Tom Uhlhorn untangles the difference between customer and user experience – and why one is so crucial to the other
Let’s get one thing straight, Customer Experience and User Experience are not the same thing. As a strategist, I quickly noticed some pretty major misunderstandings of certain sub-disciplines within Customer Experience (CX) which include User Experience (UX) and User Interface (UI). The terminology for each subset is not one-in-the-same and are not interchangeable. Let’s take a deep dive into the nuances of each field.
A holistic experience beyond the transaction
CX involves applying a style of thinking which enables your organisation to be more customer-centric and experience driven. Although CX is seemingly difficult to define with various definitions appearing in simple search results, it’s really quite simple. CX is a framework which focuses on strengthening the commercial relationship between a brand and a customer by delivering a holistic experience beyond just the transaction. While UX and UI are certainly crucial elements of CX, they each create a stream within the broader CX context.
How it makes you feel
User Experience is measured by key metrics relating to how a user responds to design cues including conversion rate and page views. These are a reflection of a key outcome that UX projects aim to achieve: change behaviour to suit a company’s objectives. Good UX design is reflected in brands like Duolingo, Instagram, and most banking apps, all which make it easier for the user to complete their desired outcome; practice learning a language, scroll through posts for long enough to receive an advertisement, and transfer money. Whilst UX focuses on behavioural outcomes, CX goes deeper into the psyche and has the audacious goal of increasing a customer’s perceived value of an offering. Great CX can be found in Disney’s theme parks and Aesop’s in-store retail experience, both of which use a multitude of sensory cues to increase your perceived value (and charge a premium for it).
To put it simply, User Experience optimises how easy a ‘thing’ is to use, Customer Experience optimises how valuable a ‘thing’ is perceived to be.
How it looks and works
User Interface (UI) is often talked about in conjunction with UX, but again, are not interchangeable terms. UI solely focuses on the aesthetic appearance or functionality of a digital product or service. UI encompasses all visual elements, graphics, buttons, images and layout of an application, website or digital device. Examples of brands showcasing great UI Design include the likes of Airbnb, Spotify and Dropbox.
But why CX?
So, what is the point of specialising in CX as opposed to UX or UI? There is a lot already known about the positive impact CX can have on business, including greater chances for value exchange; greater brand differentiation; higher perceived market value; increased revenue; improved customer retention and unlocking more value in the market. CX is about future-proofing your business by ensuring that your commercial model is always looped into your customer’s needs, perceptions, values, beliefs, motivators, and detractors. It’s the driving force behind successful and well-recognised businesses such as McDonalds, Red Bull and Nike. Brands that invest in CX are the brands that achieve long-term success and mass market adoption.
Although CX and UX belong to the same framework, CX offers a much broader scope. CX is really about extracting value from a customer, whereas UX and UI exist within the conversion funnel and act as tactics or steps. This is where it becomes clear that UX and UI are crucial components of CX existing within the same framework.