The two phrases seem interchangeable and often are used that way, but are fundamentally different. In fact, customer experience encompasses user experience as it’s a much broader term.
It’s important to understand UX and CX's differences and functionality separately so you can better use them conjunctively. After all, the customer needs to enjoy their experience with your product beyond the time they spend actually on it.
About Customer Experience
Let’s clarify that previous statement a little. The customer experience (CX) is often equated to annoying surveys or in-store physical experiences for a customer.
That isn’t necessarily wrong, but that mentality sounds like an easy-out for digital companies.
Customer experience is the experience someone has when interacting with your brand, not just your product. This can include personal communication with a sales representative to interact with newsletters to receive a business card.
It’s everything related to your brand, designed with the customer in mind. CX is measured in bigger picture-type metrics, like overall satisfaction and loyalty.
About User Experience
User experience is about the experience someone has using your product. This is product-specific, meaning the user experience can vary between a family of products or services offered by the same company.
User experience is most commonly used with digital products. There are UX design jobs for every digital company, whether it’s apps, websites, services, or OSes.
User experience can also extend to physical products (they did exist before the digital craze, after all). Think of IKEA and how fun or frustrating it is to build their furniture.
UX is measured in usability metrics, like error rates and time-to-completion for tasks.
Comparing CX with UX
First, let’s hit the difference between the two experiences.
User experience allows someone to:
- Find information easily
- Complete a task with minimal effort
- Navigate a complex system without question
- Want to use a device or service because they enjoy doing it
The ultimate goal of UX is to get the user to keep coming back. More time on your service (usually) means happier users, which means more profit.
Customer experience allows someone to:
- Enjoy interacting with a brand as a whole
- Understand the connection between brand and product value
- Become a brand loyalist
CX's purpose is to ensure a pleasant experience within every aspect a user has with a brand and essentially become a loyal follower.
One Good Example of UX and CX
Apple makes a wide variety of products that offer seamless integration and connection with each other.
The iPhone's user experience is great, easy to use, and simple where it needs to be. There’s a strict guideline for developers to follow when building native apps. This allows Apple to build an ecosystem that appears connected, standing under the same umbrella.
Moving over to the Apple Watch, the user experience changes. It’s a different device with a different interface, which inherently offers a different experience. Apps on the watch are not as functional for a good reason. Even the method for interacting with the device differs greatly from the iPhone.
Let’s say you love your iPhone, but you tried and hated the Apple Watch. You compartmentalize your experience specifically for each device without letting it affect one another.
You walk into an Apple store to return your Apple Watch because you didn’t enjoy it. The salesperson accepts your return, asks you what was wrong with it and why you didn’t like it, gives you an apology, and sends you off with a full refund. Because of this wonderful in-store user experience, your feelings toward Apple remain positive.
In this scenario, UX remains within each location: iPhone, Apple Watch, Apple Store. What does link the three experiences is the customer experience. You understand that all of this falls under the Apple umbrella. Though there was a negative UX, it was remedied by a positive experience within the store, the refund policy, and the sales rep.
How UX Improves CX
Because CX encompasses UX, it’s rating can improve or decline the customer experience.
Many digital brands have just one product (e.g., Spotify). The UX of that one product heavily affects the CX. Therefore, focusing on improving user experience can greatly improve the customer experience.
Imagine someone who doesn’t like using Spotify’s mobile app. They’re probably not going to be fond of Spotify as a brand, as they rely almost entirely on the app's experience to represent their brand.
Offering more services offers more UX opportunities, which then converts to better CX.
Understanding the difference between user experience and customer experience can help you connect with users on a stronger level. Both play an important role in gaining insight into customer satisfaction. You can utilize this understanding to your advantage and create brand loyalists and a better brand reputation.