The difference between User Experience and Customer Experience

The Customer Experience (CX) is the preoccupation for most customer facing organisations. In an age where customer service is the definitive part of many retail offerings, CX is a key ingredient in retaining and growing the customer base. Because digital channels have become more and more important to many businesses, with their sales and services often of available online (for example banks, telecommunications companies, utilities etc.) it’s vital that the CX strategy recognises and caters for this too.

Unfortunately some enterprises still base their CX programmes around more traditional touchpoints such as the contact centre and stores. This may partially be due to a belief that this is what customers still predominantly want to use, but I suspect it is also sometimes because digital touchpoints such as website and apps can appear to be more of a challenge to manage from a CX point of view. Although it’s true that they can be more complex in their operations (offering different services through the same touchpoint – such as sales, product content, support etc.), this actually makes it even more vital to manage the CX element.

Even if an organisation embraces the need for a good CX programme for its digital touchpoints, there can still be a lack of understanding. Interestingly, in my experience CX is often confused with the user experience (UX). I often come across app and web builders or agencies that claim to offer CX features, when actually I would say many of these are really more accurately described as enhancements to the UX. I think it’s worth distinguishing the differences to ensure that true CX is achieved and provides a benefit to your organisation as much as it aids visitors to your online portals.

The distinction between UX and CX

To fully understand the distinction it is worth looking at both the UX and CX in more detail. In broad terms the UX focusses on the ease of use. This could be an app, a commercial website or other digital channels. At a basic level this would even include a more traditional printed form or other literature. Generally efforts to improve the UX focus on research, design and development of these visitor interactions and look to enhance the ease by which they are used.

In contrast, the CX is far more concerned with the wider multichannel experiences of the customer as part of the overall business strategy. At its core, CX looks to facilitate a consistent customer experience across all the key parts of the interaction with an organisation – be that online or even for more traditional scenarios such as a telephone, over a shop counter or at a branch manager’s desk. The customer should feel empowered by this consistency, but equally it gives your organisation greater scope to engage with and retain these essential business links.

This is not to say that CX is unrelated to the UX – on the contrary, they are closely related. But CX is far more complex and should be ingrained in the brand values of a company to ensure the moments of interaction are properly aligned. It also looks at the whole journey of the customer to reach their goal.

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A UX will make it easy for the customer to move through a process, whereas true CX will ensure it’s easy for the individual to engage with your propositions, removing any stumbling blocks and guiding them towards making a purchase, which is mutually beneficial to both parties. It will also look at the customer journeys, mapping where these are directed and if need be corrected where it is indicated that they are ineffective or erroneous.

A succesful CX strategy

Customer journey mapping is an important part of a wider CX strategy. A more simple UX strategy is unlikely to offer this much insight into interactions, but naturally it’s vital if you want your channels to encourage visitors to become customers. Customer journey mapping gives the organisation a way of looking at these processes and scores their effectiveness. Then, if required, it can be used to tailor these journey processes to actively address the sales objectives as well as assisting the customer. Take the obvious example of a retail ordering website – an organisation will want this to run smoothly, but will want to score especially well on key areas such as finding products or offers and ensuring the order process is simple or that customers can easily find answers to their questions.

Ironically it’s actually very useful to initially approach a digital CX strategy from a UX point of view. Whilst it won’t generate a successful CX strategy in isolation, it does help an organisation look at its process and proposition from the point of view of the all-important customer. It’s an excellent basis on which to help develop a wider CX approach and helps the user’s perspective to be considered at key points on the journey mapping.

One final point to remember about CX as opposed to the UX is that it should concern the whole customer experience strategy. For many businesses the digital CX will be at the heart of their proposition, but the most effective CX will look well beyond this to encompass the organisation as a whole. It would be easy for an online retailer for example to treat the customer experience as a project for its online department – but how the customer views your offering and interaction portals is vital to the whole business. So fine tuning the UX on the website is not enough to ensure the brand values are uniform across the organisation. The best business strategies recognise that CX is a broad subject that needs to be embraced by the whole organisation and its employees as one.

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