Customer experience (CX) is big business nowadays. According to Forrester, customers will pay 4.5 times more if the customer experience is good.
What is more, they said that companies who provide great customer experiences expand much, much faster (5 times quicker) than the ones who do not think about it.
But what is CX and how is it different from UX (User Experience)?
When I studied UX Design with CareerFoundry, my key learning was how to create digital products with minimal friction – designing to delight the user. However, the principles and psychology behind UX design can apply to many types of online and offline interaction.
This is where the confusion comes in. I was surprised to see experts themselves mixing up UX and CX at Customer 3.1, a two-day summit in Auckland focused on customer experience, customer analytics, and digital experience.
One speaker at the event told me the terms UX and CX can simply be used interchangeably, and indeed, it appears to happen a lot in Australia and some other parts of the world.
However, having done my fair share of research, I would argue that there is a clear difference. Here is what it is.
UX vs CX: The Origins
The term UX came about in the 90s. Don Norman coined it when he occupied the role of Vice President on the Product Design team at Apple. His consultancy company, the Nielsen Norman Group define UX as:
[UX is] all aspects of the end user’s interaction with the company, its services, and its products
And CX? CX is the new kid on the block. The chair of the event, Tony Hillson from Service Design NZ, said the discipline is just 12 years old and has only become well recognised in the last 6 to 8 years. Some of the customer experience professionals at the summit did not understand when I referred to it as CX, knowing it only by its full name customer experience. Forrester defines CX as
[CX is] how customers perceive their interactions with your company
So immediately, one main difference has surfaced – UX focuses on the end user, that is, the person using the product or service, whereas CX concentrates on the customer. Often customers are using the product or service too, but they may be buying it on someone else’s behalf.
For example, a Chief Information Officer (CIO) of a large corporation may be the person approving a new application to be used by frontline employees throughout the company. He/she is the customer, and they are the users. For the CIO to sign off the deal, an excellent customer experience is needed, and for the frontline employees to enjoy the application, a good user experience is required. One could argue that if the CIO were doing a good job, they would make sure the UX of the application is fantastic but this is not always the case.
Five Notable Differences Between UX and CX
With that in mind other (very general) differences include:
- CXers tend to come from a marketing background and UXers coming from a variety of backgrounds, e.g. technical, design, or psychology.
- CXers are focusing mainly on boosting revenues via advertising, improving customer service and creating a stronger brand. UXers tend to be aware of these too, but they are focusing on usability as their primary way of getting there.
- CX looks at the whole experience including all channels of the brand, whereas UX is more specific, tending to focus on a particular app or website.
- CX is traditionally a term used more in service-related industries such as hospitality or retail, where they would implement ideas such as service mapping and customer loyalty schemes whereas UX is often referring to digital products.
- CXers tend to survey large amounts of people to see what they think of a product or service, whereas UXers place more emphasis on getting to know smaller groups of people really well.
But There are also Some Big Similarities…
When the chips are down, both disciplines put people and research at the centre of what they do to provide better experiences and value while ultimately boosting profits.
Also, we are entering a world of omnichannel, where people expect a seamless experience across a brand’s websites, apps, and physical stores. With the internet of things becoming part of everyday life, the two disciplines are becoming closer together and should not be considered in isolation.
As an example, Lowes Innovation Labs showed people how to do DIY with a holographic headset – the HoloLens. Impressively this resulted in 36 percent better recall than when they watched an instructional video. Showing a customer how to do something in a store like this traditionally comes under CX. However, since the HoloLens is a piece of technical equipment, it could also come under the remit of UX.
What is more, there is a trend for companies hiring people who are t-shaped and have a whole range of skills. This means UXers who can think about the big picture are likely to succeed more than those who do not.
Although there some differences between CX and UX, the two disciplines are only going to get closer together as technology becomes more blended into our everyday lives.
To be on the front foot as a UXer, consider the whole customer eco-system and not just the app or website you are working on. Step up your game and future proof yourself for the inevitable integration of the CX and UX by considering yourself an ‘Experience Manager’ rather than thinking solely of the user.
At the end of the day, it does not really matter what you call yourself as long as you are providing a great experience for any interaction with your product. All areas of an organisation need to collaborate to ensure all customer touch points are tested for friction, optimised, and of course that they go above and beyond what is offered by competitors.
Want to learn more?
Want to get an industry-recognized Course Certificate in UX Design, Design Thinking, UI Design, or another related design topic? Online UX courses from the Interaction Design Foundation can provide you with industry-relevant skills to advance your UX career. For example, Design Thinking, Become a UX Designer from Scratch, Conducting Usability Testing or User Research – Methods and Best Practices are some of the most popular courses. Good luck on your learning journey!
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