The rise of customer-centricity has led to the emergence of several novel concepts in the field of marketing. Interestingly, the hottest ones seem to have the word “experience” in them, with user experience and customer experience being the most familiar examples. In the era when customers often engage with the service through a website or an app, the line between UX and CX is understandably blurry. However, while certainly related and mutually dependent, they still require somewhat different approaches and sets of tools.
User experience, or UX for short, is an umbrella term for the interactions between a user and a piece of software as well as emotions and attitudes created in the process. While it was conceived during the early days of human-computer interaction, it didn’t gain traction until the modern era of enterprise app development. Its main focus is on usability, so the domain of UX encompasses several aspects of development:
Basically, anything that impacts your impressions from using the service will fall under this category. This might be some technical stuff, like how well the app is localized, to little things like how smooth the menu scrolling feels. In other words, the goal of UX is to make the interaction with the app as intuitive and enjoyable as possible.
Customer experience, also known as CX (no surprise there), refers to an even broader range of concepts – essentially everything that forms customers’ attitudes to a brand. The field is a convergence of the disciplines of marketing, psychology, and consumer behavior that crystallized as the marketing perspective has shifted towards customer-centricity. To add some focus, CX is usually broken down into distinct areas:
Obviously, with the popularization of digital technologies, many aspects of customer experience have overlapped with UX. Most notably, the digital environment has become a major part of many business operations, so, for instance, productive use of your company’s project management tool qualifies both as UX and CX. This brings up another important point: the term “customers” is not limited only to the company’s target audience – its employees’ perceptions may also fall into this category.
To sum up, the goal here is to reach a positive outcome for the business in general.
As already mentioned, there is a lot of overlap between user and customer experience. First, both concepts are based on the perception rather than the actual properties of interaction. For example, no matter how fast the app can load data, what matters, in the end, is how fast the process looks. So, instead of pushing the limits of software performance, developers add slick animations and neat sound effects to create a perception of speed.
In the same way, customer experience goes beyond the actual quality of service. It is not uncommon for companies to stay ahead of the competition by capitalizing on experience. Perhaps the most common example is Apple. Despite selling phones that are in many ways inferior to less expensive Android-based devices, it retains a host of devoted users based on the perceived value of the product. Incidentally, iPhones also feel snappier, no matter how many performance benchmarks say otherwise. In this sense, Apple utilizes both CX and UX to stay a leader in the market.
UX and CX also have a mutually reinforcing quality, where one can be used to boost the other. For instance, adding the iBeacon functionality to the app will improve the functionality of location-based service and, as long as this interaction is beneficial to the consumer, will create additional interaction touchpoints to improve the impression from engaging with the service.
Despite overlaps, there are a number of differences between the two. First, the focus of UX is ultimately on usability. So, despite a fair amount of psychological tricks, it still includes a lot of technical stuff. It also has a narrower focus compared to CX which revolves around specific actions and performance indicators.
Partially because of this, customer experience is also more strategic in its scope. Instead of polishing what is essentially a single touchpoint, it aims to create an overall improvement in brand perception and customer loyalty. Because of this, CX data is gathered from large groups of people and, preferably, over large timespans. UX, on the other hand, focuses on small groups and in-depth insights.
UX and CX are two disciplines that stem from the same origins and serve largely the same purpose. However, user experience focuses on the interaction with the digital product whereas customer experience aims for a broader goal of brand image. So while the terms are not to be used interchangeably, they are by no means mutually exclusive. In fact, UX is an integral part of customer experience, especially for digital-first services, and should be aligned with the company’s vision and values.