still regarded as a ‘Three’ customer internally and in their system. At Vodafone, the staff at the store explained that any offer over the phone had to be followed up over the phone.

Customers should have the freedom to engage with any brand via any channel – whether that be in the store, phone, online – and receive a consistent experience. The channels should also interact with each other. For example, as a customer I expect that any transaction with phone support is recognised by the bricks-and-mortar stores.

How does a customer experience consultant step in?

A customer experience consultant works alongside your business to prepare a strategy that aligns business decisions with real customer experiences.  A very popular CX deliverable at the moment is the creation of ‘journey maps’. They are also known as ‘customer experience maps’. These maps analyse:

  • The customer journey
  • What the customer is feeling at each touchpoint
  • What motivates them to get from one touchpoint to the next, and
  • Their logic and rational for doing so.In reference to my anecdote above, my touchpoints (denoted in bold) were:
  • Receiving a phone call from Vodafone and agreeing to the $15 per month deal on an iPad
  • Receiving the iPad from Vodafone by post
  • Receiving the first Vodafone bill by email and seeing the unexpected $25 per month bill
  • Looking for information on the Vodafone website
  • Talking to the staff at the Vodafone store and receiving Vodafone brochurescontaining the phone support numbers
  • Calling Three phone support

These maps aim to plot out such a journey so that stakeholders can gain a bird’s-eye-view of interactions a customer may have with their brand, service, products and staff members. It’s a great way to pinpoint any gaps or problems for the customer, and address how they issues might be resolved within the boundaries of business budgets, goals and objectives.

An area of improvement could have been a confirmation email sent as a result of the conversation I had over the phone, and details of the offer that I had accepted. That could have been used as a reference to clear up any misunderstandings.

So how does Customer Experience relate to User Experience?

User Experience is used mostly when referring to the experience a user has with a digital product – whether that be a desktop or mobile website, app, kiosk or any other kind of digital interface. However it is not always limited to a digital product. We have tested paper forms and marketing collateral for example. UX is concerned with the research, design and development associated with making (usually) a digital product easier and more enjoyable to use.

Taking a look at my example above, UX would be more concerned with ensuring that the Vodafone website provided the information that users/customers need to complete their task. UX would analyse:

  • Who the users are (people like me)
  • What they need (transparency with the service I can expect as a recently acquired Three customer), and
  • If their needs are met (information to facilitate my transition over to Vodafone).

Reviewing UX in this way influences customer/user satisfaction, usability, desirability, conversion rates, performance, design, and anything else that shapes a customer’s/user’s experience.

A client’s needs determine whether we wear the CX or UX hat or both!

While a UX consultant is primarily commissioned to focus on improving a digital product, to do this effectively we need to understand the customer journey also. This is why CX and UX overlap in many ways; the customer journey gives us the context with which to understand how and why a user or customer interacts with the digital product.

Some projects require much further research and investigation into the overall customer experience than others to achieve the most accurate insight – it all depends on the client’s needs. Some projects are more UX focused and others are more CX focussed. They share similar research methodologies and similar deliverables.

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