More and more we hear terms like user experience (“UX”) and customer experience (“CX”) getting tossed around like words in a game of hip keyword bingo. So much that the lines between them are blurred, leading to confusion about what they actually mean for your business or organization. Let’s break it down..
The user experience (UX) is how an actual person (flesh and bone) interact with your specific website, application, software… basically anything with an interface. User experience design accounts for usability, information architecture, visual design, navigation, etc. All of this builds into what your users experience, both good and bad. At the core, it comes down to how usable and pleasing is the experience of engaging with the interface. Can the user complete the task or find the information they want? Equally important is how do they feel after the fact.
The customer experience (CX) is the whole 360º view of how a customer (real live people) understand, interact, and relate to your brand. CX is the big top under which all your brand’s touchpoints exist. It encompasses your branding, sales process, customer service, user experience, delivery, support, communication, advertising, etc. Let’s unpack Starbucks as an example. When you are desperately in need of caffeine in the form of a coffee beverage, you know that Starbucks will (usually) provide consistency in product and quality, dependable pricing, customer service, a white paper cup adorned with a green mermaid, clean facilities and more. You know that you aren’t getting inexpensive gas station coffee but you also know it isn’t going to be an elite top-rated Zagat espresso bar. This is customer experience.
In a digital age we interact with interfaces more than people. When is the last time you went to the store to buy music or rent a movie? How about shopping for clothes or shoes? Our habits and patterns are changing and we are becoming more dependent on interfaces. As this continues we need to be ever more cognizant of the user’s experience so that we provide the best customer experience possible. In our digital age we often uncover customer experience issues when analyzing the user’s experience and have opportunities for improvement.
Here are a few examples:
You purchase a product from a well-recommended website. The website is amazing - almost inspiring and the purchase process was seamless. Your product arrives a few days later but the instructions were lackluster. You pick up the phone and dial the number provided and engage in a never ending menu of selection after selection. It takes you almost 30 minutes to talk with a human and after all that, they can’t answer your questions. This is an example where the customer experience has failed and needs to be improved.
The same is true in reverse: Say the website’s interface is confusing but the product is highly rated. After lots of research you decide to bite the bullet and purchase it through the horrendous website. When the product arrives a few days later you have a few questions and call the customer service phone line and instantly get a happy, helpful human. They answer your questions and reassure you that you purchased the right product. Your experience with customer service was excellent but the user experience left a lot to be desired. We all want happy customers, but just think about the potential impact it could have after improving your user interface and online presence.
The more you actually know about your users and how they engage with your business, products, services – the better you can make both your user and customer experience. Customer surveys, feedback, usability studies, and even social media interactions will help you understand their needs and wants. This insight will help you improve areas of your UX and ultimately CX to expand your impact and strengthen your brand.
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